For Richer, For Poorer
We're always on the lookout for real-life examples of how census data is being used by the Australian community. This article by Adam Harvey appeared in the 'Daily Telegraph', on 8 May 1999, and used 1996 Census data to illustrate the socio-economic differences between two groups of "haves" and "have nots" in NSW. (Reproduced with permission).
Queen St, Barraba, is empty, save for a few battered utes and '80s four-wheel-drives, because no one can afford to stay. It's the poorest town in the State, according to the most recent census by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Midway between Tamworth and Inverell, Barraba is in a wide, dry belt of eucalypts and sheep paddocks so common in northern NSW. A few hundred kilometres west is the dense mulga scrub beneath Bourke, while the same distance to the east are the rainforests and hinterland hippies around Bellingen and Dorigo.
The median household income here in 1996 (the most recent figures) was $363 a week. Before tax. The most common weekly wage is between $120 and $159.
Compare that with the wealthiest area in NSW - Ku-ring-gai Council, that wedge of green suburbs between Middle Harbour and the Pacific Hwy. Their names - Killara, Roseville, Linfield, Gordon, Pymble - sing of private schools, quarter-acre blocks, and late-model sedans.
Here the median weekly household income is $1225, but the most common wage is even higher: between $1500 and $2000 per week. A pittance compared to the salaries drawn on Wyuna Rd, Point Piper, or Victoria Rd, Bellevue Hill - but these are earnings averaged from more than 100,000 people.
... In the 3065sq km around Barraba, just 10 people earn more than $1500 a week. It was once one of the wealthiest grazing areas in the country, home to the famous 111-year-old Plumthorpe property on the Manilla River - 4000ha on the market recently for $6 million.
... Ku-ring-gai is becoming more diverse. However, it's hardly a cultural melting pot. Two thirds of the locals are Australian-born. Seven per cent are British, 3000 of them are from Hong Kong, 1200 from China, then a scattering of Indians, Germans and Americans. Sixty-seven of the 100,000 residents were born in Vietnam.
It is a pretty community with few flats rising above the lines of trees. There are almost no semi-detached homes, and 86 per cent of dwellings are stand-alone houses. Only 5 per cent of the residents are renting - the rest own, or are paying off their homes. There are seven people living in caravans, cabins or houseboats.
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