One of the more colourful outputs from the census is the suite of publications known as Social Atlases. The ABS has produced Atlases for all Australian capital cities since the 1991 Census and a number were produced even before then.
A Social Atlas contains maps illustrating a range of social, demographic and economic characteristics of the population, accompanied by a brief commentary which analyses these characteristics and highlights the main features of the individual map.
For some time now, producing the suite of Atlases has been the responsibility of staff in the ABS' Adelaide office with input from a wide range of other people throughout the organisation.
The 2001 Adelaide Social Atlas team consisted of Graham Duncan, Carla Bianco and Barry Haydon with Kate Hoffmann providing some valuable assistance at the closing stages. Given the nature of the work (it is somewhat different from many other ABS projects, being particularly challenging and self-contained) there was strong interest from staff who wanted to be involved.
Given the complexity of the overall project careful planning of the various tasks was necessary. In part this involved numerous interactions with the many stakeholders, and amongst other advantages this attention to detail led to all Atlases being released ahead of time and well within budget. In fact, the first Atlases to be released – on 28 October 2002 (those for Perth, Hobart and Sydney) were available just a few months from the first release of census
data. The last to be released (Canberra, Darwin and Palmerston and Melbourne) were released just a few months later on 11 February 2003. Both of these
sets of releases also involved major media events, in Perth and Melbourne respectively. For the record, releases of the Adelaide (1 November 2002) and Brisbane (6 December 2002) Atlases also involved local media events.
As well as determining the topics to be mapped (a significant task of consultation and consensus involving eight different ABS offices) the Social Atlas team had to quickly become familiar with the main geographic areas of all of the capital cities in Australia so that meaningful text could be prepared. Naturally, tapping into the expertise of the ABS' mapping unit and the knowledge of each regional office about their local situation was also important.
Barry Haydon, Director, Client Services (SA)