In 2003, the ABS published Australian Social Trends 2003, Farming Families (cat. no. 4102.0). The article focused on farming families in Australia and drew on information from the ABS 1986, 1991, 1996 and 2001 Censuses of Population and Housing.
The ABS has since conducted the 2006 Census of Population and Housing and the 2006 Agricultural Census. The following article uses information from these Censuses to update topics discussed in Australian Social Trends 2003, Farming Families.
In more recent times one of the major impacts on agriculture has been the widespread drought. Alston and Kent (2004) have identified that the impacts of drought can include; erosion of incomes from farm businesses, increased rural poverty, increased workloads (both on-farm and off-farm), the need to seek alternative income, and health and welfare issues. These impacts can contribute to a decline in the number of farming families especially when combined with the departure of young people from smaller inland rural communities, ageing populations and loss of jobs (Alston 2004).
Data from the ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing highlights that the number of farming families in Australia declined by 9% from 112,800 in 2001 to 102,600 in 2006. This decline is reflected in employment figures for the agriculture sector, where the number of people employed in agriculture declined by 19% between 2001 and 2006 (ABS 2008b). The greatest annual fall in employment in this period was 14% between May 2002 and May 2003 (ABS 2008b), a fall that could be attributed to the 2002-03 drought conditions in many parts of Australia (National Farmers' Federation 2008 & Productivity Commission 2005).