1376.0 - Local Government and ABS, 2013  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/10/2013  Final
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Further information


Where were you on Census Night, Tuesday the 9th of August, 2011?

Most people in Australia were counted at home on Census Night. This is not surprising, as the Census was held on a Tuesday in winter when people are less likely to be away on holidays. Despite this, 5.4% of people in Australia were staying somewhere else on that night. These people may have been travelling for work or study, on holiday, visiting friends or family, or travelling for many other reasons.

Knowing how many people are in an area is important because it helps the Australian, state, territory and local governments plan and provide infrastructure, such as roads, railways and car parks, and deliver services such as education and health services. It is also useful for business planning purposes, for example, making decisions about how many flights to provide or how much accommodation will be required. This information is also useful to residents and visitors who want to understand the characteristics of the population in a local area.

This article identifies patterns in the movement of people in Australia on Census Night in 2011 by analysing two population measures – the Census Night population and the usual resident population. The Census Night population is the number of people counted in an area on Census Night (also known as the “enumerated” population). The usual resident population is the number of people who record in the Census that they usually live in an area, regardless of where they are on Census Night. Census data also enables the characteristics of these populations to be analysed. This article provides population pyramids to present the age and gender of Census Night and usual resident populations. Further analysis of the two populations could compare other characteristics, such as income or employment.

Census data is available for Local Government Areas (LGAs), which represent the areas in which local governments, or local councils, are responsible for community needs like planning, public recreation facilities and services such as waste collection. The Census is not the official estimate of Australia's population. The official measure of Australia's population is the Estimated Resident Population, which is based on Census data, but adjusted for Census undercount (see "Census Fact Sheet: Population Measures" on the ABS website for more detail on this subject).

The Census Night and usual resident populations are compared using the "Census Night ratio", which is the number of people in the LGA on Census Night for every 100 usual residents. In 2011, most LGAs had a Census Night population similar to the usual resident population, meaning the Census Night ratio was close to 100. A Census Night ratio below 100 means the Census Night population was smaller than the usual resident population. Conversely, a Census Night ratio above 100 means the Census Night population was larger than the usual resident population.

The chart below shows the Census Night ratios from lowest to highest for all LGAs. A small group of LGAs had ratios over 110, while the lower ratios were close to 100. This suggests that people travelled from many places to a few main destinations.

CENSUS NIGHT RATIOS(a), Local Government Areas - 2011

Chart: Census Night Ratios for LGAs.
(a) The Census Night ratio is the ratio of the Census Night population to usual resident population, multiplied by 100.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011.

Only the 463 LGAs with a usual resident population over 1,500 are included in the chart because in LGAs with smaller populations the movements of a few people can have a large effect. However, the Census Night ratio for every LGA in Australia is provided in the datacube on the downloads tab. The analysis in the rest of this article focusses on the 10% of LGAs with populations over 1,500 that had the highest Census Night ratios. Population data for each of these 46 LGAs can be found in the relevant state or territory chapter.

Regions with the highest Census Night ratios

In 2011, the LGA with the highest Census Night ratio was Snowy River in New South Wales, which had a Census Night ratio of 253. That is, for every 100 usual residents, there were 253 people in the LGA on Census Night. Snowy River contains Mount Kosciuszko, Perisher and Thredbo ski fields and is a popular destination for winter tourism (Tourist Accommodation, Australia, Mar 2013, (cat. no. 8635.0.55.002)). The people in Snowy River on Census Night were likely to include tourists and people doing seasonal work in the resorts. However, people were not asked why they were away from home, so further research would be required to confirm this.

The map below shows a noticeable pattern in Census Night ratios across Australia in 2011. The 46 LGAs with the highest Census Night ratios (i.e., greater than 110) were – with the exception of Snowy River – mostly located in the north of Australia. The LGAs of Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney also had high Census Night ratios.

HIGH CENSUS NIGHT RATIOS(a), by LGA, Australia, 2011

Map: High Census Night ratios, by LGA, Australia, 2011
(a) The Census Night ratio is the ratio of the Census Night population to usual resident population, multiplied by 100.

Which areas had low Census Night ratios?

Although some of the people counted in the high Census Night ratio LGAs were international visitors, and therefore not included in any usual resident LGA, many were residents of other LGAs. More than half of the LGAs (58%) had smaller Census Night populations than the number of usual residents: this suggests that people travel from many LGAs and travel to relatively few destinations. Even in those areas with the lowest Census Night ratios, the difference between the Census Night populations and the number of usual residents was small when compared to areas with high Census Night ratios.

Tasmania had a number of LGAs with low Census Night populations, clustered mainly around the north-west. The LGA of Tasman (M) had a Census Night ratio of 94, the lowest in Australia.

Some interesting patterns were found in Western Australia, which had almost a third of the high ratio and a third of the low ratio LGAs. The low ratio LGAs were clustered around the south-west of the State.


Additional analysis, state breakdowns and data for LGAs, are available in Perspectives on Regional Australia: Comparing Census Night and Usual Resident Populations in Local Government Areas, 2011 (cat. no. 1380.0.55.009).