GAWLER Council had one of the largest population increases across South Australia between 2006-11, but its population is older and is paying more on rent than it was five years ago.
That’s according to Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2016 Census data, which showed the Gawler Council population experienced a 12.16 per cent increase on 2011 levels (from 20,536 to 23,034), just shy of Playford Council’s state-topping 13 per cent growth rate.
Gawler Council’s median age rose from 40 to 41 (it was 39 in 2006), while the median weekly rent went up from $220 to $260.
Median weekly incomes grew $60 over the past five years, from $516 to $576, but is still well short of the state average of $600, and the national figure of $662.
Median monthly mortgage repayments dipped slightly, from $1408 to $1400, following a $400 rise between 2006-11.
The area’s population growth was bolstered by a nine per cent increase in the number of local families, driven by a 15.58 per cent rise in single-parent families.
Elsewhere, the Barossa had the second-highest growth rate outside of Adelaide, with a population increase of 6.9 per cent.
Australian Statistician David Kalisch said, despite controversies surrounding the Census’ online data collection, including a possible hacking breach of the website, it was successful.
“The Independent Assurance Panel I established to provide extra assurance and transparency of Census data quality concluded that the 2016 Census data can be used with confidence,” Mr Kalisch said.
“The 2016 Census had a response rate of 95.1 per cent and a net undercount of one per cent.
“This is a quality result, comparable to both previous Australian censuses and censuses in other countries.
“With nearly two-thirds of us choosing the online form in the 2016 Census, this approach will be continued for future censuses.”
Religion declining locally
RELIGIOUS affiliation is on the decline across the Gawler Council area, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ newly-released Census data.
The amount of locals choosing ‘no religion’ as their religious affiliation increased from 5919 (28.8 per cent of the population) in the 2011 Census to 8759 (38 per cent) in 2016.
Meanwhile, the total amount of Christians – the largest religion by affiliation in the area – decreased from 12,231 (59.6 per cent) to 11,815 (51.3 per cent).
Those who chose not to state their religion actually decreased as well, from 10.18 per cent of the population to 9.08 per cent.
Young people have been the driving force behind the local decline in religious identification, with 56.2 per cent of ‘no religion’ respondents being under the age of 34, and 40.2 per cent below the age of 24.
Hewett Community Church of Christ Minister, and theology graduate, Scott Combridge wasn’t surprised by the statistic.
“Partly what we’re seeing is, as the baby boomers are declining – and they are the predominant drivers of the church over the last 50 years – children have been given the space to explore their passions, and so what’s happened is that the parents have inadvertently created the environment that church isn’t needed and important in their way of life,” he said.
“What I see in those statistics, they’re telling us that their investment in the institution of church is declining, but that’s not the same as their investment in their spiritual dimension of life.”
Minister Combridge said people were now transferring their focus towards sport – which he labelled the new “religion” of Australians – and, for South Australians, football, in particular.
He also drew comparisons between declining religious affiliation and volunteer work, which remained steady at 18.8 per cent of the population (but was down on the state average of 21.4 per cent).
“What the churches are facing is the same as what Rotary and Kiwanis, and all those major auxiliaries, are seeing – they’re seeing the same decline in the participation in their groups,” Minister Combridge said.
“Volunteering comes down to spendable time…families are spending more time trying to earn more money just to stay afloat.
“Heaps of retirees, who are most likely to volunteer or attend church, are actually looking after grandchildren now, as well.”