What is the most typical Australian town?
If you were picking one town to represent Australia, as a nation, which one would it be? Maybe an iconic Australian location, like Uluru, Byron Bay, Katoomba. Somewhere in the outback like Coober Pedy, Longreach or Broken Hill, or maybe a big city like Sydney or Melbourne? Would it be on the coast or inland? A large or small place? An old or a new place? Well at .id, since we’re demographers, we decided to look at it demographically. Which Australian town has characteristics that are most typical of Australia’s population as a whole?
The ABS recognises 1,825 urban centres and localities in Australia. Not every town is recognised – if it’s got more than 200 people in a built up area it should be – sometimes it isn’t, for example Taradale, in Victoria, whose residents got so upset about not being included they decided to form their own country.
Let’s exclude the towns under 1,000 population, because for many of them there just isn’t enough population to get a reliable handle on their characteristics. Let’s also exclude the state capitals – they will have similar characteristics to the nation simply because they make up such a large chunk of Australia’s population.
When we do that, we are left with 734 urban centres. The median population size is 2,490, which is the town of Maleny, in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland in Queensland.
But size is not the only criterion! We want it to be close to the median size, so let’s restrict the list to populations between 2000 and 3000, giving us a list of 127 towns.
Then we had a look at 6 characteristics to see which town had characteristics closest to the Australian average. – because looking at the whole suite of Census characteristics would take forever and probably leave us with nowhere.
The characteristics were:
- Median age (Australia – 38)
- % of couple families with children (Australia – 30.7%)
- % of households with a mortgage (Australia – 33.3%)
- % with a tertiary qualification (Australia – 18.8%)
- Median household income (Australia – $1,234)
- % of people born overseas (Australia – 24.6%)
These characteristics are applied in order, with the highest weighting to those at the top of the list – so median age is the most important, and income and % born overseas are in there, but less important – because these two are likely to be dominated by metropolitan Australia with relatively few of the smaller towns being close to the average.
And when we crunched the numbers on this basis, we came up with 3 towns that were close to the Australian average in both size and characteristics.
1. Hahndorf, South Australia – The little German town in the Adelaide Hills comes out as the most similar to the Australian average on the weighted average of all 6 characteristics. Though you might think it would have high proportion born overseas, it’s actually slightly below the average for this characteristic – the main deviation here is that it is significantly older than the Australian average with a median age of 47 – all the other characteristics, mortgages, income, couples with children, are right on the average.
In a way this is quite a nice winner – It’s a mix of metropolitan Australia and regional Australia, a bit of a tourist town but also a residential area, with agriculture in the surrounding area as well.
Hahndorf is in the Mount Barker District Council, who are subscribers to profile.id, so you can get more info on Hahndorf here:
The next two were much closer to median age for Australia, but were a little further out on some other characteristics, particularly born overseas.
2. Wollongbar – A little town in northern NSW sitting on the highway between Ballina and Lismore. It has a median age of 41, a high proportion of households with a mortgage and qualifications close to the Australian average, but only 8.2% of the population born overseas.
3. Anna Bay – A coastal village in the Port Stephens area north of Newcastle in NSW. Their median age is right on the average for the nation, at 37, they only missed out on being the number 1 most typical place due to a relatively low proportion of people with tertiary qualifications.
Others in the top 10 included Bonny Hills (NSW), Balnarring (Vic), Buronga (NSW), Kuranda (Qld) and Bordertown (SA).
So to some extent these areas can be regarded as the most “typical” of Australian towns overall. Remember that metropolitan Australia dominates the characteristics of the nation, so perhaps restricting it to towns of the median size, 2-3,000 people is a little misleading. In a future article we’ll revisit this but ask “What is the most typical suburb in Australia?”.
Don’t forget on profile.id, you can now see at a glance how your LGA compares to the averages for your region, state and the nation – Check out the population highlights page at the top of the menu.
Access the Australian Community Profile now. You will find Census results (including SEIFA data) for each Capital City, State, Southeast Queensland and Australia on topics including population, age, country of birth, languages spoken, occupations, industries, employment, disability, income, qualifications, transport and much more…