Regional Profiles: Who lives here?

Screenshot 2014-02-11 14.06.48One of the most helpful things for a local church contemplating how to join with God in mission within the local setting, is to put together a statistical profile of their local community.

This helps us by making clear just who lives within our neighbourhoods, how the neighbourhood is travelling in terms of employment, multiculturalism, education and a host more aspects.

Here are four straightforward ways to assemble this kind of data.

National Church Life Survey “Community Social Profile”

The first is to contact the National Church Life Survey.  NCLS are best known for conducting a “census” of congregational data every five years, but also prepare a host of other resources useful for local church congregations. In particular, NCLS offers local churches the Community Social Profile, a well put-together package of information outlining the demographic make-up of their local community and some tools for using the information to help kick-start congregational mission engagement.  For a relatively small price, it’s excellent information.

Qld Government Statistician

The Queensland government’s own statistical office produce a huge amount of data. Hit their website for the full range. One of the particularly useful options is the capacity to review population and demographic data in thematic maps. You can visually present a host of data and quickly spot patterns across regional areas. Try it for yourself.

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profile.id and atlas.id

.id are a demographic research organisation, most often working on behalf of local governments.  They don’t have full coverage in Australia (in fact at the time of writing only Cairns and Rockhampton have up to date data within Queensland), but the profiles are well prepared and thoroughly worthwhile if you happen to find your community. Community coverage isn’t flexible, so it’s local government areas only. Check out the community profiles or the social atlas (map-based demographic data presentation) for more.  If economic data is important, there’s also the economy.id profiles.  Check back occasionally to see if your community has been added to the available list.

Accessing ABS Census Data

For those who like to get their hands dirty, the third (and most detailed) option is to dive into the treasure trove of information freely available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

ABS publish a mountain of data including highly detailed information drawn directly from the national census program.  You can sign up for free access and go as deep as you like, building custom reports for your local area, combining fields from the whole range of census data.  To do that, head over to the ABS Table Builder page here.

Simpler though, and definitely detailed enough for most needs, is to generate a ‘National Regional Profile’ from the 2011 census data.  Click through for a brief summary of how to produce a regional profile, including some screen shots of this relatively simple (and totally free) process. Enjoy!

First, head over to to www.abs.gov.au, and in the left-hand menu, select “National Regional Profile“. You’ll find this:

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Option 1: Search

Use the Search function to search for the name of the area you want to profile (eg Hervey Bay), selecting the choice from the search results that best fits the area you want (look at the map to see the area laid out visually for you). Click “Get Data About Hervey Bay” and skip over the Option 2 description below.

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Option 2: Select

Use the “Select Region by name or map” option. Choose the type of area (Local Government or Statistical Area* are probably most likely options) you want to identify.  Use the “+ boxes” to continue opening down to the required area/size/level for your profile, then click on the name of the area at the appropriate level. The area you have chosen will be highlighted on the map, and once you’re happy you have the right area, you can click on the “Get Data About NNNN” floating over the map.

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Whichever option you’ve followed, at this point a new page will open, offering the choice of regional profile you’d like to look at based on the kind of information you are seeking.

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Print the data, or select the “Downloads” tab to download an Excel Spreadsheet containing your information.

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The “Explanatory Notes” tab will outline what you’re looking at and how to make the most of the available data.

Use Excel or other similar tool to build graphs and charts to present your data visually
For example, you might want to compare the data you have downloaded with a  profile of your congregation in order to understand how you reflect your host community, or how your community is shaped.

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The ABS website is a powerful research tool. And the NCLS data is brilliant. At the end of the day though, any data you produce that describes your community is only useful if you use it.

That is to say, the important thing is to have your congregation asking the questions of mission:

  • How do we understand God?
  • How is God active in our neighbourhood?
  • How can we join in?

The data you gather will help a great deal with the second and third questions…..but only if you are asking them.

Come back soon for details on how to find population projections – so you can understand how many people, and what kind of people, are likely to be living in your neighbourhood in the future…

* Hang on, just what is a Statistical Area?

Statistical areas are a set of cascading area definitions used by the ABS. SA Level 4 are the biggest geographic areas (regions, with population at least 100 000), down to SA Level 1 (neighbourhoods).  Generally, SA2 is a helpfully sized area and (mostly) based on gazetted state suburbs or localities.  Data for SA1 and the even smaller “Mesh Blocks” are not available in the National Regional Profile section. (Go Back)

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