According to recent media articles, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has changed its statistical classification so that towns with populations of under 200 no longer qualify as towns.
Taradale is one of the small country areas that apparently can no longer be called a town, not because it has a population less than 200, but because the population is fewer than 200 people per square kilometre from the town centre.
So if Taradale is not a town, then what is it? Suggested alternative titles include hamlet, borough and village.
A confused Taradale resident quipped “As far as I am aware, Hamlet is a play, a borough is something an animal lives in, and a village needs a village idiot!”
Taradale resident, Jenny Nestor, wrote in a letter to the editor to The Express, ‘It has come to the notice of the citizens of Taradale that some boffins have decided we are no longer a town.’ Upon consideration of Eleanor Roosevelt’s statement “No one can make you feel small without your consent”, Jenny has decided to formally declare Taradale the ‘People’s Republic of Taradale’.
“Preparations are underway for a new flag, passport and anthem,” Jenny said.
Many of the residents of Taradale have expressed concern about what losing town status may mean in terms of eligibility for grants and funding.
A meeting of concerned residents gathered at the Taradale fire station last Friday at noon. Amid the heat of a 40 degree day about 100 people turned up to show their support and a group discussion took place with about 50 people in attendance. It was agreed that the Taradale Community Forum would write to the ABS requesting information and clarification on the matter.
Taradale resident Michael Pettigrew said he feels the ABS and politicians have an obligation to answer their questions.
“The biggest question is why this has happened, have they got nothing else to do?” he said.
“It’s very cold and clinical to define a town by numbers. We are a strong community. This town has been known as Taradale for 150 years.”
Mount Alexander Shire councillor, Christine Henderson, said she was impressed with the turnout on Friday.
“I’m so impressed and inspired by the response of the community to our loss of town status,” Cr Henderson said.
“It shows what a strong community Taradale is.
“It’s very worrying to think there may be economic, social and political ramifications from this.
“We are now in an information gathering process to get to the bottom of this matter and will hopefully get in touch with other affected areas.”
The ABS provided a statement regarding the issue which said;
“Recent media reports have stated that the ABS has made changes to the statistical classification of what is considered a ‘town’.
“The ABS does not have a classification for the term ‘town’ and plays no role in what is officially considered a town.
“What has changed is that in 2011 the ABS moved to the new Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) in place of the old Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC).
“The new standard is more flexible allowing statistical data from the Census and other sources to be more easily arranged to meet users’ needs for regional information.
“Under both the new and the old standards, a region with a concentrated residential population between 200 and 999 is classified by the ABS as a ‘locality’.
“Under the ASGS it is now easier for a region to be defined as a ‘locality’ than had previously been the case. In fact, 2011 Census data shows that Australia now has 109 more statistical ‘localities’ than in 2006.”
While this may provide some clarification, questions still remain and the idea that Taradale is now not a town according to statisticians is absurd.
Labor candidate for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters said there is little, if any, information available on how the ABS definition of small towns will affect small town communities.
“I will be meeting with concerned communities and making enquires on their behalf with ministers responsible to ensure that these communities will not be unfairly disadvantaged as a result of these changes,” Ms Chesters said.