Census contains lessons for Bendigo about cost of living, multiculturalism

The winds of change are blowing through Bendigo. 

Well, it is more of a light breeze than a gale force gust, but it is change all the same.  

That’s the lesson we can take from census data released yesterday.

Despite last year’s survey of Australian residents being rocked by security concerns, it still returned a couple of important lessons for governments and community organisations serving our city. 

Lesson one: Bendigo is getting bigger and it is costing more to make ends meet. 

While the average wage of Bendigo residents increased, so too did their weekly rental fees and the median monthly mortgage repayment. 

Given the census does not take into account well-documented increases in the price of energy, food and travel, it seems cost-of-living concerns will continue to weigh on those who call Bendigo home.

Many among us are single income homes, often with dependent children; these people perhaps feel the financial pressure most. 

Demand for affordable housing will also continue to rise as more and more people compete for a slice of the region’s real estate market.  

A population topping 110,000 will require some creative solutions to make sure everyone can live happily, healthily and in a sustainable way – not just the affluent few. 

Lesson two: our overseas-born population continues to grow. 

Like in previous surveys, the majority of us were born in Australia. 

But Bendigo’s overseas-born population is up nearly 4 per cent – or 5000 people – in the time between censuses. 

If that trend continues from now to the 2021 survey, one-in-five Bendigo residents will have been born beyond Australian shores. 

That means efforts to make Bendigo a place all people can feel welcome have never been more important.  

Noteworthy is the growth in Bendigo’s Karen population. About 600 more people speak Karen in their homes now than in 2011.  

These are not changes unique to Bendigo; they follow national trends.

For the first time in the country’s history, most overseas-born residents herald from Asia, not Europe.

The Asia-Pacific era has well and truly arrived. 

- Mark Kearney, journalist