The first batch of data from last year’s trouble-plagued census has been released.
Census data tells Australians, and policy-makers in particular, who we are – and, by extension, how our nation’s resources should be shared.
So what does this census tell us about the Murraylands and Mallee?
Our population is growing as immigrants come to Murray Bridge
Murray Bridge’s population has grown to almost 17,560 since the last census, an increase of about 200 people and 140 households per year for each of the past five years, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Almost all of that population growth was due to immigration.
For every resident who was born or moved into the rural city, an equal number died or moved away.
The population of the smaller towns nearby – places like Mypolonga, Jervois and Wellington – grew by just 250 in total over five years.
Mannum’s population grew by 350 people to nearly 6200, but its residents are increasing skewing towards the older end of the spectrum.
Strathalbyn’s is now 7100, Tailem Bend’s is 1660, Meningie’s is 1100, Lameroo’s is 850 and Karoonda’s is 510.
We’re not exactly raking it in
The median weekly income for a household in the Murray Bridge district is $973 per week, $233 less than the state average and $465 less than the national average.
The figures were similar in the Mid Murray, Coorong and Karoonda East Murray districts, though residents of the Mid Murray were better off.
Coorong households are another $44 worse off each week, those in Karoonda East Murray are $58 poorer again, and Mid Murray households are doing it even tougher, by another $32 per week below that.
Detailed information about the industries and jobs people work in will be released in October.
Then, perhaps, we will find out why residents of the areas just outside Murray Bridge seem to be richer than everyone else.
You might think there are fewer families with children in the rural areas outside the rural city, but no – the opposite is true.
In fact, one in six Murray Bridge residents is living below the poverty line
What does it mean to live in poverty?
One common way of determining the poverty line is spending on housing.
If more than 30 per cent of a person’s income is needed just to keep a roof over his or her head, he or she is generally believed to be struggling a bit.
Housing is relatively inexpensive in the Murraylands and Mallee – it costs $40 less than the state average to rent a house in Murray Bridge and about half the state average, or $117 per week, in the Mallee; and the discount for local mortgage holders is greater still.
But rent or mortgage repayments were still a significant burden for 17.2 per cent of Murray Bridge district residents, 12.9pc in Mannum and surrounds and 10.1pc of those in the Coorong.
That’s us in the corner, that’s us in the spotlight
Like the rest of Australia, and just like the REM song foretold, we’re losing our religion.
“No religion” was the most common response to the religious question across the Murraylands and Mallee.
Seven thousand, four hundred and sixty-two people in Murray Bridge aren’t into the whole God thing – that’s 35.7pc of all respondents.
Another 10.6pc did not answer the question.
The Uniting Church was the only one which polled consistently across the region, with between 10 and 21.6pc of people considering themselves part of that Christian denomination – something that would surely cause a bottleneck if they all decided to come to church on the same Sunday.
There were more Lutherans in Mannum and Catholics in Murray Bridge.
In fact, the latter group bucked the trend and kept a steady number of adherents as other denominations declined.
Non-Christian religions did not make it into the top five anywhere in the region.
So who are we, anyway?
Most of us still say our ancestors came from Great Britain or Germany.
But the Philippines, China and New Zealand were each the birthplace of at least one in 100 Murray Bridge residents, with Taiwan close behind.
Germany and the Netherlands each contributed about 50 Mannum residents; and there are 32 South African-born people in Karoonda and Lameroo.
English is still the primary language of 82pc of Murray Bridge residents, and 90pc of those elsewhere in the region.
But greet your neighbor and he or she may well reply in Mandarin, Tagalog, or even Ngarrindjeri, which was the second most common native tongue in the Coorong district with 94 speakers.
After all, 1485 of us identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
Note: An earlier version of this story said “no religion” was the most common religion in the Murraylands and Mallee. Christianity remains the most popular religion, but is split into denominations in the census.