What does the 2021 Census data mean for your NFP?

It’s been five long years in the waiting, but the results of the ABS Census are finally here. While there’s still a way to go before full insights into the data are known, we’re already seeing some crucial takeouts that not-for-profit organisations should consider when building their strategy. 

The Census data is used by the government and organisations to inform important policy and funding decisions. With a larger, more diverse Australia, it’s highly likely the government will make decisions on policies and budgets that move towards servicing exactly that. This, along with the recent federal election results, bodes well for NFPs as the public makes up a more diverse, and in turn, socially conscious group of people. 


Millennials catch up with baby boomers

For years, the ‘baby boomers’ have been the largest generation group in Australia, and, with that, highly influential. The ABS results have shown a big shift in this regard, with baby boomers and millennials now both comprising 21.5% of the population. Since the 2021 Census data was collected, it’s possible millennials may already outnumber boomers, which is expected to have a huge impact on the way markets, and importantly politics, operate. 

Now’s the time to consider how your not-for-profit can reach out to this important demographic. If millennials exist within your staff, even better! Set up a focus group, ask their opinion on your initiatives and projects, and find out what their preferences and outlooks are for the future.


A more multicultural Australia 

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: always consider the migrant community and their influence on your objectives. The Census data has shown that almost half of the population has a parent born overseas, with one million migrants arriving in Australia since 2017. 

Interestingly, the number of respondents born in India has increased significantly, sitting only behind Australia and England.

With this in mind, it’s time to review your key stakeholders, how you are communicating to them (via what channels and outlets) and what this means for your future campaigns. Consider translating key communication materials, ensure you consult with the CALD community whenever possible, and do your research on the many cultures existing in today’s Australia.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander recognition

The Census has revealed a growing population who identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, particularly among the older populations, showing a 50% increase of those over the age of 65, and a 25% increase in younger ages. This suggests respondents felt more comfortable sharing their cultural background in a public forum than in previous years. 

As the traditional owners of this land, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be at the forefront of our communication. Ensure you acknowledge traditional owners, past, present and emerging within your website and speeches, consider dual naming of your projects and importantly, acknowledging their location. 


Religious diversity has increased

The data also revealed changes to people’s religious beliefs, with Christianity on the decline, particularly in the soon-to-be dominant generation of millenials. Think about if and how this affects your NFP – are you appealing to greater religious diversity, or is your target audience narrowing?


Speaking to the data gaps 

As useful as the data is in helping us to understand the environment we’re operating in, it’s important to underline there are still great data gaps in the Census 2021. Namely, it is estimated that there is around a 17% undercount of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the 2021 Census, as well as a lack of more complex questions that can help to inform healthcare and policy, reminding us that there is still a long way to go in terms of gathering data that accurately reflects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. 

Further to this, in terms of gender identity, there has been backlash over the data collected which fails to represent the LGBTQIA+ community in all of its entirety. When asked how people identify their sex, ‘Male, Female and Non-Binary’, were the only options given, discounting sexuality, gender identity, trans and intersex status. 

Consider these gaps when building the data into your strategy and advocacy objectives. You can always use these gaps to highlight your mission where relevant, as they alone highlight how far we still have to go in achieving social equality and justice for marginalised groups.


So, what next? 

If you operate in Australia, then chances are all the data is relevant. Ensure your communication plan reflects modern-day Australia and champion this. An internal and external communications audit can be a great place to start in assessing areas that can help you to improve your connection with key target audiences. 

Remembering that the Census is a mammoth piece of data collection, and insights will continue to be released over the course of the next 12 months, ensure you stay up-to-date on the findings. Always look through the lens of what the results mean for your organisation: there are many ways you can harness this data to help your NFP create better, wider-reaching outcomes.


Are you interested in learning more about what the Census data means for your organisation? As experts in strategic communications and government engagement, Fifty Acres is here to help you harness these insights for the greatest impact. Get in touch with us today: info@fiftyacres.com 02 6281 7350.

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