Mark Twain famously said there are three kind of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics. He was probably referring to his own struggles with understanding and interpreting figures. He was also aware that statistics can be used to confuse as well as enlighten, particularly when taken out of context. With that said, I have to admit that I do like to look at statistical data. It can throw light on our world(s) and activities.
In recent weeks the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) Pastoral Research Office, has released the parish data from the Australian Census of 2021. The ACBC has access to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) census data for those who identify as Catholics and this data can be broken down parish by parish. So what do we know about the parishes of Camberwell, Balwyn Deepdene and Surrey Hills Wattle Park? Here are some high level statistics.
Surrey Hill Wattle Park
Within the boundaries of the Parish of Surrey Hills Wattle Park there is a total population of 27,107. Of those residents, 4,787 or 17.7 percent of the population is Catholic. Those Catholics make up 1,855 families in the Surrey Hills Wattle Park Parish. The median age of Catholics in this parish is 45 years.
Within the boundaries of the Parish of Deepdene and Balwyn there is a total population of 25,390. Of those residents, 4,692 or 18.5 percent of the population is Catholic. Those Catholics make up 1,736 families in the Deepdene and Balwyn Parish. The median age of Catholics in this parish is 50 years.
Within the boundaries of the Parish of Camberwell there is a total population of 21,873. Of those residents 4,007 or 18.3 percent of the population is Catholic. Those Catholics make up 1,482 families in the Camberwell Parish. The median age of Catholics in this parish is 44 years.
You may have noticed that our parishes have grown in cultural diversity over the last few years. While the top three birthplaces for Catholics in our parishes, who are born overseas are Italy, United Kingdom and Malaysia, there is a different pattern for the most recent arrivals. The list of countries of birth for the most recent arrived Catholics is Canada, Colombia, Central America and South America, Middle East and North Africa, Spain, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and the Philippines. Our parish communities in this area are becoming more multi-cultural.
As well as multicultural we are also living in neighbourhoods that are becoming more multi-religious or better still, multi-worldview. The largest number of responses to the census data across the boundaries of our parishes in relation to the question on religion was ‘no religion’. In all, 47 percent of the population of Camberwell and Surrey Hills Wattle Park selected ‘no religion’ and 44 percent of the population of Deepdene and Balwyn. No religion is an interesting category because it refers to the broad group of Secular Beliefs and Other Spiritual Beliefs and No Religious Affiliation. It covers a large category of (non) beliefs and includes a variety of spiritualties. We can’t presume that ‘no religion’ equates to atheism. That is, perhaps, why the term multi-world view is better than religious versus non-religious.
So, this weekend we celebrate the opening of the parish year. In 2024 we should celebrate the rich diversity of culture and spirituality that makes up our parish life. In particular we welcome those who have newly arrived in our communities and hope that they feel at home and have the opportunity to share their faith and traditions with us.
By Fr Brendan Reed
For more information on the Parish Census data you can search our Parish Social Profile from the National Centre for Pastoral Research of the Australian Bishop’s Conference.
Published: 9 February 2024