Robinvale census results show small increase in population, leaving mayor ‘deflated’
A ‘deflated’ Victorian mayor fears the census results for his small town of Murray River will impact the availability of services in the community.
- Swan Hill Mayor Jade Benham says census data collection ‘needs to be looked at’
- She and others say Robinvale’s population is about double what official statistics say
- Ms Benham says the impact on services is ‘a matter of public safety’
Robinvale’s population increased to 3,740 at the 2021 census, a moderate increase from the 3,313 recorded in 2016.
But the town’s actual population could be closer to 8,000, according to an independent study funded by Swan Hill Rural Council which looked at water use and anonymous bank and supermarket transactions.
To try to better reflect the region’s population in Australian Bureau of Statistics data, Jack Dang of Robinvale Network and Neighborhood House helped raise awareness ahead of last year’s census.
He said it was difficult to get accurate information in an area with a large population of multi-ethnic and seasonal workers.
“A lot of people didn’t realize it wasn’t an immigration tally,” he said.
“People think it’s for immigration and say, ‘I won’t raise my hand’ because a lot of people here are undocumented.
“A matter of public safety”
According to ABS data, Robinvale’s population has declined with every census since 2006.
Swan Hill Mayor Jade Benham said it had had a significant impact on the area.
“We’ve had banks, Mallee Family Care, TAFE, MADEC, Haven Home Safe, all of those services pulling out of Robinvale at a blistering pace due to an alleged decline in population,” she said.
“It also means that the emergency services are under-resourced.
“We still don’t have a 24-hour police station.
“For a town of 8,000 people, for me it’s a matter of public safety.
“Unfortunately, government agencies and bureaucracies…only listen to ABS data.”
Mallee Family Care said it still offers several different services in Robinvale and has not “retired” from the area, although its stand-alone physical office closed several years ago.
Ms Benham said the timing of the census in August 2021 – during a lockdown and a quiet period for seasonal workers – may have contributed to the “disappointing” results.
“I was expecting over 5,000,” she said.
“To see him go up just that fraction… kind of feels like a deflated balloon to be honest.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has been contacted for comment.
“Any increase is a victory”
Mr. Dang said the small increase in demographics was a step in the right direction.
He said holding meetings with community members and passing on information in different languages was effective.
“I’ll take it as a win – any raise is a win,” he said.
“We will be more proactive next time.
“We didn’t really start hammering it until about three months ago this time around – so it’s going to take a few more counts before we get it right.
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