Population surge has one half of Sydney’s inner west growing faster than the other as region tops 400,000 residents

Rhodes is the fastest growing suburb in the inner west, with population up almost 50% since 2011.

THE  inner west has emerged from the Census 2016 as one of Sydney’s leaders in population growth, confirming the need for investment in transport, infrastructure and local services.

From Tempe to Homebush, the inner west’s 28 postcodes added 40,849 residents since the last census in 2011 — taking the region’s population to 406,559.

The results revealed the inner west was becoming younger, richer and more diverse, with the region’s overseas-born population rising three per cent to 167,412.

But a closer look paints a tale of two cities, with a 14 per cent population surge in the western half of the region — taking in suburbs including Burwood and Strathfield — outstripping the 7 per cent rise in the 13 suburbs closest to the CBD.

The fastest growing postcode was Rhodes where the rise in development supported a 48 per cent increase in population over five years. Camperdown ranked second, up 34 per cent, followed by Homebush, Burwood and Erskineville.

The east-west divide could also be seen in religion, rental costs, income and marriage with 45 per cent of residents in the western side of the region married compared to 33 per cent in the eastern half.

Faith was falling faster in the inner city, with almost 50 per cent of residents “non religious” compared to 31 per cent in the west.

Across the region, Christian religions remained the most prominent (48.5 per cent) — ahead of Hinduism (4.7 per cent) Buddhism (4.5 per cent) and Islam (1.7 per cent).

China represented the largest overseas-born population (30,164 people) ahead of England, India, Italy, Korea, New Zealand, Vietnam, Nepal and Greece.

The most commonly spoken languages other than English were Mandarin (30,376 people), Italian (15,080), Cantonese (14,374), Greek (10,848), Korean (9862) and Arabic (8575).

The shifting demographics were transforming suburbs once known for strong migrant populations including Leichhardt’s synonymity with its Italian roots and Petersham’s Portuguese community. The census revealed Italians now made up just 8.2 per cent of Leichhardt’s overseas-born population — down from 16 per cent in 2001. A similar drop was recorded in Petersham with Portuguese-born residents down from 8 to 3.7 per cent in the same time.

Across the region, the median weekly household income rose $287 to $1983 a week since 2011 while personal income was up $124 to $787.

The increase, however, was offset by higher living costs, including rent — rising an average $97 per week.

The census revealed while more inner west residents were getting married, fewer were having children with 80,703 people married without kids. Leichhardt/Lilyfield emerged as the region’s “baby boom” postcode with 8.2 per cent aged 0-4.

Based on annual population increases, the inner west would top half a million residents by 2028.

Federal Grayndler MP Anthony Albanese — whose electorate takes in the majority of the region — said the increase warranted increased investment in local services and infrastructure.

“It’s important that investment in infrastructure, particularly public transport services and social facilities such as schools, keeps pace with the significant increase in the number of people moving into the region,” he said.

The census results has reignited calls for increased transport in the inner west, including train and light rail services already running above capacity.

“Governments at all levels need to make sure they protect the open spaces, parks and sporting grounds.”

Federal Reid MP Craig Laundy — whose electorate covers the western fringes of the region — said the population surge “confirms what I and our wider community already knows — this is the best part of Sydney and an amazing place to live and raise a family.”

Mr Laundy said investment in WestConnex, new buses, schools at Wentworth Point and Olympic Park, the planned Concord Hospital upgrade and the National Disability Insurance Scheme which would “provide the physical and social infrastructure the inner west needs.”

By the numbers

— 37 per cent of inner west residents are married, with Concord recording the highest percentage (46%).

– The singles hotspot is Camperdown with 62% footloose and fancy-free while Erskineville is home to the most people in de facto relationships (23%).

– Balmain has the most divorcees at 9.1% of the population, but things last longer in Strathfield with the lowest divorce rate in the region at 2%.

– Haberfield has the highest proportion of home ownership at 26%, followed by Summer Hill and Abbotsford (24%).

– The most renters can be found in Camperdown (32%), ahead of Glebe (25%) and Enmore / Newtown (23%).

– Rozelle and Summer Hill have the highest average weekly rents at $650-$655 with Croydon Park at the other end of the scale ($400).

– Strathfield has the largest average household size with three people per home, while Camperdown scored lowest at 1.8 per house.

— The western half of the inner west is home to the highest number of people in education. Strathfield tops the list for most university students (2953), Leichhardt / Lilyfield has the most preschoolers (1833). Concord has the most high-schoolers (1536).

– The inner west is in a man drought with 23 of 28 suburbs home to more women than men. Drummoyne has the highest proportion of women (53%).

– Burwood has the lowest average resident age at 30; Haberfield is highest at 44.

— Rozelle leads for weekly income ($1457) while the disparity between male female wages is lowest in Leichhardt.

— Camper­down has the most number of cars per person (1 to 2), while Rozelle has the highest proportion of internet users, with 82% of households online.

Chinese born face unique challenges

JOHN Cheng, Yan Jing Shi and Mark Chao are among the 30,164 Chinese-born Australians who call the inner west home.

Together they represent the largest and fastest- growing overseas-born population in the region. But as a student, local business owner and Buddhist monk, each has encountered unique challenges in the migrant experience.

When John Cheng settled in Australia as an 11-year-old in 1988, the inner west’s Chinese-born population was less than 10 per cent.

His parents had migrated for a “better life”, but at school he found himself as “very much a minority”.

Ashfield tax agent John Cheng. Picture: Craig Wilson

“I couldn’t speak much English, and I found it very difficult to communicate and understand people,” he said.

“My parents were working very long hours and were so determined to make a life for the family. I had to teach myself the Australian way.”

Overcoming a stutter he said stemmed from “a lack of confidence”, Mr Cheng went on to university, overcame the “bamboo ceiling” in the finance industry and is now the owner of a tax agency based in Ashfield.

He said the greatest challenge was settling “notions of identity” – “are you Chinese-Australian or Australian-Chinese?” he said.

It’s a challenge shared by new migrant Mark Chao, one of 2578 Chinese-born residents living in Strathfield.

The 22-year-old, who is studying engineering, had taken English classes before settling in Australia, and had an existing support network of friends who set him up with room and board.

Speaking of the generational differences, Mr Chao said there was a shift towards “the new kids from China wanting to compete on who has the most money”.

Across the inner west, that’s fuelled a rise in Chinese parents looking to reconnect their children with traditional ways, says Buddhist monk Yan Jing Shi, who settled in the inner west last year.

“When kids at a young age speak much better English than their parents they can become more rebellious. Parents bring their kids to meditation and martial arts as way of reconnecting with traditional ways.”

Buddhist monk Yan Jing Shi in Ashfield. Picture: Craig Wilson

Mr Cheng said a fundamental Chinese value is the importance of the family unit with individual matters and important life choices often made according to the family’s wishes.

Almost 30 years after settling in Australia, he said he no longer “thinks Chinese-Australian or Australian-Chinese is right.”

“I’m just a human being living in Australia,” he said.

Source: David Barwell, “Population surge has one half of Sydney’s inner west growing faster than the other as region tops 400,000 residents”, The Daily Telegraph, July 4, 2017

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Population surge has one half of Sydney’s inner west growing faster than the other as region tops 400,000 residents