Redefining Western Sydney - a snapshot

Date: 25/11/2002

Do you still associate Western Sydney with low-income families and cheap housing? Think again!

A new report by the University of Western Sydney's Urban Frontiers Program (UFP) has found the region is one of the fastest growing and most dynamic in the state.

UFP Director, Professor Bill Randolph, says the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils commissioned the new 'Western Sydney Social Profile' to get an accurate snapshot of how the region has changed over the past 20 years, and what the next 20 years may hold.

Professor Randolph says the results will surprise many people.

"The report shows that the traditional stereotype of a 'Westie' no longer applies," Professor Randolph says.

"The characteristics of Western Sydney have changed dramatically over the last two decades. The old homogenous entity we once knew as Western Sydney is gone forever," Professor Randolph says.

"While new land releases on the fringe have seen the region's population swell by a massive 38 per cent, compared with Sydney's 23 per cent, there's also been significant redevelopment occurring in the inner-west suburbs of Auburn, Bankstown, Holroyd and Parramatta.

"By the year 2019, the City of Blacktown will swell to a population of around 337,000. That's the current size of Canberra. Other regions in Western Sydney will also see varied population growth over that time, ranging from a 135 per cent increase in Camden to only eight per cent in Campbelltown," Professor Randolph says.

"It's clear from this research that we need a more sophisticated set of urban growth management policies to deal with this varied process of change. It's no longer a case of 'one size fits all', or only catering to new land release areas and ignoring the more established suburbs."

"Personal incomes certainly demonstrate the changing face of Western Sydney. Almost 10 percent of Baulkham Hills residents earn more than $1500 a week, with many in the Blue Mountains and Camden also considered high income earners.

Professor Randolph says there are also emerging demographic trends in Western Sydney households.

"There are fewer 'childless couple' families in Western Sydney - around 27 per cent compared to Sydney's 32 per cent. The concentration is quite high around Baulkham Hills, which has seen a rise in mature age homebuyers in recent years," Professor Randolph says.

"But population projections indicate that this proportion will increase by 68 per cent in the region by 2019, with the shift towards this group being the highest in the Blue Mountains, Penrith, Hawkesbury and Campbelltown regions.

"One-parent families are also more common in Western Sydney, increasing 40 per cent over the past 10 years. By the year 2019, we expect that figure to rise by a further 43 per cent, with many of those families centred around Blacktown and Liverpool," he says.

Professor Randolph says the average age of Greater Western Sydney residents is also younger than those in Sydney, but even that is beginning to change.

"Nearly a quarter of the population in Western Sydney is aged under 15 years, but this figure is slowly on the decline. Conversely, nine percent of the population in the region is aged over 65, a figure which is slowly growing. But the growth isn't uniform, with a fall in older persons residing in Parramatta, Auburn, Bankstown and Camden.

"Western Sydney is maturing, and at a faster rate than the rest of the city," he says.

Professor Randolph says more migrants than ever before are calling Western Sydney home.

"There's been an 80 per cent increase in the number of people born overseas within the Greater Western Sydney region over the past 20 years. In some local government areas, such as Fairfield and Auburn, more than half the residents are migrants.

"This gives our region a great cultural diversity, but it's also obvious that governments need to consider the ethnic mix of the population when developing policies to ensure they're catering to everyone's needs.

But Professor Randolph says despite these changes, some hallmarks of the past remain.

"Local government areas such as Auburn, Fairfield and Liverpool are still considered socially disadvantaged in terms of income and employment levels. These areas warrant more attention and investment from all levels of government.

"We hope this report will provide the building blocks for urban development policy reform which will deal effectively with these changes and improve the standard of living for all Western Sydney residents," Professor Randolph says.

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