Dissecting the drivers of rural demographic decline: the case of the New England & North West region of New South Wales
Background In the contemporary academic literature, rural population decline has generally been regarded as a long-running and almost natural phenomenon.
Aims This paper examines the complex temporal, spatial and cultural dynamics of the population of an inland, largely agriculturally-dependent rural region, the New South Wales New England & North West Statistical Division (SD), from the late 1990s to the 2016 Census. It investigates the key demographic processes that have driven the region’s spatially and temporally-uneven experiences of population change – including decline – over this tumultuous period, using these as portents of the regional population’s likely future trajectories.
Data and methods The analysis draws on Australian Bureau of Statistics Census data for the SD’s population as a whole, and for the non-Indigenous and Indigenous segments of the population.
Results The analysis identifies that a profound ageing process is underway across the entire region, is becoming more severe with the passing years, and leading to natural decrease for some Shires. However, the SD’s Indigenous population presents a striking contrast to the non-indigenous one, growing rapidly, increasing its share of the population and is a force for demographic rejuvenation.
Conclusions The analysis reveals that a profound ageing process is underway across the entire SD and is becoming more severe with the passing years. The SD’s Indigenous population presents a striking contrast to the non-Indigenous, growing rapidly, increasing its share of the population – particularly in the western-most LGAs – and is a force for demographic rejuvenation.