Published on June 7th, 2013 | by Stephanie

Talking numerical stories and barefoot statistics with Duncan Young.

Duncan Young adores numbers and telling stories, so what a better place for him to work then the  Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). He heads the Population Census program and will be presenting on the first day of MPE: The Conference.  In his presentation The Australian Population Census – Shedding some light on who we are, what we do and building a brighter future for Australia.  Duncan will demonstrate how the ABS engages the Australian Public in collecting these very important data.

‘The population census is a really exciting program,’ said Duncan. ‘It is a geeky celebration around Australia. Last census we were actually the number two meme – we were behind cyclone Yasi, but we beat Charlie Sheen!’

‘It is the biggest thing that a country can do – in peace time.  And it is a maths event.  That means the biggest event in Australia is a mathematical and statistical event.’ Duncan continued rather contentedly.

The data collected from the census helps determine the “good spots” to put things and the ABS has made a fun app: Run that town. It allows people to see how census data can be used to make decisions – albeit a simplified version.

Data collected can help explore emerging areas of Australia, aide in the distributions of funds for housing, transport, roads etc and gauge any trends that are emerging within the population.  The census can also be used a reflective tool: ‘A recent paper written by the ABS gives a comparison between young adults growing up in 1976 and today. ‘We are staying at home longer and marrying later, which isn’t a big surprise.  But the number of young Australians enrolled in tertiary degrees has gone from one in twenty in 1976 to one in four in 2011.

Stories like these are what makes Duncan’s job so enjoyable.

Duncan is looking forward to the fantastic food in Melbourne, but he also said modestly that: ‘Aside from myself, AMSI have gathered a bunch of people with the brains the size of the planet earth and I am really looking forward to watching these fascinating people present fascinating ideas.’

Watch the interview to get a grasp of just how every Australian contributes to the important decisions, or better yet, come along and see Duncan in person.


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