I used to live in Eastwood from 2014 to 2018, it’s a suburb about 15km north-east of the Sydney CBD. Having lived in Glebe prior to that (just outside the CBD) this was a big shift for me, and Eastwood is culturally a very different place. Put simply, there’s a lot of Chinese and Korean people there (and I felt right at home).

One of the things I didn’t learn until I moved away was that Eastwood is famous for the Granny Smith apple, a very Aussie thing, and it was accidentally first grown in the suburb by Maria Ann Smith.

Photo by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos, sourced via Wikipedia, licensed under Creative Commons BY-NC

If you look around Eastwood, particularly at the shop buildings along Rowe St (the Korean side of the train station), there are markings indicating when they were built. They’re not fantastically old, but they point back to a time before there was a major demographic shift in the suburb.

The reason I got interested in this is because I was there for a census year, which happens every five years. I plucked out the data for 2016, which I participated in, and 2001 because it was a convenient while ago. I wondered just how Asian my suburb is now, and how much it had changed.

The newer census data has stats for Eastwood+NSW+Australia, while the older data has only Eastwood+Australia, so the latter will be our lowest common denominator.

Country of birth

2001
====
Country of birth        Eastwood        %       Australia       %

Australia               7,608           54.0    13,629,481      72.6
China (ex. SARs/Taiwan) 971             6.9     142,780         0.8
Hong Kong (SAR China)   852             6.0     67,122          0.4
Korea, South            793             5.6     38,900          0.2
Sri Lanka               362             2.6     53,461          0.3
India                   343             2.4     95,452          0.5


2016
====
Country of birth        Eastwood (NSW)  %       Australia       %

Australia               6,785           38.0    15,614,835      66.7
China (ex SARs/Taiwan)  4,514           25.3    509,555         2.2
Korea, South            1,394           7.8     98,776          0.4
Hong Kong (SAR China)   845             4.7     86,886          0.4
India                   451             2.5     455,389         1.9
Malaysia                319             1.8     138,364         0.6

Eastwood used to be less Aussie-born than the rest of Australia, but still a majority of the suburb (I don’t know what the missing heavy-hitters are for Australia in 2001). The biggest remainder was southeast and south Asian.

Now there’s waaay fewer Aussies in the suburb, being outnumbered almost 2:1 by people not born here. The Chinese and Korean population has exploded, the Sri Lankans have moved out, and the Malaysians have moved in.

Religion

2001
====

Religion        Eastwood        %       Australia       %

Catholic        3,932           27.9    5,001,624       26.6
No Religion     2,274           16.1    2,905,993       15.5
Anglican        2,024           14.4    3,881,162       20.7
Uniting Church  870             6.2     1,248,674       6.7
Buddhism        741             5.3     357,813         1.9

2016
====

Religion        Eastwood (NSW)  %       Australia       %


No Religion     7,032           39.4    6,933,708       29.6
Catholic        3,153           17.6    5,291,834       22.6
Not stated      1,366           7.6     2,238,735       9.6
Buddhism        1,174           6.6     563,674         2.4
Anglican        1,161           6.5     3,101,185       13.3

Eastwood used to broadly follow the rest of Australia, with Catholics representing about a quarter of the population. I’d hazard a guess that this roughly tracks with the Aussie-born population.

Since then a lot of Catholics and Anglicans have moved out, and the population swell has brought in a huge contingent of non-religious people, plus some Buddhists and unstated people.

Language spoken at home

2001
====
Language at home        Eastwood        %       Australia       %

English only            7,888           56.0    15,013,965      80.0
Cantonese               1,767           12.5    225,307         1.2
Korean                  914             6.5     39,529          0.2
Mandarin                769             5.5     139,286         0.7
Italian                 301             2.1     353,605         1.9
Tamil                   264             1.9     24,074          0.1

2016
====
Language at home        Eastwood (NSW)  %       Australia       %

English only            5,775           32.3    17,020,417      72.7
Mandarin                4,459           25.0    596,711         2.5
Cantonese               2,666           14.9    280,943         1.2
Korean                  1,679           9.4     108,997         0.5
Tamil                   258             1.4     73,161          0.3
Indonesian              161             0.9     67,891          0.3

Homes w/ non-English    3,933           64.1    1,971,011       22.2

It’s no surprise that English-only households are closely correlated with being Aussie-born. It’s interesting to see that almost two-thirds of Eastwood households have some non-English language spoken at home, which hints at the number of households that are multilingual. It’s common for kids to speak English natively, but at home they’ll talk to parents and relatives in their family’s mother tongue.

Dwelling type

2001
====
Dwelling type                   Eastwood        %       Australia       %

Occupied dwellings              5,103           94.9    7,072,202       90.8
All dwellings (inc. unoccupied) 5,380           --      7,790,079       --

2016
====
Dwelling count                  Eastwood (NSW)  %       Australia       %

Occupied private dwellings      5,899           93.3    8,286,073       88.8
Unoccupied private dwellings    421             6.7     1,039,874       11.2

The number of unoccupied private dwellings (ie. not commercial or industrial) has gone up. What this means I’m not really sure. More apartments without tenants, perhaps?

Occupied private dwellings

2001
====
Dwelling structure                      Eastwood        %       Australia       %

Separate house                          3,286           64.4    5,327,309       75.3
Semi, row, terrace, townhouse, etc      531             10.4    632,176         8.9
Flat, unit or apartment                 1,249           24.5    923,139         13.1
Other dwelling                          33              0.6     134,274         1.9
Dwelling type not stated                4               0.1     55,304          0.8

2016
====
Dwelling structure                      Eastwood (NSW)  %       Australia       %

Separate house                          3,358           56.9    6,041,788       72.9
Semi, row, terrace, townhouse, etc      1,085           18.4    1,055,016       12.7
Flat or apartment                       1,391           23.6    1,087,434       13.1
Other dwelling                          40              0.7     64,425          0.8

In 15 years there’s been 72 freestanding houses built, 142 new apartments, and a whopping 554 new somewhat-attached houses built. Townhouses and terraces are in, baby! I have no idea where they’ve been built, because most of the buildings I’m familiar with are more than 15 years old, and the suburb isn’t getting substantially denser as far as I’ve seen. Must be on the outskirts or something.

Household composition

2001
====
Household type          Eastwood        %       Australia       %

Family households       3,722           72.9    4,866,031       68.8
Single/lone person      1,019           20.0    1,616,213       22.9
Group households        201             3.9     262,551         3.7

2016
====
Household composition   Eastwood (NSW)  %       Australia       %

Family households       4,430           75.1    5,907,625       71.3
Single/lone person      1,093           18.5    2,023,542       24.4
Group households        372             6.3     354,917         4.3

Very minor change here, sharehouses have become more popular. I’d agree, I was living in one while I called Eastwood home. 🙂

Concluding thoughts

I did a little bit of mental back-of-the-envelope calculating about all this. 15 years is about 780 weeks. Let’s say that there’s about 130 retail businesses in fairly close proximity to Eastwood station. On Google maps it’s roughly the area that gets shaded in yellow. There’s quite possibly more than 130, especially on the Chinese (western) side.

You could imagine, and this is extremely hypothetical, that every one of those shops was run by an Aussie-born person back in 2001. In 2016 it’s a fair guess that most of them are run by someone southeast or south Asian, and if you’ve visited the area around Eastwood station you’ll know what I mean.

If this were the case, the pace of change in Eastwood would’ve been remarkably visible. As you walk around your neighbourhood, catching the train and coming home from school or uni or work, you would’ve seen one of those shops flip every five or six weeks. Non-stop, for the entire 15 years.

In reality the pace was probably much slower because I bet many of the shops were already run by someone Asian in 2001, but you get the same gist of it all. Instead, every few months you’d say “oh look another local shop has changed hands”.

I think this is fascinating.