Census 2016 Datapacks are out

The topline reports from the 2016 Census were released 2 weeks ago, and are already making their way into research reports and media analysis on everything from intergenerational changes in sexual orientation to housing affordability. Needless to say both of the former have changed a lot in 5 years! 

The ABS held off  on releasing the underlying data (Datapacks) so as not to steal their thunder in reporting on the findings of the census. But now the data has been set free! As of 12th July, datapacks and mapping files are available for download at https://datapacks.censusdata.abs.gov.au/datapacks/. 

Some cool things about the new datapacks compared to the 2011 release:

  • No login / subscription required to access the data - it's finally 'open data' 
  • Shape files and Map Interchange files available at all geographic levels including suburb and LGA. 
  • Tables are *mostly* the same in structure and field names as 2011
  • Geographies are *mostly* consistent with 2011 - well, the ABS geographies are consistent, and LGAs/ Suburbs/ Postcodes have some new additions amendments based on changes by the owners of these geographies. 

We've already downloaded and loaded the new data up; you'll see some Tableau visuals on the Aussie population coming out over the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime, happy number crunching!


Custom Geographies in Tableau

One of the things that makes Tableau so popular as a visualisation tool is it's built in geographic mapping capabilities. Using standard geographic dimensions, such as postcodes, states and metropolitan areas, it is a cinch to create beautiful heat maps and visual distributions. 

Up until Tableau v10, however, creating custom geographic boundaries such as ABS structures, local government areas or brand territories has been a fiddly process of hacks and data manipulation, made bearable by the generosity of the Tableau developer community in sharing their painstakingly constructed geo files. 

For those of us who do a lot of custom geo work, the addition of a built in custom-geo builder to Tableau 10.3 is a welcome addition. This tool means that absolutely no technical skill is needed to create custom geographies within the Tableau interface. Which means we can spend more time on value-add analysis and visualisation, and less time trying to make map boundaries accurate. 

Tableau 10.3 has also largely fixed the postcode polygon issues that emerged in version 10.0 where polygons triangulated across waterways, making a large Sydney harbour part of Circular Quay. Whilst I'm sure some property developers would be very excited if that happened, seeing it on our maps makes us analysts very upset!