A comparison of census
data, 2001 to 2021
I get the feeling from some of Pittwater’s enduring
residents that the offshore community enjoyed a kind of
golden age. This was when the island and the bays were
full of characters: salt-of-the-earth types whose
exteriors, rougher than our roads, hid hearts of gold.
Always ready to muck in and lend a hand, they walked
everywhere, partied hard, rubbed along together and never
Was it ever like that? I don’t know, because I wasn’t
around. What’s curious is that this happy era, though
imprecisely defined, was always just before I arrived.
I’ve lived offshore for 17 years now, not insignificant
compared to many. But still, I'm told, the island was
definitely better before I came.
Rather than take that message personally, I’ve been
looking at the census data to see how, objectively
speaking, Pittwater has changed. We tend to be pretty
self-congratulatory in terms of levels of volunteerism, so
in the next PON we’ll see how we really compare. But in
this edition I contrast the Scotland Island of 2021 (the
most recent census) with that of 2011 and 2001. And
apologies to our friends on the western foreshores, but
the census data means that, for the time being, we need to
restrict our discussion to the island.
respects little has changed over the last two decades.
Scotland Island had 358 private dwellings in 2021, 20 more
than in 2001. Even so, its permanent population has hardly
altered: 711 people called it home two years ago. Yes, we
have become more secular (61% of islanders fitted the ‘no
religion’ category in 2021, compared with 31% in 2001).
And we are less likely to be married (50% now, compared
with 59% then). But these reflect national trends and
don’t reveal much unique about our community.
What leaps out is how we’ve aged. In 2001, less than 12%
of islanders were aged 55 or older. Now that proportion is
36%. In fact, if we divide the island population into
three age categories (0-24, 25-54, and 55+), 2021 was the
year when the oldest cohort outnumbered each of the other
The decline in youngsters is most marked among
pre-schoolers. Ever wondered why the island kindy closed
and we are converting the building into a recreation
centre more suitable for old folk? In 2001 the island had
48 children under five. Now it has around 19. In 2001
there were 22 people aged 65 or older. Now there are 125.
And while on the subject of communal recreation
facilities, we really need them. In 2001 there were just
36 single-person households on the island. Now there are
But it would be a mistake to conclude that we are turning
into a retirement village. Instead, we’ve just become a
lot more like the mainland. Australia is an ageing
country: nationally the proportion of people aged 65 or
older has increased from 13% to 17%. The Northern Beaches
has a slightly older demographic: that proportion has gone
from 14% to 18%. The difference is barely noteworthy,
unlike what has happened to our community. In 2001 just 3%
of islanders were over the age of 65. Now it’s 18%, the
same as for the Northern Beaches generally.
So what happened? Are we a stable population that has
grown old gracelessly together? To some extent, yes. But
we all know that in the last 20 years many of our
neighbours and friends have moved off the island, and new
ones have taken their place. I think it’s more plausible
that many departing younger families were replaced by
those in or approaching retirement.
you will see from the charts to the left, the age profile
of the island community has a distinctive double dip. This
suggests that families tend to move on with children of
school age. It follows that we have unusually large
numbers of youngsters around the ages of 5 to 14. But ask
any islander and they’ll tell you that when kids hit
mid-teens they and their parents start to move away.
What’s more, few 20-somethings stay on the island or come
to live here.
These are established patterns. But they have become more
accentuated, even in the last decade. Whereas in the past
the island intake often consisted of couples in their 30s
with pre-school age children, today they are more likely
to be well into their 40s and have children already at
What’s more, there has been a change among the older age
groups. In 2011 there was a marked tendency for people to
move off the island as they approached retirement, and
certainly when they reached their 70s. Life just got too
hard. That’s still happening, but less so, to the point
that today the proportion of people in their early 80s is
barely different to that in Australia as a whole.
Why are more retirees moving onto the island, and why are
those already here sticking around? My hypothesis is a
simple one. Despite our incessant whining, our
infrastructure has greatly improved. We live in an age of
free ferry passes and inclinators. Our roads are vastly
superior to when I arrived in 2006, hence the flourishing
of buggies in the last decade or so.
So, perhaps we really were sturdier in limb and heartier
of soul in the past, not just individually but as a
community too. But I suspect that there’s something else
underlying the idea that the island used to be more fun.
It hints at a perception that we have gentrified, that the
old characters have gone and we are left with a boring
bunch of lawyers, academics and the like. Does the census
bear that out?
When adjusted for inflation, islanders’ personal incomes
barely changed between 2011 and 2021. The proportion of
adults not in the labour force increased markedly,
supporting the idea that we have a lot more retirees.
Considering that retired people often have limited income
(as opposed to assets), this suggests that wages on the
island have increased. What’s more, our family and
household incomes have gone up, even after adjusting for
scene showing the perilous conditions
on Harold Ave during the 1980s
But I suspect that the concept of gentrification also has
to do with type of work. Surprisingly, the proportion of
employees classed as ‘professionals’ has dropped from 40%
to 33%. But the proportion categorised as ‘managers’ has
increased from 15% to 20%, while the percentage classed as
‘clerical and administrative’ has dropped from 13% to 9%,
‘labourers’ from 5.4% to 3.6%, and ‘machinery operators
and drivers’ from 3.1% to 1.7%.
This hints at gentrification, but none of this really
answers the question whether the island used to be more
fun. That’s not the kind of thing censuses report on. But
allow me one observation. In 2021 the ABS began asking
whether people have a mental health condition, including
depression and anxiety. We can’t compare the island with
how it used to be, but we can compare it with other
regions. 5.3% of islanders reported some kind of long-term
mental health condition, compared with 8.0% for NSW
state-wide and 8.8% nationally. That said, the island
scored no better than the Northern Beaches as a whole.
So, did Scotland Island have a golden age? Perhaps it did.
But we seem to be a little wealthier now, and happy
relative to much of Australia. With a median age of 48,
compared with 39 in 2011, we’re definitely an older
community now than even ten years ago. But the young don't
have a monopoly on fun. We can still muck in and lend a
hand, even if it is harder to walk everywhere and party
For Scotland Island census data for 2001 click here, for 2011 click here, for 2021 click here.
community fundraising dinner
of the team behind the dinner. Left to
right: Sharon Kinnison, Melinda Ham, Antonia
Swift, Georgina Orr, Roy Baker, Henry Orr,
CB Floyd, Lizzie Hazelwood, Barbara Labrum,
Petra Godfrey, Harriet Witchell and Simon
The Feast for Freedom dinner was an amazing event and so
well supported by our community. The team would like to
sincerely thank everyone who came to the dinner on 29
April and everyone who donated to support asylum seekers.
We also thank the late leavers who pitched in and
dismantled chairs and tables in the twinkling of an eye at
Our fundraising is still happening, but it looks like our
event this year will provide at least $2500 to the Asylum
Seekers Resource Centre. That’s pretty close to our
fundraising goal of $3000. If you were unable to attend
but would still like to donate, click here.
I would like to thank the brilliant team that made this
all happen. The chefs were Jon Duhig and his assistant
Barbara Labrum, who created the masterchef-worthy gourmet
entrée. On the mains were myself and Janet Lamble with her
amazing Cypriot grain salad. On dessert, Lizzie Hazelwood
and Georgina Orr presented their beautiful turmeric and
cardamom pears, and Melinda Ham created the
scrumptious vegan baklava.
A huge thank you to Roy Baker, who not only managed all
the wine sales but who played a big role in getting the
Rec Centre ready for the night. Roy was ably assisted at
the bar by Dan Richards. Also many thanks to Tim Turpin
who has laboured tirelessly on the Rec Centre over the
last few months, and Robyn Iredale, who organised the
Thanks to the other hardworking members of our team: Petra
Godfrey, Harriet Witchell, Simon Tucker and Antonia Swift.
Juliet Holmes à Court made the tablecloths and designed
the décor, and we had willing help setting up from Helen
Webster, Sharon Kinnison and last, but by no means least,
Henry Orr. Our other team member, Amber Ellis,
unfortunately caught the dreaded COVID and was unable to
join in – next time Amber!
Without naming names, we also acknowledge that everyone on
the team who spent money on the food shopping has donated
all or part of those expenses. This has made a huge
difference, so many thanks to all of you for putting your
money where our mouths are!
Tickets are now on sale!
Only 47 more sleeps until
the island play! With performances due in the Scotland
Island Community Hall on 16, 17, 23 and 24 June, the
opening night is fast approaching.
In this edition we also
introduce three more of the actors. But first we hear
from producer Robyn Iredale, the person who devised the
Two Catherines play, and whose energy and skills are
bringing the project to fruition.
The Play, And How It
production meeting for the play.
The history of Scotland
Island is replete with stories about men – most notably
Andrew Thompson (a former convict) and Herbert
Fitzpatrick (a land developer). But we know very little
about the women associated with the island. The opening
of the Two Catherines Café, in August 2019, was the
first step in redressing this imbalance. But in order to
understand more about the role Catherine Benns and
Catherine Bouffier played, we needed a story.
The idea developed to
produce a play and this was enthusiastically received by
some of the island’s residents. This gave me the courage
to start the process – which was totally new to me. As
an academic I knew nothing about this field, except that
one has to perform a lot when teaching.
A small committee of Greg Waters, Carol Floyd, Roy Baker
and myself was then formed. Greg Waters, a
well-established scriptwriter and island resident,
became our guiding star. Commissioning a playwright was
the first step and Jasper Marlow, a young playwright,
was selected by the steering group and ably mentored by
The development of a ‘treatment’ was stage one, followed
by the interactive drafting process. The play focuses on
two women whose paths, we presume, never crossed on the
island. But in the world of theatre we can just make
The job of casting has been interesting and it is
amazing to me just how the right people pop up when you
need them. The Director, Sophie Lepowic, moved to Elvina
Bay in 2022 and her professionalism and enthusiasm have
been a pleasure to work with. She will play Catherine
Bouffier and Roy Baker, Sophie Blackband, Betsi Beem, Jo
Cartermay, Lisa Day, Lisa Ratcliff, Ian White, Juliet
Wills and Larry Woods will make up the rest of the cast.
Kay Reaney is ably assisting with many aspects of the
play and her expertise is invaluable. Gill Unwin will
return to the stage management role that she has filled
in past productions.
We are very lucky to have Markus Plattner back and he,
together with Geoff Bullock and Rod Heard, are writing
original music and lyrics. The play will be peppered
with musical items and it will be lively and
entertaining, so come and enjoy it!
Presenting Some Of The
last edition we introduced four talents behind the
play: Robyn Iredale, co-producer Kay Reaney, the
playwright Jasper Marlow, as well as the director and
lead actor, Sophie Lepowic. Now we come to some of the
other onstage performers, introduced by order of
Playing the part of ‘the Historian’, a stuffy academic
with an interest in local history and a tedious
obsession with factual accuracy, shouldn’t overstretch
Roy’s acting abilities.
Roy firmly believes that
everyone would enjoy the show far more if only he would
be allowed to give his fascinating island history
presentation, rather than all this silly comedy.
By way of preparation for the part, Roy taught law for
14 years at Macquarie University. He has no experience
in theatre, let alone comedy, as will no doubt become
apparent on the night.
Joe Benns: Ian White
Joe Benns, more properly Arnbroff Josef Diercknecht, was
a Belgian mariner who claimed ownership of the island
following the death of Andrew Thompson. He was husband
to Catherine Benns, the ‘Queen of Scotland Island’.
Joe is played by community stalwart Ian White. Active
for many years as an island firefighter and first
responder, Whitey also served as a local councillor.
Before retiring, Ian taught at Newport Primary, so he is
used to handling disruptive audiences.
Brought up in Church Point,
Whitey moved to the island in 1990. Out of the actors he
is our longest-serving resident, so he knows as well as
anyone where the island's skeletons are buried. But is
the same true of Catherine Benns' buried treasure? We
Florence Bouffier: Lisa
Florence, daughter to Catherine Bouffier, was the wife
of Herbert Fitzpatrick, who bought most of the island in
the 1920s and is largely responsible for the subdivision
we have today. Florence Terrace is named after her.
Lisa Day, who takes on the
part, is a jazz singer, songwriter and choreographer. A
seasoned performer, she has sung and danced with
numerous tribute bands, several of which have been
recognised by the original artists. Lisa has shared
stages with the likes of Tom Jones, Kamal, Julie Andrews
and James Morrison, performing for prime ministers,
premiers and international dignitaries. She is currently
with the jazz trio Lionheart.
In the next edition we
shall meet the remainder of the principal cast, and
other talent behind the production.
Catherine Park, Scotland
Tuesdays, 9 - 11.30 am
Do you have children under 5?
books left out in the rain
in the Recreation Centre playground
Let's keep the dream alive! Without the kindergarten,
it's up to us to find ways to connect and share the
fun of young children. Parents, grandparents and their
children from babies to four are meeting in the park
and playgrounds on Tuesdays from 9 till 11.30am,
weather permitting. If there were a few more of us, it
would be worth hiring the hall through winter and
organising some inside activities too. Anyone else
interested? Have a chat with me on 0406 806 648.
Do you have school-age
If so, please ask them NOT to go into the shed in the
Rec Centre (old kindy) playground and get stuff out.
Council is hopefully fixing the broken door so it can
be locked, but they haven't yet. In the holidays kids
have again had fun rummaging around and leaving stuff
outside. Understandable, but please don't!
Tuesday 16 May, 11 am -
The Recreation Club runs a discussion group, meeting
on the third Tuesday of each month, from 11 am to
12.30 pm in the Recreation Centre. Everyone is
Members take it in turn to design a session. At the
April session, Roy Baker led a discussion on self-help
books: do they help us lead happier, more fulfilling
Continuing in the same vein, for the May meeting
Bill Gye will ask what factors shape human
well-being? We all have some sense of what it
means to live a good life. So what are the essential
ingredients? What should we prioritise? What should we
avoid? And how do we go about maximising our enjoyment
of the limited time we have? For preparation:
1. Read the Wikipedia article 'Well-being contributing
factors', available here
2. Read 'The Nature of Human Well-being', from the
Encylopedia of Puget Sound, available here
This topic is carried over
The group is administered via a WhatsApp group, which
will be used to distribute further information about
this and future discussions. If you would like to be
added to the group, send your mobile phone number to email@example.com.
Alternatively, contact Jane Rich (firstname.lastname@example.org) for
more information or to express your interest in
The Recreation Club asks for $5 per person per
attendance to defray expenses.
Saturday 20 May, 6.30 -
Saturday 27 May, 7 - 9
The Recreation Club
asks for $5 per person per attendance to defray
Sunday 28 May, 10 - 12
Scotland Island Fire
Saturday 3 June, 7 pm
To buy tickets,
Saturday 10 - Monday
information and to book, click here.
Friday 16 &
Saturday 17 June, 7.30 pm
Friday 23 &
Saturday 24 June, 7.30 pm
To book tickets,
Sunday 25 June, 10 -
makers, artists and entrepreneurs!
Do you have
something you’d like to sell at a market stall
at the June island café? It could be artwork,
pottery, clothes, candles, books or... well,
pretty much anything.
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Other gear includes swimming ladder, Bowrider
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Great boat with plenty of power and weather cover
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Only selling due to upgrade.
Asking $23,000 ono
Please call Richard 0414 560 505.
two-bathroom, nine-year-old Scotland Island home
for rent. Boatshed and jetty, deep water,
eastern side, fully furnished, with beach and
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expressed in this newsletter are not
necessarily the views of the
Scotland Island Residents
or the Western Pittwater
Community Association (WPCA)