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Aug 28, 2012


The 21 hippest suburbs in Australia (diagram by Urbis)

According to the Urbis Hip List, the 21 hippest places to live in Australia are mostly in Sydney and Melbourne.

Sydney has nine of them and Melbourne seven. Next are Perth and – this might come as a surprise – Canberra, with two each. Brisbane has just one suburb on the List and no other city, including Adelaide, has any.

“Hip” is a pretty slippery idea, so property consultants Urbis had a clever idea. They started their list by identifying the key attributes of two places popularly regarded as the zenith of hipness – Redfern in Sydney and Collingwood in Melbourne.

They found these two suburbs distinguished themselves clearly on eight attributes measured at the 2011 Census. They both have a high proportion of residents who are aged 20-39 years; are not married; have tertiary qualifications; were born overseas; have no religion; live in medium-high density housing; don’t live in families; and live in households without a car.

They then ranked all suburbs in Australia against each of these eight attributes. To qualify for the Urbis Hip List though, a suburb had to rank in the top 10% on not just one or a couple of attributes but on all eight.

In total, 21 suburbs qualified as hip. As well as scoring highly on the attributes, all of them are close to the city centre, tend to form in one or two clusters, and have high proportions of renters.

Unfortunately, Urbis has elected to keep to itself each suburb’s scores across all attributes (I don’t know why). But I do know which ones ranked top on each attribute.

Canberra City has the distinction of having the highest proportion of both tertiary educated residents (78%) and not-married residents (75%) of any hip suburb in the country. These are remarkably high numbers as the national averages are 21% and 34% respectively.

Presumably Canberra City’s hipness derives from all those early-career public servants. But it’s also dense. Anyone (like me) who’s surprised Canberra has two suburbs in the top decile for dwelling density should take a look at Canberra City and adjacent Braddon in Google Maps.

I’m not surprised however that Northbridge is hip. It’s next door to the CBD and is Perth’s traditional restaurant and night life precinct. It has the highest proportion of residents aged 20-39 years of all 21 suburbs (70% compared to a national average of 28%).

It’s also multicultural. It has the lowest proportion of residents born in Australia of all hip suburbs (32% against a nation average of 70%). Moreover 85% of residents have at least one parent born overseas compared to 46% nationally.

Along with Sydney’s Elizabeth Bay, Brisbane’s only hip suburb – Fortitude Valley – has the equal highest share of apartments in this company. They comprise 83% of the housing stock in these two suburbs compared to the national average of 14%.

Sydney’s Darlington scores highest on three attributes. Compared to the others, it has the highest proportion of terraces and town houses (65%, compared to the national average of 14%); most residents with no religion (56%/22%); and the most group households (30%/4%).

Urbis thinks its Hip List is an important leading indicator:

Identifying these suburbs has a very important economic purpose. Hip suburbs are at the leading edge of cosmopolitan trends, and offer an unusually rich source of information on future consumer directions. Like fashion trends, not everything that happens in a hip suburb will become mainstream, but much of it will be taken up by the broader consumer market, in some form. The spread of street art into living rooms is a recent example which had its Australian birth via notorious graffiti locations such as Collingwood, Fitzroy, and Brunswick.

Perhaps, but if you live in Adelaide, Hobart or Brisbane, or in a suburb you think should’ve been on the Hip List, I wouldn’t be too disheartened. Urbis has taken a pretty simple approach here and the findings, while certainly interesting, are best treated as suggestive.

What Urbis has actually identified are those 19 suburbs that, given some reasonable assumptions, look most like Redfern and Collingwood did at the 2011 Census. It’s a matter of opinion if these two suburbs adequately represent all shades of hipness.

I’m happy to accept the eight attributes chosen by Urbis because the company says they “jumped out” of the data. Nevertheless, they’re open to debate. Some observers might prefer others. Urbis’s reliance on the Census is also limiting because not all relevant attributes may be measured by it.

Another arguable restriction is the “all in” rule i.e. a suburb must score in the top decile on all eight attributes. If it qualifies on seven but got less than 90% on the eighth attribute it wouldn’t qualify for the Hip List.

A related issue is all eight attributes are given equal weight. This is also open to question. I would give a higher weight to the youth of the population and its level of education than to some of the other attributes. Others might have a different view but it’s hard to believe anyone would see all eight as equally important.

Based on the eight attributes, the least hip suburbs (the Hip <Replacement> List?) presumably have populations that tend to be: old and/or very young; are married; have a low level of education; were born in Australia; are religious; occupy detached houses; live in nuclear families; and own one or more cars. They’re also likely to live in the suburbs and own their home.

It seems these sorts of lists invariably involve technical compromises. They’re interesting and thought-provoking, but they shouldn’t be taken too literally. No doubt Urbis’s motivation was primarily marketing.


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13 thoughts on “Where are the hip suburbs in Australia?

  1. Andrew L

    To quote Douglas Adams: “Shee, you guys are so unhip it’s a wonder your bums don’t fall off.”

  2. Arty

    Home rule for Redfern!

  3. rupert moloch

    FAIL. Several kinds of inherent flaws in the methodology…

    Are statisticians who contract to property speculators really equipped to be the arbiters of any meaningful criteria of “hipness”?

    Qualitative value ascribed to quantitative measure. (C’mon man, this is 101 stuff.)

    These are merely inner-city suburbs with the kinds of amenity that would attract the very same folks quantified by the stats. That is all. The Sydney results are distorted – sufficient to be essentially meaningless – because (1) many inner-Sydney households don’t own a car, per se, & (2) high concentration of homosexual citizens in that town.

    As to Melbourne & Brisbane suburbs identified by this erm survey, these places are also the weekend playgrounds of the most regrettable kind of (not necessarily outer suburban) unhip human.

    Seriously. Do us big favour: apply the least critical intelligence to these instruments of the quotidien corporate spin-cycle.

  4. TheFamousEccles

    Besides, wouldnt counting the number of people wearing skinny-ankle pants and riding “fixies” be a more accurate indicator – if this were so, my dear old Adelaide would figure in a disproportionate way…

  5. TheFamousEccles

    “Urbis thinks its Hip List is an important leading indicator:

    Identifying these suburbs has a very important economic purpose. Hip suburbs are at the leading edge of cosmopolitan trends, and offer an unusually rich source of information on future consumer directions. Like fashion trends, not everything that happens in a hip suburb will become mainstream, but much of it will be taken up by the broader consumer market, in some form. The spread of street art into living rooms is a recent example which had its Australian birth via notorious graffiti locations such as Collingwood, Fitzroy, and Brunswick.”

    And this, to my mind, is the point of this thing. S-xing it up as having a “very important economic purpose” is code for developing marketing strategy going forward. (Phew – I to can talk corporate gibberish like a mofo, but a fairy dies every time).

  6. michael matusik

    how does this “study” really add to any debate, especially in the property arena. URBIS here are trying to help spruik new apartment developments on behalf of their clients – such analysis is total BS – yes it gets media coverage, but what does it mean – that New Farm isn’t as good a FV for example, ditto Teneriffe or St Lucia – give me a break

    Have they really been to Canberra City – hip my arse – dead more like it

  7. Karen

    Woohoo! Go Redfern!

  8. melburnite

    Though I live amongst them in fitzroy, Im still not sure what a hipster looks like – but I can spot a hipster hangout, which might identify the ‘hip’ suburb more than the demographics of the residents. So list the concentration of most-talked-about but not too expensive cafes and bars popular with the young educated singles, and cross-check with the number of young men with beards, and voila’ – a hip suburb or area you will be in. The greatest concentration that I know of in Melb is the gerturde street / smith street area, which is half in collingwood and half in fitzroy – not really a suburb at all.

  9. Tom the first and best

    The least “hip” areas would only be suburban ones if rural and regional areas are excluded.

  10. moneypenny

    Quote: “Presumably Canberra City’s hipness derives from all those early-career public servants.”

    And uni students. The ANU’s residential college Fenner Hall alone accounts for about 10% of Braddon’s population. There may be some other residential colleges in ‘Canberra City’ depending on whether or not Acton is a separate statistical unit in this Urbis survey.

    Plus IIRC the glut of privately owned apartments in City and Braddon are mostly occupied by renters (mainly young public servants and students).

  11. David R

    It’s disappointing that no suburbs from Hobart, Adelaide or Darwin are on the list. Perhaps they could do a list ranking the “hippest” suburbs in each capital using a similar ranking system.

  12. DanD

    Just seconding that Travancore and West Melbourne seem a little weird, you’d think Melbourne City, Carlton, South Yarra or South Melbourne would be more relevant.

    Looking at it, it seems the methodology seems to work against larger suburbs, which may be while somewhere like South Melbourne or South Yarra misses out, or even somewhere like Richmond. Both Collingwood and Fitzroy are rather small in size, and if that’s your baseline.

    Comparatively, its surprising to not see Newtown or Marrickville or Eskineville in Sydney, but they’re also larger, while places like Elizabeth Bay and Darlington are in very small pockets.

  13. Wiz Aus

    I don’t see how you can possibly distinguish “hipness” by census data alone.
    Availability (and particular varieties available) of entertainment, restaurants, shops, etc. are surely just as important. And if there was one particular piece of census data I’d look at it’s profession – e.g. I’d associate “hipness” with artists/musicians, designers, etc. etc.
    I’m also surprised based on the “key attributes” they did identity that Melbourne proper (i.e. postcode 3000) didn’t qualify, especially given West Melbourne did, despite the fact that probably over 75% of that suburb is non-residential (it’s dominated by the industrial docks area).
    And let’s face it, “hipness” is a peculiarly white phenomenon in this country at least, so the reason I probably wouldn’t include Melbourne suburb personally is there are too MANY residents born overseas (the one place I could find figures suggested that Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong make up 3 of the top 5 – but I’d have to think it’s shifting more towards China, India and Korea recently).

    Wiz Aus: I too was surprised by Melbourne City not making it on the criteria used by Urbis. I wonder if it doesn’t score in the top decile on the religion criterion – if so, the “all in” restriction would exclude it. AD


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