Leading social commentator Bernard Salt* delivered a keynote presentation at last week’s IGT NSW & ACT Customer Forum, held at Rooty Hill RSL.

Titled “Connecting with the new Middle Australia – The changing demographics of the club industry”, Salt presented a number of findings from the 2016 census, demonstrating how Australia’s heartland has changed and will continue to change in coming decades, and how these changes will impact on the Club industry,

Some of those findings include:

  • Australia’s decades of growth and prosperity as a nation continues.
  • For every job we have lost, we have created 12 new ones. It is these “knowledge” workers who are driving Australia’s prosperity.
  • 39% of Sydney population comes from outside of Australia.
  • Migrants come first through Sydney then through regions. Major cities, as well as regional commuter centres, have all grown since the previous census.
  • The Chinese population in Australia is increasing 10% year on year – unmatched anywhere else on earth.
  • Last year, China became the leading source for overseas visitors to Australia.
  • There has been a seismic shift in religious attitude since the last Census in 2011. 45% of the population now say they have no religion and in greater Sydney, that figure jumps to 54%.
  • There has been a 28% growth in single households or single-parent households.

What do these changes mean for the Club industry?


Because of its cultural diversity and prosperous lifestyle, Middle Australia is probably the most acceptable, pliable culture on earth. We are an adaptive, flexible, accommodating population – and our affluent lifestyle allows us to be that way.

Years of prosperity have created a culture of aspiration. That aspirational wealth is showcased in our homes and how we spend our leisure time.  We measure our social status by what we have and our homes.

We want the better things in life, so clubs need to make sure that they re-invest in the properties and amenities to meet these aspirational lifestyle expectations.


Clubs need to be conscious of changing cultural diversity, especially the explosion of the Chinese markets, and offerings need to be reflective of local demographics.  Australia will provide leisure, lifestyle and possibly gaming service opportunities to Asia.  Clubs can play a major role in this area.

Any club with a “fixed design” – i.e. those who do not adapt, will be wrongfooted by community aspiration.


People no longer trust big religion, major politics, big business or unions, so there is an opportunity for clubs to become the centre point of the community. They can fill the vacuum that the church once had of the meeting or gathering place, the centre of sports, volunteering and community support.

The growth in single households could see loneliness become a major social issue in the next decade.  More people will be lonely, single and isolated – but they will still have a desire to connect.  This is a great window of opportunity and a profound role for clubs to foster.

Becoming a club of the future

Overall it looks like clubs could not only continue playing a vital role in Australia’s future but they should continue to grow and prosper.

Successful clubs are already actively engaged in the recommendations offered by Salt which included:

  • Developing & pursuing a social media presence
  • Providing health and wellness facilities and play areas for children
  • Connecting into local services and provide opportunities of volunteering and community support through sponsorship and donations.
  • Operate as a focal point for the community e.g. a venue for weddings, conferences, meetings & important events
  • Calibrating your offer to engage local ethnicities via signage, menu design and layout
  • Maintaining and pursuing a long-term vision of the community leisure market. Future planning for the next 10, 15 and even 20 years.

Summing up, Salt offered the following points for Clubs to consider:

  • Australia is a prosperous growing nation that will offer growth opportunities
  • Australia will provide leisure, lifestyle and possibly gaming service opportunities to Asia
  • The customer of the future is older, more ethnically diverse, more entitled, more demanding and more easily distracted.
  • The challenge is to develop a rewarding experience with the customers – what does the customer get in return?
  • Gaming, if packaged in a community service arrangement can become an accepted part of the broader suite of services to the broader community
  • Clubs that foster social engagement can provide a strong alternative to online gaming, as well as a stronger moral authority.
  • The years of prosperity have led to more people, more building growth, more spending and more Tradies. Tradies are next millionaires/ multi-millionaires. They are entrepreneurs of middle-class prosperity.


Bernard Salt AM*

Bernard Salt is widely regarded as one of Australia’s leading social commentators by business, the media and the broader community.

Bernard heads The Demographics Group which provides specialist advice on demographic, consumer and social trends for business. Prior to that, Bernard founded KPMG Demographics.

Bernard is one of the most in-demand speakers on the Australian corporate speaking circuit and has been so for more than a decade. He was also responsible for popularising smashed avocados globally.

Bernard is a twice-weekly columnist with The Australian newspaper and is an adjunct professor at Curtin University Business School. He was awarded the Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2017 Australia Day honours.

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