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The functions of Australian towns, revisited

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This paper reports an inter-temporal investigation of urban employment and spatial trends in Australian urbanisation over nearly a half century using city classification methodology. Published in this journal in 1965, Robert Smith's classic paper, ‘The Functions of Australian Towns’, provides the benchmark analysis. Smith used 1954 employment census data to group the then national total of 422 urban places into functional categories which provided a succinct description of the pattern of early postwar urbanisation. The present study revisits (without exactly replicating) Smith's study, employing 1996 data for 741 urban centres. A two-stage procedure using principal components and cluster analyses identifies 13 functional town groupings which capture both enduring and new patterns of employment distribution across the Australian urban system.

Keywords: Australian urban system; city classification; cluster analysis; employment distribution

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

Publication date: May 1, 2003

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