TREATMENT OF INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS IN OFFICIAL POPULATION ESTIMATES
1.12 Until 1967, section 127 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act required the exclusion of some Aboriginal people when estimating the population: 'In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, Aboriginal natives shall not be counted'. This was interpreted as requiring the exclusion of 'full-blooded' Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (i.e. those persons with more than 50% Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander blood). An exception to this rule occurred when Torres Strait Islanders were classified by the 1947 Census as Polynesian and by the 1954 and 1961 Censuses as South Pacific Islanders, resulting on these three occasions in their inclusion in the population. As counting of 'full-bloods' was not a prime purpose of the Census, remote areas of Australia which were only inhabited by Aboriginal people were not enumerated, although counts were sometimes derived. The quality of such counts is questionable. See the Occasional Paper: Population Issues, Indigenous Australians, 1996 (cat. no. 4708.0) and The Aboriginal Population of Australia (Smith 1980) for more information.
1.13 This provision was repealed with the proclamation of the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) Act 1967 so that since 10 August 1967 population statistics have included 'full-blooded' Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Population statistics prior to 10 August 1967 have also been revised to include these persons. Population statistics by single year of age and sex for Australia and the states and territories include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 30 June 1966, and totals (not disaggregated by age) of the population for Australia and the states and territories include them from 30 June 1961.
1.14 In censuses from 1971 onwards Aboriginal people were no longer asked to state their degree of Aboriginal descent. For example, the 2006 Census question asked 'Is the person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin?' Changing social attitudes, political developments, improvements in Census coverage and a broader definition of Aboriginal are likely to have contributed to the rapidly rising numbers of Aboriginal people that have been recorded since 1971. For further information on Census questions on Indigenous status, refer to Indigenous Status - Characteristics in the Census Dictionary, 2006 (Reissue) (cat. no. 2901.0).
This page last updated 11 June 2009