Australian Bureau of Statistics
4705.0 - Population Distribution, Indigenous Australians, 2001
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/06/2002
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SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
The Indigenous count has increased by 12% due to births and deaths, and a further 4% primarily due to an increasing propensity for persons to be identified as Indigenous on Census forms, giving a total increase of 16% for the intercensal period. Between the 1991 and 1996 Censuses, the Indigenous count increased by 14% due to births and deaths, and a further 19% due to other factors, giving a total increase of 33% between 1991 and 1996.
There are two main types of Census counts of Indigenous Australians. The Census counts people where they are on Census night (place of enumeration) as well as where they live (usual residence).
Both counts can be used for analysis although the usual residence count is preferred in geographical analyses because it classifies people who are away from home at Census time to the area in which they usually live, as long as address details are provided. Counts on a usual residence basis therefore correct for the effect of seasonal fluctuations in holiday/resort areas and, in remote areas, for the effect of visitation and mobility issues and events such as festivals or funerals.
The following table presents the population measures for Australia, States and Territories on the basis of place of enumeration Census counts, usual residence Census counts, and estimated resident population.
UNKNOWN INDIGENOUS STATUS AND UNDERCOUNT
There are two situations which result in Indigenous status being unknown: where Census forms are returned to the ABS with the Indigenous origin question unanswered (question non-response); and where the ABS cannot obtain forms from persons identified in the field (imputed records).
Question non-response can occur given Census forms are completed by respondents themselves (apart from Special Indigenous Forms). The Indigenous origin question is more comprehensively answered than most other Census variables. Nevertheless, the question non-response rate for Indigenous status has increased slightly from 1.7% in the 1996 Census to 2.0% in 2001. Some of the people who did not have a response provided for them will be Indigenous, although the proportion that is actually Indigenous is not known.
In addition, completed forms are not able to be obtained from all people found during enumeration and Census records therefore need to be imputed. The proportion of the total Australian population represented by imputed records was 2.1% in the 2001 Census, compared to 1.3% in the 1996 Census. The number of imputed records in the 2001 Census was substantially higher (up by 71%) on the level of imputation necessary in the 1996 Census. Once again, some of these imputed records would relate to people who, if a form had been completed, may have been identified as Indigenous, although the proportion who were actually Indigenous is not known. The most marked increases in imputed records since the 1996 Census were in New South Wales (up from 1.4% to 2.7%), the Australian Capital Territory (up from 1.3% to 2.1%) and Victoria (up from 1.2% to 2.1%).
Taken together, question non-response and imputed records where Indigenous status is unknown, represented 4.1% of the total Australian population, compared with 3.0% in the 1996 Census. The number of people for whom Indigenous status is unknown (767,757) was higher than the number of people who were identified as Indigenous (410,003). The most marked increases in the number of records with Indigenous status unknown since the 1996 Census, were in New South Wales (up from 3.0% to 4.6%), the Australian Capital Territory (up from 2.1% to 3.4%) and the Northern Territory (up from 4.9% to 6.1%).
To produce estimates of the resident Indigenous population, the unknown records are allocated Indigenous status. See Population Measurement Issues for more analysis of question non-response and imputed records, and Appendix 2: Estimated resident Indigenous population - Method of calculation for an explanation of the method of allocation.
Some people are missed each Census and some are counted more than once. The net effect is called net undercount. The preliminary net undercount for Indigenous Australians for the 2001 Census has been estimated at about 6.5%, not significantly different from the 1996 Census undercount of 7.0%.
In estimating the resident Indigenous population, the Indigenous net undercount rate is applied to Census usual residence counts to account for Indigenous residents who were missed or counted more than once.
For more information, see both Population Measurement Issues and Appendix 2: Estimated resident Indigenous population - Method of calculation.
In the more populous metropolitan Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) Regions, while Indigenous Australians are a minority of the total populations of these regions, the numbers of Indigenous Australians in these regions tend to be larger than in other ATSIC Regions. Nine ATSIC Regions (Sydney, Brisbane, Coffs Harbour, Perth, Cairns, Townsville, Hobart, Adelaide and Darwin), out of a total of 36 regions, account for almost half (48%) of the Indigenous population of Australia.
The ATSIC Region with the largest Indigenous population, based on Census usual residence counts, is Sydney (37,557), followed by Brisbane (34,809), Coffs Harbour (32,122), Wagga Wagga (20,966), and Perth(20,506). The ATSIC Regions with the highest proportion of Indigenous residents are outside the major population centres and include: the Torres Strait Area in Queensland (77%); and the Jabiru and Apatula regions in the Northern Territory (both 75%).
The highest intercensal regional increases in the Indigenous population, (based on Census place of enumeration counts because comparative data for place of usual residence at this level of geography are not available for 1996), occurred in the ATSIC Regions of Coffs Harbour (30%), Brisbane (28%), Queanbeyan and Roma (both 23%), Broome (22%) and Tamworth (20%). As in previous Censuses, high Indigenous population growth was mainly associated with more urbanised areas. In contrast, the smallest increases occurred in the Torres Strait Area (2%), Bourke (3%) and Warburton (6%). The Indigenous population of Tennant Creek decreased by 7% between 1996 and 2001, the only ATSIC Region to record a decline.
The extent to which Indigenous status is unknown varies considerably from one region to another. For example, it is relatively high in the Western Australian ATSIC Regions of Derby (16%) and Kununurra (13%), and as low as 3% for the Apatula ATSIC Region in the Northern Territory.
Indigenous Areas and Indigenous Locations
Indigenous Areas and Indigenous Locations provide a useful basis for analysing data about the Indigenous population. In about one in five Indigenous Areas, over half the population were recorded as being of Indigenous origin.
The Indigenous Area with the most Indigenous Australians, based on Census usual residence counts, was Townsville (C) (4,369). While many of the areas with high Indigenous counts (more than 2,500 Indigenous residents) also had proportions of Indigenous residents higher than the national average of 2.2%, only Tanami (85%) had a majority of residents recorded as Indigenous.
2001 CENSUS(a), INDIGENOUS AREAS WITH HIGHEST INDIGENOUS COUNTS
The Indigenous Areas with the highest recorded Indigenous populations were not all in the ATSIC Regions with the highest Indigenous counts. Within the most populous ATSIC Region of Sydney (37,557Indigenous residents), the most populous Indigenous Areas were on the southern outskirts, including Wollongong (C) (2,659), Kiama(A)/Shellharbour(C) (1,412), Liverpool (C) (2,030), Campbelltown surrounds (1,262) and Bankstown (C) (1,218).
Within each ATSIC Region, Indigenous Areas can be aggregated in many ways. In some cases larger places can be represented by several Indigenous Areas. Examples from the Sydney ATSIC Region include: Blacktown (C) (twelve Indigenous Areas, 6,062Indigenous residents); Campbelltown (six Indigenous Areas, 3,582Indigenous residents); and Penrith (six Indigenous Areas, 3,426 Indigenous residents). Further afield, examples include the Australian Capital Territory (three Indigenous Areas, 3,496 Indigenous residents); Brisbane (C) (nine Indigenous Areas, 10,737 Indigenous residents); Cairns (C) (six Indigenous Areas, 5,878 Indigenous residents); and Adelaide (four Indigenous Areas, 1,798 Indigenous residents).
The Indigenous Locations with the highest recorded Indigenous populations were also Indigenous Areas, and tend to be major population centres. For example, Townsville (C), with 4,369 people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, is both an Indigenous Area and an Indigenous Location. In contrast, some of the remote Indigenous Areas such as Fitzroy River in Western Australia, and Cape York in Queensland, are comprised of numerous Indigenous Locations (in these cases ten and eight respectively). Overall, about 60% of Indigenous Areas comprised a single Indigenous Location, while others were represented by a number of Indigenous Locations.
Instances of Indigenous status being unknown tended to occur in particular Indigenous Locations, many of which are also Indigenous Areas. In some Indigenous Locations, Indigenous status was unknown for over 20% of the population. Although examples of a high incidence of Indigenous status being unknown occurred in Indigenous Locations all over Australia, there were two major clusters: the Kimberleys in Western Australia; and Cape York Peninsula and the Gulf country in Queensland. While question non-response was the major contributor for Cape York, in the Kimberleys question non-response and imputation both contributed, and in the Gulf country imputed records dominated. The extent to which Indigenous status is unknown was also high in the inner areas of some major population centres, largely due to the imputation of Census records. These included: Sydney(C) (31% of Census records); [Darwin]City-Inner (31%); Perth(C) (17%); Cairns(C) - City(14%); and Melbourne(C)/PortPhillip (C) (12%). See Population Measurement Issues for more analysis of question non-response and imputed records.
TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLE
In the 1996 and 2001 Censuses, people were able to be reported as being of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin. The term Torres Strait Islander refers to people of Torres Strait Islander origin, whether or not they are also of Aboriginal origin.
Of the 410,003 people who were identified as Indigenous in the 2001 Census, 6.4% were reported to be of Torres Strait Islander origin only (8.1% in 1996), 89.4% were reported to be of Aboriginal origin only (89.0% in 1996), and 4.3% were reported to be of both origins (2.9% in 1996).
Over half (58%) of all Torres Strait Islander people live in Queensland. The rest of the population is scattered around the other States, with 18% in New South Wales and 6% in Victoria. The Indigenous Area of Cairns(C) - Central Suburbs had the highest Torres Strait Islander population in Queensland (1,814 people), followed by Townsville (C) (1,379). Within the Torres Shire, the largest Indigenous populations were recorded for the Indigenous Locations on Thursday Island (804 people in Tamoi, Rose Hill, Applin, Wyborn and Quarantine (TRAWQ), and 754 people in Port Kennedy). Bamaga (655) and Badu Island (518) also have relatively large Torres Strait Islander populations. A majority of the people in the Torres Shire settlements are Torres Strait Islanders (74%).
The proportion of people for whom Indigenous status is unknown in the Torres Shire (5.9%) was higher than the national average of 4.1%. For some Indigenous Locations the rate of Indigenous status being unknown was relatively high e.g. Horn Island (24%) and TRAWQ (Thursday Island) (16%). In all Indigenous Locations in the Torres Shire, the number of Torres Strait Islanders far outweighed the number of people of unknown origin.
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This page last updated 14 August 2007