Australian Bureau of Statistics
1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2002
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/01/2002
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There are no accurate estimates of the population of Australia before European settlement. Many estimates were based on post-1788 observations of a population already reduced by introduced diseases and other factors. In 1930 the anthropologist Radcliffe-Brown postulated a minimum figure of 300,000. In 1980 L.R. Smith estimated the absolute minimum pre-1788 population at 315,000. Other estimates have put the figure at over 1 million, while recent archaeological finds suggest that a population of 750,000 could have been sustained.
5.7 ESTIMATES OF THE INDIGENOUS POPULATION - At 30 June
Graph 5.8 shows the very young age structure of the Indigenous population. In 1996, the median age of the Indigenous population was 20 years, compared with 34 years for the total population. With 40% of the population aged under 15, and 3% aged over 65, the Indigenous population of 1996 had a younger age structure than that of the total Australian population at the beginning of this century.
This age structure is largely a product of high fertility and high mortality among the Indigenous population. During the 1960s Indigenous women had, on average, about six children each but by the 1980s this had fallen to about three children each, compared to 1.9 for all Australian women. The high mortality experienced by the Indigenous population is reflected in their life expectancy at birth, which in 1997-99 was about 56 years for males and 63 years for females - around 20 years less than the respective life expectancies of all males and females in Australia in 1997 to 1999.
5.8 Age Structure of the Indigenous Population
While most of the total Australian population is concentrated along the east and (to a lesser extent) the south west coasts, the Indigenous population is much more widely spread. About 90% of Australia's Indigenous population live in areas covering 25% of the continent whereas 90% of Australia's total population are contained within just 2.6% of the continent. This reflects the fact that Indigenous people are much more likely to live in remote areas than the rest of the population, and that there is a higher level of urbanisation among the non-Indigenous population than the Indigenous population. Approximately half of the continent of Australia contains just 0.3% of the total population, compared to 3.1% of the Indigenous population (see maps 5.9 and 5.14).
5.9 DISTRIBUTION OF INDIGENOUS POPULATION(a) - 1996
This page last updated 20 August 2007