Population statistics are measures of the size, growth, composition and geographic distribution of the population as well as the components that shape population change - notably births, deaths and migration. Population statistics underpin the discussion on a wide range of issues of concern to the community, including immigration, cultural diversity, ageing and population sustainability.
Population trends are associated with many social changes and statistics on these trends assist governments in developing social and economic policy. Australia’s population is continually changing. Like many developed countries the population is ageing. The population continues to grow and the distribution of the population among and within the states and territories is changing. Changes in Australia's population affect policy areas such as health, education, housing, the labour market and the environment.
There are important legislative requirements for the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to produce population estimates. The legislation which determines the distribution of state, territory and local government grants uses ABS population estimates as one of the bases calculation. Similarly, population estimates are used to determine the number of seats each state and territory is entitled to in the House of Representatives.
The Census of Population and Housing is the principal source of information about Australia's population. It has been held every five years since 1961 with the most recent census conducted in August 2001.
The census provides a base from which Australia's estimated resident population is calculated. The census count of the population is adjusted for visitors from overseas, Australian residents temporarily overseas on census night and an estimate of the number of people missed in the census and those counted more than once. To obtain estimated resident population figures for dates between censuses, births and net overseas migration are added and deaths are subtracted.
The chapter contains five articles: Population figures for state grants - an historical perspective; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians - projections 2001 to 2009; Australia's top four overseas birthplace groups; Same-sex couple families; and The population census - A brief history.
The ABS has conducted a social survey of Indigenous Australians. The article at the conclusion of this chapter Selected findings from the 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey presents the main results of the survey of this population group.