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4704.0 - The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Oct 2010  
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Contents >> Executive Summary >> Demographic, social and economic characteristics overview: >> Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and where they live


DEMOGRAPHIC, SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS OVERVIEW: ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLE AND WHERE THEY LIVE
This article is part of a comprehensive series released by as The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

KEY MESSAGES

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population comprises around 2.5% of the Australian population and is relatively young:
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comprised 2.5% (517,000 people) of the total Australian population in June 2006, and is expected to reach between 640,700 (series A) and 643,800 (series B) people by 2016.
  • In 2006, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population had a median age of 21.0 years compared with 37.0 years for the non-Indigenous population.
  • At June 2006, most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in non-remote areas with an estimated 32% of people living in major cities, 43% in regional areas, and 25% in remote areas.

This topic provides an overview of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and where they live. Data presented are from a range of sources and provide context for the detailed health and welfare information presented in other topics in this release.

Information presented in this topic includes:

ESTIMATED RESIDENT POPULATION

At 30 June 2006, the final estimated resident Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was 517,000 people, or 2.5% of the total Australian population (Endnote 1). The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is estimated to have increased by 109,800 people since 1996 and is projected to increase to between 640,700 (series A) and 643,800 (series B) people by 2016.

Among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population:
  • 90% were estimated as being of Aboriginal origin only
  • 6% were of Torres Strait Islander origin only
  • 4% were of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin (table 1.1).

1.1 ESTIMATED RESIDENT POPULATION, by Indigenous status—30 June 2006

Aboriginal
Torres Strait
Both Aboriginal and
Total
Non-
only
Islander only
Torres Strait Islander
Indigenous
Indigenous
Total
no.
no.
no.
no.
no.
no.

NSW
144 236
5 248
3 201
152 685
6 663 402
6 816 087
Vic.
30 178
2 421
918
33 517
5 093 023
5 126 540
Qld.
112 095
20 902
11 888
144 885
3 946 023
4 090 908
SA
26 483
1 121
451
28 055
1 539 833
1 567 888
WA
68 526
1 253
1 187
70 966
1 988 415
2 059 381
Tas.
16 350
1 377
688
18 415
471 536
489 951
NT
61 616
757
1 632
64 005
146 622
210 627
ACT
4 004
173
105
4 282
329 837
334 119
Aust.(a)
463 706
33 267
20 070
517 043
20 180 837
20 697 880

(a) Includes other territories.
Source: ABS 2008, Experimental Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, June 2006, cat. no. 3238.0.55.001.

AGE

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is relatively young, with a median age of 21.0 years compared with 37.0 years for the non-Indigenous population. This is largely the result of higher fertility and deaths occurring at younger ages among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. At 30 June 2006, people aged 65 years and over comprised just 3% of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population compared with 13% of the non-Indigenous population. By contrast, 38% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were under 15 years of age compared with 19% of non-Indigenous people (figure 1.2).

1.2 ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER AND NON-INDIGENOUS POPULATIONS—30 June 2006
Age pyramid: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous populations by detailed age groups and sex, June 2006
Source: ABS 2008, Experimental Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, June 2006, cat. no. 3238.0.55.001


WHERE ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLE LIVE

At 30 June 2006, New South Wales had the largest estimated resident population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (152,700 people or 30%), followed by Queensland (144,900 people or 28%), while the Australian Capital Territory had the smallest (4,300 people or 1%). The Northern Territory had a higher proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents (30%) than any other state or territory.

At 30 June 2006:
  • 32% (165, 800 people) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians lived in major cities
  • 21% (110,600 people) lived in inner regional areas
  • 22% (113,300 people) lived in outer regional areas
  • 9% (47,900 people) lived in remote areas
  • 15% (79,500 people) lived in very remote areas.

The Indigenous regions with the largest populations were Sydney (46,900), Brisbane (46,300) and Coffs Harbour (43,800). The Indigenous regions with the highest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents, which were outside major population centres, included the Torres Strait Indigenous Region in Queensland (85%) and the Apatula and Jabiru Indigenous Regions in the Northern Territory (80% and 79% respectively).

MOBILITY

The mobility data presented here has been taken from the 2006 Census and has been previously published in Population Characteristics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (cat. no. 4713.0). The data presents information on the mobility of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by comparing a person's place of usual residence in 2006 and 2001, as reported in the 2006 Census. Information relating to people who changed their place of usual residence is restricted to people who were aged 5 years and over in 2006 and excludes from the analysis those with no place of usual residence.

Analysing changes in usual residence data is one approach to understanding longer term mobility. Short term movements (of less than one year) cannot be determined from Census data and care should be taken in interpreting this mobility data (Endnote 2).

In 2006, approximately 57% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 5 years and over were living at the same address as in 2001. Of those living at a different address (and living in Australia), 14% had moved interstate.

Between 2001 and 2006, 12% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (aged 5 years and over) had moved between remoteness areas. Major cities, inner regional areas and outer regional areas all attracted a similar number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (between 10,500 and 11,300) and were also the greatest sources of migrants to other areas (approximately 10,000).

An overall pattern of migration from more remote areas to less remote areas was observed between 2001 and 2006, with very remote areas having the greatest net loss of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (-1,700) and major cities having the greatest net gain (1,300). This resulted in a net increase for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in major cities of 1% and a net decrease of 3% in very remote areas (graph 1.3).

1.3 ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER MOVEMENT IN AND OUT OF REMOTENESS AREAS(a)(b)—2001 to 2006
chart: Population movement in and out of remoteness areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 5 years and over, 2001 and 2006
(a) Based on 2006 SLAs and Place of Usual Residence 5 years ago concorded to 2006 Remoteness Areas
(b) Persons aged 5 years and over in 2006 with a place of usual residence in both 2001 and 2006
Source: ABS 2010, Population Characteristics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2006, cat. no. 4713.0.


There were different rates and patterns of mobility observed for different age groups. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 5–19 years accounted for 43% of net movement between remoteness areas and were most likely to move to inner regional areas. This age group were also most likely to leave remote and very remote areas, accounting for 45% and 57% of the movement out of these areas. One of the contributors for younger people moving away from remote and very remote areas is to attend school. Of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 5–19 years who moved away from remote and very remote areas to inner regional areas, 8% were enumerated at a boarding school or residential colleges/halls of residence.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 20–39 years were most likely to move to major cities. Unlike the younger age groups, people aged 40 years and over were least likely to change address, with 70% living at the same address in 2001. This age group also had a net migration away from major cities, as well as remote and very remote areas, into inner regional and outer regional areas (graph 1.4).

1.4 NET EFFECT OF ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER MOBILITY 2001 and 2006(a), by remoteness area and age—2001 and 2006
chart: net effect of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mobility 2001 and 2006, by remoteness area and age
(a) Persons aged 5 years and over in 2006 with a place of usual residence in both 2001 and 2006
Source: ABS 2010, Population Characteristics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2006, cat. no. 4713.0.

ENDNOTES

1. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008, 'Experimental Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, June 2006', cat. no. 3238.0.55.001, ABS, Canberra, <www.abs.gov.au>.

2. Care should be taken in interpreting mobility data as there were differences in question working for the place of usual residence data one and five years ago between the mainstream Census form and the Interviewer Household Form (IHF) used in discrete Indigenous communities. On the mainstream form, any address changes were reported, while on the IHF, change of address within a community was not recorded, however a change of community, or town/ city, was recorded.

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