Australia: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population summary

Released
1/07/2022

Population

In Australia, 812,000 people identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in the 2021 Census of Population and Housing. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represented 3.2% of the population. This was up from 2.8% in 2016, and 2.5% in 2011.

Of the 812,000 people who identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin:

  • 91.4% identified as Aboriginal
  • 4.2% identified as Torres Strait Islander
  • 4.4% identified as both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by age

(a) Based on place of usual residence. Excludes overseas visitors.

The median age for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people increased over the last ten years. In 2021 the median age was 24 years, up from 23 years in 2016 and 21 years in 2011.

In 2021, 51.1% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were aged under 25 years, down from 55.2% in 2011.

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 75 years and over in 2021 was larger than in 2011 (1.7% compared to 1.2%).

Where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live

State and territory

In 2021, the largest proportion of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population lived in New South Wales (34.2%) and Queensland (29.2%).

While only 7.5% of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population lived in the Northern Territory, just over one quarter (26.3%) of the Northern Territory’s population were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. This was much higher than the other states and territories.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by state and territory(a)

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This map displays the percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as a proportion of Australia.

Footnotes

(a) Based on place of usual residence. Excludes overseas visitors. Includes Other Territories.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by state and territory(a)
State/territoryCount (no.)% (as a proportion of Australia)% (as a proportion of state/territory)
New South Wales278,04334.23.4
Victoria65,6468.11.0
Queensland237,30329.24.6
South Australia42,5625.22.4
Western Australia88,69310.93.3
Tasmania30,1863.75.4
Northern Territory61,1157.526.3
Australian Capital Territory8,9491.12.0
Australia(a)812,728100.03.2

(a) Based on place of usual residence. Excludes overseas visitors. Includes Other Territories.

Capital city

In 2021, 37.1% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in capital city areas, compared to 34.7% in 2016.

Around half of those living in South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia lived in capital city areas. In contrast, only around one quarter of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in the Northern Territory lived in capital city areas (23.8%).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in capital city areas(a)
Capital CityNo. within capital city% of state or territory(b)
Sydney90,93932.7
Melbourne32,95250.2
Brisbane76,94232.4
Adelaide23,76155.8
Perth42,08347.4
Hobart11,21637.2
Darwin14,53923.8
Canberra8,90899.5
Total living in capital city areas301,33037.1

(a) Based on place of usual residence. Excludes overseas visitors.

(b) Percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in each state or territory who live in the capital city.

Households and families

In the Census, an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander household is a dwelling where at least one person identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. On Census Night the person needs to have been present and a usual resident at the dwelling.

Nationally, the average size of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households was 3.1 people, down from 3.3 people in 2011.

Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households (79.1%) were family households, including 5.1% with more than one family living together. Around one in seven households (15.5%) were made up of people who lived alone while a small proportion were group households (5.4%).

(a) Based on place of enumeration Census counts. Includes households in occupied private dwellings only. Excludes visitor only and other non-classifiable households.

Housing suitability

Securing appropriate housing is an outcome area in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, measured by a housing suitability target. Housing suitability is based on the Canadian National Occupancy Standard (CNOS) which may not adequately reflect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives of appropriate housing and overcrowding (1).

In 2021, most (81.4%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia lived in appropriately sized (not overcrowded) dwellings, where no extra bedrooms were needed to adequately house the usual residents.

Housing tenure

The most common tenure types for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households were:

  • owned with a mortgage (27.5%)
  • rented through a real estate agent (26.9%)
  • rented through a state or territory housing authority (14.1%)
  • owned outright (13.8%).

Housing costs

In 2021, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households had a median:

  • weekly rent of $300 
  • monthly mortgage of $1,721.

Language

Of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:

  • most (84.1%) used only English at home
  • one in ten (9.5%) used an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language at home.

Of these 77,000 people who used Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander languages, the most common language groups were:

  • Other Australian Indigenous Languages (31.3%)
  • Arnhem Land and Daly River Region languages (14.5%)
  • Torres Strait Island languages (12.0%)
  • Western Desert Languages (10.9%)

Other languages used were:

  • Yolngu Matha (8.5%)
  • Arandic (7.4%)
  • Cape York Peninsula Languages (7.0%)
  • Northern Desert Fringe Area Languages (6.6%)
  • Kimberley Area Languages (1.8%)

Income

Over one third (36.7%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households reported an equivalised total household weekly income of $1,000 or more in 2021.

The median equivalised total household weekly income for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households was $830.

Education

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 20 to 24 years who had completed Year 12 or equivalent as their highest year of school was 56.7%, up from 37.1% in 2011.

(a) Based on place of usual residence. Excludes overseas visitors.

One in ten (10.2%) people aged 18-24 years were attending university or other higher education institutions at the time of the 2021 Census, up from 6.6% in 2011.

(a) Based on place of usual residence. Excludes overseas visitors.

In 2021, 2.7% of people aged 25 years and over were attending university or other higher education institutions, up from 2.2% in 2011.

Health

The 2021 Census included a new topic to collect data on certain long-term health conditions. This information will not have the same level of detail as the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS). Long-term health conditions data from the Census is not intended to provide prevalence estimates at national and state/territory levels. Prevalence estimates of long-term health conditions should be sourced from the NATSIHS.

More detailed information on long-term health conditions data collected in Census can be found in Comparing ABS long-term health conditions data sources.

In 2021, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females were more likely than males to report having:

  • arthritis (7.7% compared with 4.7%)
  • asthma (15.2% compared with 11.1%)
  • mental health conditions (15.6% compared with 10.9%).

Males were more likely to report having heart disease (3.9% compared with 3.5% of females) and having no long-term health condition (58.2% compared with 55.6% of females). Males also had a higher non-response rate to the Census question (9.7% compared with 6.4% of females).

(a) Measures the number of people who reported that they have been told by a doctor or nurse that they have any of these long-term health conditions. Includes health conditions that have lasted or are expected to last six months or more, may occur from time to time, are controlled by medication or are in remission.

(b) Based on place of usual residence. Excludes overseas visitors.

(c) Includes any long-term health condition other than the ones listed.

Sources

  1. Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute 2017. Understanding ‘demand sharing’ of Indigenous households. Available at Understanding 'demand sharing' of Indigenous households | AHURI