Northern Territory: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population summary

Released
1/07/2022

Population

In the Northern Territory 61,000 people identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in the 2021 Census of Population and Housing. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represented 26.3% of the Northern Territory population. This was up from 25.5% in 2016, and down from 26.8% in 2011.

Of the 61,000 people who identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin:

  • 95.8% identified as Aboriginal
  • 1.1% identified as Torres Strait Islander
  • 3.0% identified as both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

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

The median age for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Northern Territory increased over the last 10 years. In 2021 the median age was 26 years, up from 25 years in 2016 and 23 years in 2011.

In 2021, 46.8% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Northern Territory were aged under 25 years, down from 52.5% in 2011.

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 75 years and over in 2021 was the same as 2011 (1.2%).

Where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live

In 2021, the Northern Territory Local Government Area (LGA) with the most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was East Arnhem, followed by Darwin and Alice Springs.

In the East Arnhem LGA, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represented:

  • 89.9% of the LGA population
  • 12.9% of the overall Northern Territory Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
LGAs with the largest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (a)

2021 LGAs

Count of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

% of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander territory population

% of the total LGA population

East Arnhem

7,893

12.9

89.9

Darwin

7,003

11.5

8.7

Alice Springs

5,343

8.7

20.6

West Arnhem

5,097

8.3

81.1

MacDonnell

4,919

8.0

85.6

Roper Gulf

4,879

8.0

75.2

Palmerston

4,844

7.9

13.0

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

The top five LGAs with the greatest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were:

  • Belyuen (100% of the total LGA population)
  • East Arnhem (89.9%)
  • West Daly (88.7%)
  • Tiwi Islands (86.5%)
  • MacDonnell (85.6%)

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.

The average size of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in the Northern Territory was 3.8 people, down from 4.2 people in 2011.

Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households (81.9%) were family households, including 17.0% with more than one family living together. One in seven households (14.5%) were made up of people who lived alone while a small proportion were group households (3.6%).

(a) Based on place of enumeration. 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, just under half (43.4%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Northern Territory 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 in the Northern Territory were:

  • rented through a state or territory housing authority (35.4%)
  • owned with a mortgage (16.1%)
  • rented through a community housing provider (13.0%)
  • rented through a real estate agent (11.8%).

Housing costs

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

  • weekly rent of $130
  • monthly mortgage of $2,000.

Language

Of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Northern Territory:

  • one third (33.4%) used only English at home
  • over half (58.5%) used an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language at home.

Of the 35,782 people who used Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander languages, the most common language groups were:

  • Arnhem Land and Daly River Region Languages (30.3%)
  • Yolngu Matha (18.0%)
  • Other Australian Indigenous Languages (17.3%)
  • Arandic (15.3%)
  • Northern Desert Fringe Area Languages (11.2%)
  • Western Desert Languages (7.3%)

Income

Just over one quarter (28.5%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in the Northern Territory reported an equivalised total household weekly income of $1,000 or more in 2021, compared with 36.7% nationally.

The median equivalised total household weekly income for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in the Northern Territory was $578. This was lower than the national average of $830.

Education

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 20 to 24 years in the Northern Territory who had completed Year 12 or equivalent as their highest year of school was 33.6%, up from 17.8% in 2011.

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

In 2021. 2.3% of people aged 18-24 years were attending university or other higher education institutions, up from 1.8% in 2011.

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

The proportion of those aged 25 years and over attending university or other higher education institutions did not change between 2021 and 2011 (1.3%).

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 in Northern Territory were more likely than males to report having:

  • arthritis (2.5% compared with 1.3%)
  • asthma (6.4% compared with 4.0%)
  • diabetes (8.8% compared with 5.1%).

Males were slightly more likely to report having no long-term health condition (68.0% compared with 66.7% of females). Males also had a higher non-response rate to the Census question (11.0% compared with 6.6% 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.