Western Australia: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population summary

Released
1/07/2022

Population

In Western Australia 89,000 people identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in the 2021 Census of Population and Housing. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represented 3.3% of Western Australia’s population. This was up from 2016 and 2011 when the proportion was 3.1% for both years.

Of the 89,000 people who identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin:

  • 95.8% identified as Aboriginal
  • 1.8% identified as Torres Strait Islander
  • 2.3% 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 Western Australia increased over the last ten years. In 2021 the median age was 24 years, up from 23 years in 2016 and 22 years in 2011.

In 2021, 50.1% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Western Australia were aged under 25 years, down from 54.5% in 2011.

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 75 years and over in 2021 was larger than in 2011 (1.4% compared to 1.1%).

Where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live

In 2021, the Western Australian Local Government Area (LGA) with the most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was Swan, followed by Broome and Derby-West Kimberley.

In the Swan LGA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represented:

  • 3.5% of the LGA population
  • 6.0% of the overall Western Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
LGAs with the largest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population(a)
2021 LGAsCount of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people% of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander state population% of the total LGA population
Swan5,3026.03.5
Broome4,8475.528.6
Derby-West Kimberley4,2674.860.3
Wanneroo3,9714.51.9
Greater Geraldton3,8144.39.7
Rockingham3,6054.12.7
Gosnells3,4483.92.7

(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:

  • Ngaanyatjarraku (84.5% of the total LGA population)
  • Halls Creek (77.6%)
  • Derby-West Kimberley (60.3%)
  • Upper Gascoyne (55.9%)
  • Murchison (37.6%)

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 Western Australia was 3.2 people, down from 3.5 people in 2011.

Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households (78.9%) were family households, including 5.4% with more than one family living together. One in six households (16.7%) were made up of people who lived alone while a small proportion were group households (4.4%).

(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, most (78.8%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Western 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 in Western Australia were:

  • owned with a mortgage (27.8%)
  • rented through a real estate agent (19.4%)
  • rented through a state or territory housing authority (18.6%)
  • owned outright (10.8%).

Housing costs

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

  • weekly rent of $260
  • monthly mortgage of $1,733.

Language

Of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Western Australia:

  • most (77.2%) used only English at home
  • one in eight (12.6%) used an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language at home.

Of the 11,213 people who used Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander languages, the most common language groups were:

  • Other Australian Indigenous Languages (51.0%)
  • Western Desert Languages (27.3%)
  • Kimberley Area Languages (11.7%)
  • Northern Desert Fringe Area Languages (8.0%)
  • Torres Strait Island Languages (1.2%)
  • Arnhem Land and Daly River Region Languages (0.5%)

Income

Just over one third (35.9%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in Western Australia 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 Western Australia was $808. This was lower than the national average ($830).

Education

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 20 to 24 years in Western Australia who had completed Year 12 or equivalent as their highest year of school was 51.2%, up from 29.0% in 2011.

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

In 2021, 7.4% of people aged 18-24 years were attending university or other higher education institutions, up from 4.3% in 2011.

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

In 2021 2.1% of people aged 25 years and over were attending university or other higher education institutions, up from 1.6% 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 in Western Australia were more likely than males to report having:

  • arthritis (5.8% compared with 3.1%)
  • asthma (11.9% compared with 7.8%)
  • mental health conditions (11.1% compared with 7.4%).

Males were slightly more likely to report having no long-term health condition (59.8% compared with 58.9% of females) and had a higher non-response rate to the Census question (14.3% compared with 9.1% 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.