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The Indigenous population is relatively young, with a median age of 21 years compared with 37 years for the non-Indigenous population. This is largely the product of higher rates of fertility and deaths occurring at younger ages among the Indigenous population (ABS 2004c). At 30 June 2006, people aged 65 years and over comprised just 3% of the Indigenous population, compared with 13% of the non-Indigenous population. In comparison, 37% of Indigenous people were under 15 years of age compared with 19% of non-Indigenous people (figure 2.2).
Because age is closely associated with health status, some comparisons between Indigenous and non-Indigenous data in this report are presented for separate age groups, or otherwise age standardised. For more information on age standardisation, see the Glossary.
The latest available data presenting estimated Indigenous life expectancy at birth are for the period 1996-2001. Nationally, experimental estimated Indigenous life expectancy was 59 years for Indigenous males (compared with 77 for all males) and 65 years for Indigenous females (compared with 82 years for all females). This is a difference of around 17 years for both males and females (ABS 2004b). Life expectancy data for the 2001-2006 period will be released in late 2008.
Where Indigenous people live
At 30 June 2006, the jurisdictions with the largest estimated resident Indigenous populations were New South Wales (148,200 or 29% of the total Indigenous population) and Queensland (146,400 or 28% of the total Indigenous population). The Northern Territory had a higher proportion of Indigenous residents (32%) than any other state or territory.
For Australians living in remote areas, distance can be a barrier to accessing services. While an estimated one-third of Indigenous Australians (32%) were living in major cities and a further 43% were living in regional areas at 30 June 2006, a much larger proportion of the Indigenous than non-Indigenous population were living in remote or very remote areas (25% compared with 2%). For more information on access to services, see Chapter 10 of this report.
Indigenous Regions (IREGs) are the highest level of the Australian Indigenous Geographical Classification (AIGC). IREGs are based on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) Regions (used in the 2001 Census of Population and Housing) but also reflect recent changes in both local government areas and in government administrative arrangements. Where possible and appropriate, the 2001 ATSIC boundaries were maintained to allow the characteristics of Indigenous people within a region to be compared across Censuses. The map below (figure 2.4) indicates the new Indigenous Region structure across Australia.
In 2006, the Indigenous Regions with the largest populations were Sydney (41,800), Brisbane (41,400) and Coffs Harbour (40,000). The Indigenous Regions with the highest proportion of Indigenous residents, which were outside major population centres, included the Torres Strait Islander Region in Queensland (83%), and the Apatula and Jabiru Indigenous Regions in the Northern Territory (79% and 77% respectively). The highest regional increases in the Indigenous population between 2001 and 2006, based on 2006 AIGC boundaries, occurred in the Indigenous Regions of Coffs Harbour (25%), Non-Metropolitan Victoria (25%), Wagga Wagga (21%) and Melbourne (20%) (ABS 2007f).