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TORRES STRAIT POPULATION DISTRIBUTION AND CHANGE OVER TIME
KEY HIGHLIGHTS FOR THE REGION
The Torres Strait Region includes 20 communities divided into five traditional island groups and two Northern Peninsula Area (NPA) communities (footnote 3) – see map below. The Torres Strait Region was home to 9,555 people in 2016, the majority (7,615 people, or 80%) of whom identified as Torres Strait Islander. In comparison, Torres Strait Islander people accounted for only 0.3% of Australia’s total population. Most of this article covers the 20 communities as a group and is referred to as the Torres Strait Region. Where the article refers to only the 18 islands, that area is referred to as the Torres Strait Islands.
MOVEMENT OF PEOPLE TO AND FROM THE REGION
Where people moved between 2011-2016
Where people were on Census night, 2016 (footnote 4)
Almost all Torres Strait Islander people (95%) living in the Region were counted in the Region in the Census.
Badu, Kubin, Iama, Muralag, and Horn Island had the greatest percentage of people away from home on Census night. These people were most likely to be in the rest of Australia or other islands in the Torres Strait – possibly in areas with access to a greater number of services and facilities such as health care, education and training.
Movement of people to and from the Islands (footnote 5)
Note - data in the following section is only available for the Torres Strait Islands which excludes the NPA Torres Strait communities of Seisia and Bamaga. Data for Seisia and Bamaga as separate from the NPA is not available (footnote 6).
Those that stayed
Most people (79%) living on the Islands in 2011 were there in 2016. More Torres Strait Islander people (6 in 7 people) than non-Indigenous people (2 in 5 people) stayed on the Islands between 2011 and 2016. In terms of location of work, the majority of Torres Strait Islander people living on the Islands also worked on the Islands.
Those that moved to the Islands
Around one in seven (14%) of everyone living on the Islands in 2016 had migrated from mainland Australia since 2011. Of these, most were likely to have come from mainland Queensland (83%) with the remainder from other parts of Australia, outside of Queensland. About half of the people who had moved to the islands from Queensland had come from Cairns.
Torres Strait Islander people aged 25-34 living on the Islands in 2016 were the most likely age group to have been living on mainland Australia in 2011 (11%), 62% of whom had been living in Cairns. While there may be many factors driving these movements, a potential explanation for this pattern is that young people are moving to the mainland for education and training and returning later for family/cultural obligations and commitments.
Those who left the Islands
Around one fifth (21%) of everyone living on the Islands in 2011 had moved to mainland Australia by 2016. Of these, approximately 4 in 5 (83%) moved to Queensland, around half (49%) of whom moved to Cairns. A possible reason for this movement is public servants leaving for the mainland after working on the Islands.
Young people were more likely than older people to have moved to the mainland between 2011 and 2016, with more than one-fifth (22%) of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15-24 having moved there, most likely for education and training. In contrast, Torres Strait Islander people aged 55 years and over were the least likely, with just 6% having moved to the mainland since 2011.
TORRES STRAIT REGION
The population of Torres Strait Islander people in the Torres Strait Region was distributed as shown in Table 1:
TABLE 1: DISTRIBUTION OF TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER POPULATION(a) LIVING IN THE REGION, 2011-2016
Note: there are small random adjustments made to all cell values to protect the confidentiality of data. These adjustments may cause the sum of rows or columns to differ by small amounts from table totals.
POPULATION BY LOCATION
In 2016 the Inner Islands had the highest number of Torres Strait Islander people (2,638), but they were the lowest proportion (69%) of the group's population compared to the other island groups. This is due to the large number of non-Indigenous people living on Thursday Island (688 people) – the administrative centre of the Region.
Footnote(s): (a) Based on usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
Source(s): 2011 Census of Population and Housing, 2016 Census of Population and Housing
Population growth and decline
Between 2011 and 2016, the number of Torres Strait Islanders increased in every island group, except for the Western Islands, with the Inner Islands having the greatest increase.
Over this period, Muralag (Prince of Wales) Island experienced the greatest growth of Torres Strait Islander people in the Region, almost doubling from 41 to 80 people. Mabuiag Island had the greatest decrease, dropping from 246 to 206 people (16% decline), followed by Erub (Darnley) Island, 342 to 304 people (11% decline).
Other Population Groups
3. See TSRA website - http://www.tsra.gov.au/the-torres-strait/community-profiles.
4. See Glossary for more information about Mobility
5. See Glossary for more information about Migration
6. See Appendix for more information about the ABS geography used in this publication.
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