2077.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Counts, 2016  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 06/11/2018   
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TECHNICAL NOTE 1 – ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER STATUS AND THE CENSUS

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status is derived from the ABS standard question for Indigenous status (SIQ). The SIQ was first introduced in 1996 and has remained unchanged since this time. Between 1971 and 1981, Indigenous status was reported as 'Racial origin'. In 1986, Indigenous status was reported as 'Aboriginal origin'. When the SIQ was introduced in 1996, people of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin could identify as such for the very first time.

Where a person’s Indigenous status is not provided or cannot be determined, they are considered as having an unknown or not stated Indigenous status. Changing numbers of persons with an unknown Indigenous status may impact the extent of the recorded movement in counts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people between Census years.

The proportion of people with an unknown Indigenous status rose from 1,058,586 persons (4.9%) in 2011 to 1,411,491 persons (6.0%) in 2016 – an increase of 352,905 people (33.3%). This coincides with a small fall in the overall Census response rate from 96.5% in 2011 to 95.1% in 2016.


GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION OF PERSONS WITH AN UNKNOWN INDIGENOUS STATUS

The distribution of persons with an unknown Indigenous status in 2016 was fairly similar to 2011. The Northern Territory (10.2%) had the highest proportion of persons with an unknown Indigenous status followed by Western Australia and Queensland (both 6.5%).

The biggest percentage point increase in the proportion of persons with an unknown Indigenous status between 2011 and 2016 was in Tasmania (2.2 percentage points).

TN1.1 Indigenous status unknown(a) as proportion of total State/Territory person count(b), 2006-2016

2006
2011
2006-2011 Change
2016
2011-2016 Change

no.
%
no.
%
% points
no.
%
% points

New South Wales
391 274
6.0
342 923
5.0
–1.0
437 762
5.9
0.9
Victoria
266 028
5.4
246 893
4.6
–0.8
346 563
5.8
1.2
Queensland
224 909
5.8
224 206
5.2
–0.6
305 685
6.5
1.3
South Australia
69 318
4.6
62 934
3.9
–0.7
85 464
5.1
1.2
Western Australia
127 328
6.5
130 719
5.8
–0.7
160 891
6.5
0.7
Tasmania
22 903
4.8
19 380
3.9
–0.9
31 255
6.1
2.2
Northern Territory
16 505
8.6
17 391
8.2
–0.4
23 257
10.2
2.0
Australian Capital Territory
15 025
4.6
14 005
3.9
–0.7
20 143
5.1
1.2
Australia(c)
1 133 446
5.7
1 058 586
4.9
–0.8
1 411 491
6.0
1.1


a) Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
b) Proportions are based on total population for each State/Territory.
c) Includes Other Territories. Please note in 2016, this includes Norfolk Island.
Note: Totals and components may not be consistent within and between tables due to introduced random error to protect confidentiality of Census respondents - see Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0).
Source: Australian Census of Population and Housing, 2011-2016


In Outer Regional Australia, there was a 3 percentage point increase in the proportion of persons with an unknown Indigenous status between 2011 and 2016 (from 5.6% to 8.5%). Meanwhile, Remote Australia had the highest proportion of persons with an unknown Indigenous status in 2011 (8.5% or 25,520 persons) and again in 2016 (11.1% or 31,413 persons). This was more than double the proportion in Major Cities (5.4% or 895,790 persons).

Graph Image for TN1.2 Indigenous status unknown(a), by Remoteness(b), 2006-2016

Footnote(s): (a) Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors. Includes Other Territories. Please note in 2016, this includes Norfolk Island. (b) Proportions are based on total population for each remoteness area. (c) Includes No usual address and Migratory-Offshore-Shipping. Note: Totals and components may not be consistent within and between tables due to introduced random error to protect confidentiality of Census respondents - see Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0).

Source(s): Australian Census of Population and Housing, 2006-2016




Indigenous Regions (IREGs) that fall either fully or partly in Regional and Remote Australia recorded some of the highest proportions of persons with an unknown Indigenous status. Excluding Other Territories, the IREGs with the highest proportion of persons with an unknown Indigenous status in 2016 were:
  • South Hedland (14.5%)
  • Katherine (13.5%)
  • Alice Springs (11.1%)

TN1.3 Indigenous status unknown, by Indigenous Region, 2016(a)(b)(c)

Map: Indigenous status unknown by Indigenous Region, 2016

(a) Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
(b) Includes No usual address, Migratory-Offshore-Shipping and Other Territories (not represented on the map).
(c) Please note in 2016, Other Territories includes Norfolk Island.
Note: Totals and components may not be consistent within and between tables due to introduced random error to protect confidentiality of Census respondents - see Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0).
Source: Australian Census of Population and Housing, 2016


Scenarios resulting in an unknown Indigenous status

In the Census, there are two scenarios that result in a person’s Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status being unknown:
  1. The respondent chose not to answer the SIQ. These persons are classed as ‘responding’ or ‘not imputed’ persons.
  2. No Census form is received from a dwelling (private or non-private). These persons are classed as ‘not responding’ or ‘imputed’. For these persons, Indigenous status is coded to 'not stated’ and data for key demographic variables - age, sex, marital status and place of usual residence - is imputed.

Scenario 1 represents 1.0% of all persons responding to the 2016 Census, down from 1.4% in 2011. The proportion of responding persons with no answer to the Indigenous status question fell across all states and territories.

TN1.4 Indigenous status unknown(a), Responding persons, as a proportion of State/Territory(a)(b), 2006-2016

2006
2011
2006-2011 Change
2016
2011-2016 Change

no.
%
no.
%
% points
no.
%
% points

New South Wales
110 469
1.8
94 837
1.4
–0.4
71 080
1.0
–0.4
Victoria
86 285
1.8
77 508
1.4
–0.4
61 114
1.1
–0.3
Queensland
59 748
1.6
55 468
1.3
–0.3
45 337
1.0
–0.3
South Australia
24 780
1.7
21 408
1.3
–0.4
17 916
1.1
–0.2
Western Australia
29 591
1.6
27 484
1.2
–0.4
20 228
0.9
–0.3
Tasmania
9 380
2.0
7 448
1.5
–0.5
6 845
1.4
–0.1
Northern Territory
2 446
1.4
2 696
1.3
–0.1
2 500
1.2
–0.1
Australian Capital Territory
3 626
1.2
3 120
0.9
–0.3
2 492
0.7
–0.2
Australia(c)
326 384
1.7
290 022
1.4
–0.4
227,589
1.0
–0.4


a) Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
b) Proportions are based on total population for each State/Territory.
c) Includes Other Territories. Please note in 2016, this includes Norfolk Island.
Note: Totals and components may not be consistent within and between tables due to introduced random error to protect confidentiality of Census respondents - see Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0).
Source: Australian Census of Population and Housing, 2011-2016


Persons who chose not to answer the SIQ on all types of Census forms accounted for 16.1% of all persons with an unknown Indigenous status in 2016. Tasmania had the biggest proportion (21.9%), closely followed by South Australia (21.0%) and Victoria (17.6%).

Scenario 2 accounted for the majority (83.9%) of all persons with an unknown Indigenous status in 2016. The Northern Territory (89.3%), the Australian Capital Territory (87.7%) and Western Australia (87.4%) had the highest proportion of persons with Indigenous status unknown as a result of no Census form being received.

TN1.5 Indigenous status unknown by imputation status and State/Territory(a)(b), 2016

Scenario 1
Scenario 2
Total

Imputed (non- responding persons)
Not imputed (responding persons who did not provide their Indigenous status)
Total Indigenous status unknown

no.
%
no.
%
no.

New South Wales
366 686
83.8
71 080
16.2
437 762
Victoria
285 449
82.4
61 114
17.6
346 563
Queensland
260 345
85.2
45 337
14.8
305 685
South Australia
67 554
79.0
17 916
21.0
85 464
Western Australia
140 663
87.4
20 228
12.6
160 891
Tasmania
24 411
78.1
6 845
21.9
31 255
Northern Territory
20 760
89.3
2 500
10.7
23 257
Australian Capital Territory
17 656
87.7
2 492
12.4
20 143
Australia(c)
1 183 899
83.9
227 589
16.1
1 411 491

(a) Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
(b) Proportions are based on total population for each State/Territory.
(c) Includes Other Territories. Please note in 2016, this includes Norfolk Island.
Note: Totals and components may not be consistent within and between tables due to introduced random error to protect confidentiality of Census respondents - see Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0).
Source: Australian Census of Population and Housing, 2016


Scenario 1: Persons who chose not to answer the Indigenous status question

There were 227,589 persons who returned a Census form, but chose not to answer the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status question. As it is not possible for a person to return a blank form and still be counted as a responding person in the Census, it is possible to investigate responses to other questions on the Census form to provide further information on persons in this group.

Analysis of these records reveals limited information about the Indigenous status of these persons or any other detail that could inform future Census enumeration strategies. It is also complicated by the higher likelihood of persons in this group to return only partially completed forms. In the 2016 Census, persons who did not respond to the SIQ were far less likely to provide their sex, age and/or marital status than those who did. Most people with an unknown Indigenous status did however provide information about their state or territory of usual residence (94.6%).


TN1.6 Imputation rates of selected demographic variables by whether Indigenous status provided, responding persons, 2016(a)(b)

Indigenous status unknown
Indigenous status provided

no.
%
no.
%

Sex
22 211
9.8
126 590
0.6
Age
23 541
10.3
79 723
0.4
Marital status
51 142
22.5
78 727
0.4
State/Territory of Usual Residence
12 386
5.4
22 283
0.1
Australia(c)
227 589
16.1
21 990 397
83.9


(a) Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
(b) Where no response can be determined for key demographic characteristics of age, sex, marital status and usual address, the data item is imputed. Imputation is a statistical process for predicting values where no response was provided to a question and a response could not be derived.
(c) Includes Other Territories. Please note in 2016, this includes Norfolk Island.
Note: Totals and components may not be consistent within and between tables due to introduced random error to protect confidentiality of Census respondents - see Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0).
Source: Australian Census of Population and Housing, 2016


Age and geographic distribution

In the 2016 Census, the proportion of responding persons with an unknown Indigenous status was highest for people aged 65 years and over (3.9%) and those aged 0-14 years (3.3%). This pattern is similar to the 2011 Census and is consistent across remoteness areas.

Major Cities had the lowest proportion of responding persons with an unknown Indigenous status (0.9%) followed by Inner Regional and Very Remote areas (1.3% respectively). Outer Regional and Remote areas had the highest rate of responding persons with an unknown Indigenous status (1.5% respectively).

TN1.7 Responding persons with an unknown Indigenous status by Remoteness area, 2016(a)(b)

Map: Responding persons with an unknown Indigenous status by remoteness area, 2016

(a) Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
(b) Includes No usual address, Migratory-Offshore-Shipping and Other Territories (not represented on the map).
Note: Totals and components may not be consistent within and between tables due to introduced random error to protect confidentiality of Census respondents - see Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0).
Source: Australian Census of Population and Housing, 2016

In discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities, the Census is primarily collected by an interviewer using a tailored Interviewer Household Form (see Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Census and Census Data, Australia, 2016 (cat. no. 2900.0)). Very few people counted this way in the 2016 Census had an unknown Indigenous status (0.4%) – on par with 2011 (0.5%).

Sex
Nationally, non-response to the SIQ for responding persons in 2016 was slightly higher for females (51.3%) than males (48.7%). This was true for all jurisdictions except the Northern Territory (52.7% for males and 47.6% for females). The distribution of persons who did not respond to the SIQ followed a similar pattern to the overall sex distribution for each jurisdiction.

Ancestry
If a person does not identify as an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in the SIQ, they will be counted as a non-Indigenous person or coded as not stated (depending on their response). This will be the case even if they report they have Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander ancestry in the ancestry questions. Of all persons with an unknown Indigenous status in 2016, 754 (0.1%) persons reported Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander ancestry. There were however 3,224 persons who identified as non-Indigenous but recorded their ancestry as Australian Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander – more persons than in 2006 (2,716) and 2011 (2,046).

Family Relationships
There were 40,735 children aged 0-14 with an unknown Indigenous status who were living in couple and lone parent/guardian families in 2016. Over three-quarters of these children were in families where one or both parents/guardians were non-Indigenous (75.8% or 30,877 children).

Only a small proportion of children with an unknown Indigenous status were in families where one or both parents/guardians were Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander (4.0% or 1,648 children).

Children with an unknown Indigenous status living in couple families where one parent/guardian also had an unknown Indigenous status were much more likely to have a parent/guardian who identified as non-Indigenous (5.3%) than a parent/guardian who identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander (0.2%). These observations are consistent with other findings in this analysis.

There were a number of children aged 0-14 years old with an unknown Indigenous status with parents/guardians who also had an unknown Indigenous status (8,214 children or 20.2%). In these instances, there is very little to no information available from the Census that could indicate what the Indigenous status of these children may be. For detailed analysis of identification patterns within families, see Changing propensity to identify.


TN1.8 Children(a) aged 0-14 years with an unknown Indigenous status by Family Composition(b) and Indigenous status of parent/guardian, 2016(c)

no.
%

One parent/guardian is of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin
1 648
4.0
Couple family, both parents/guardians Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander(d)
176
0.4
Couple family, one parent/guardian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and one parent/guardian non-Indigenous(d)
637
1.6
Couple family, one parent/guardian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and one parent/guardian unknown Indigenous status(d)
91
0.2
Single parent family, Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander parent/guardian
746
1.8

No Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander parent/guardian
30 877
75.8
Couple family, both parents/guardians non-Indigenous(d)
19 773
48.5
Couple family, one non-Indigenous parent/guardian and one parent/guardian unknown Indigenous status(d)
2 172
5.3
Single parent family, non-Indigenous parent/guardian
8 933
21.9
Couple family, both parents/guardian unknown Indigenous status(d)
5 037
12.4
Single parent family, parent/guardian unknown Indigenous status
3 172
7.8

Total(a)
40 735
100.0


(a) Includes natural or adopted children, step children, foster children and otherwise related children. Excludes grandchildren and unrelated children.
(b) A family is defined in the Census as two or more persons, one of whom is at least 15 years of age, who are related by blood, marriage (registered or de facto), adoption, step or fostering, and who are usually present in the same household.
(c) Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
(d) Includes couples who are married or in a de facto relationship. Excludes same-sex couples and couples in which one partner was absent on Census night.
Note: Totals and components may not be consistent within and between tables due to introduced random error to protect confidentiality of Census respondents - see Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0).
Source: Australian Census of Population and Housing, 2016


Other characteristics of persons who did not answer the Indigenous status question

Analysis of responding persons with an unknown Indigenous status does not provide any further clarity around what the Indigenous status of these persons might be. At the National level, the characteristics of persons with an unknown Indigenous status appear different to those who identified as either Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander or non-Indigenous.

TN1.9 Selected characteristics by Indigenous status, responding persons, 2016(a)

Indigenous status unknown
Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
Non-Indigenous
%

Lived in Australia’s most disadvantaged areas(b)(c)
24.4
41.3
16.7
English spoken at home(b)
63.5
83.9
76.5
Highest level of educational attainment – primary/secondary school(d)
34.5
55.2
41.4
Did not provide unpaid assistance to a person with disability(d)
56.4
76.3
84.7
Not engaged in employment, education and training(d)
31.9
39.7
30.9
Personal weekly income not provided(d)
31.3
10.0
3.5
Total number of persons
227 589
649 171
21 341 231

Total number of persons aged 15 years and over
180 918
428 777
17 425 083


(a) Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors. Excludes imputed persons.
(b) Applicable to all persons in scope of the Census. See Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0).
(c) Based on the 2016 Index of Relative Socio-economic Advantage and Disadvantage where a low score indicates relatively greater disadvantage and a lack of advantage in general. See Census of Population and Housing: Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), Australia, 2016 (ABS cat. no. 2033.0.55.01)
(d) Applicable to persons in scope of the Census aged 15 years and over. See Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0).
Note: Totals and components may not be consistent within and between tables due to introduced random error to protect confidentiality of Census respondents - see Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0).
Source: Australian Census of Population and Housing, 2016



Scenario 2: Persons who did not respond to the Census

Overall response to the 2016 Census varied across Australia. As expected, IREGs with a low dwelling response rate had a higher proportion of records with an unknown Indigenous status than IREGs with a high dwelling response rate.

TN1.10 Dwelling response rate(a), Indigenous status(b) and imputation rate(b) – Selected Indigenous Regions, 2016

Dwelling response rate(a)
Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander(b)
Non-Indigenous(b)
Not stated(b)
Imputed (not responding) persons

Indigenous Regions with lowest dwelling response rate
Katherine
86.5
47.1
39.4
13.5
12.4
Kununurra
89.1
45.7
43.5
10.8
9.6
South Hedland
89.7
13.4
72.0
14.5
13.5
Alice Springs
89.7
18.4
70.5
11.1
9.9
Kalgoorlie
90.1
10.1
79.1
10.8
9.7

Indigenous Regions with highest dwelling response rate
Torres Strait
97.2
81.8
13.9
4.4
3.0
Adelaide
96.4
1.6
93.5
4.9
3.9
Nhulunbuy
96.2
69.5
26.5
4.0
2.9
ACT
95.8
1.6
93.3
5.1
4.4
Tasmania
95.6
4.6
89.3
6.1
4.8


(a) Place of Enumeration. Excludes overseas visitors.
(b) Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
Note: Totals and components may not be consistent within and between tables due to introduced random error to protect confidentiality of Census respondents - see Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0).
Source: Australian Census of Population and Housing, 2016