3101.0 - Australian Demographic Statistics, Sep 2004  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/03/2005   
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March 24, 2005
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)

NT population increases to over 200,000 people

The Northern Territory's resident population exceeded 200,000 during the September quarter 2004 according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today.

This milestone was achieved with the population growing to an estimated 200,400 by 30 September 2004. This represented a population gain of 540 people (up 0.3%) since 30 June 2004. This is the sixth consecutive quarter of population growth for the Northern Territory.

During the 12 months ending 30 September 2004, the Northern Territory population increased by 1,700 people. This represents an annual growth rate of 0.8%, which was greater than that of the Australian Capital Territory (0.3%) and South Australia (0.5%), and equal to that of New South Wales (0.8%). The remaining four other states grew faster, ranging from 0.9% for Tasmania and 2.1% for Queensland.

During the 12 months ended 30 September 2004, natural increase (the excess of births over deaths) added 2,600 people to the Northern Territory population, while net overseas migration contributed a further 530 people during the 12 months.

However, consistent with recent years these population gains were offset by losses from net interstate migration, with 1,500 more people leaving the Northern Territory for interstate than arriving in the Territory in the 12 months to September 2004. In the September quarter 2004, it is estimated that 3,540 people moved to the Territory from interstate, and 3,690 moved from the Territory to other parts of Australia resulting in a small net loss of 150 people.

Today's release contains the latest available data on natural increase, net interstate migration and net overseas migration, and their contribution to the population size and growth of the Australian states and territories.

Over the year ended 30 September 2004, Australia's population grew by 236,700 people (an increase of 1.2%).

More details about recent trends in the Northern Territory population are in the news backgrounder released today, Trends in Northern Territory Population Statistics, and in Australian Demographic Statistics, September quarter 2004 (cat. no. 3101.0).



On Thursday 24 March 2005, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the latest estimates of the resident population in Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0). This News Backgrounder provides additional information about the trends and directions of the Northern Territory population.


The estimated resident population of the Northern Territory at 30 June 2004 was 199,900 persons. This represents an increase of 57,800 persons (41%) since 30 June 1984 and 26,500 persons (15%) since 30 June 1994. Preliminary estimates for September quarter 2004 indicate that the Northern Territory has recently reached a population of over 200,000. This milestone was achieved with a population growth of approximately 540 persons (0.3%) since June 2004.
Graph: Estimated resident populaton, NT - June 1984 to June 2004

Recent population trends for the Northern Territory

Over the last four financial years the Northern Territory has experienced low population growth rates, troughing in 2002-03 with a net loss of 120 persons (-0.1%). The last time the Territory recorded a net population loss was in 1974-75 following Cyclone Tracy (-10,100 persons or -9.8%).

In 2003-04 population estimates for the Northern Territory indicated a turnaround in the trend of declining population growth, with a gain of 1,400 persons (0.7%). Recent quarterly estimates also indicate continued improvements in population growth for the Territory. For instance, during the 12 months ended 30 September 2004, the Territory gained 1,700 persons (0.8%).

As shown in graph 2, while growth rates have been stronger in recent times, this growth has continued to be lower than the levels experienced by the rest of Australia.

Historical population trends for the Northern Territory

Over the last 20 years the Northern Territory's total population growth rate has varied considerably compared with the rest of Australia. In 1983-84 the Northern Territory's population growth rate (4.6%) was much higher than that for the rest of Australia (1.2%). This trend continued until the late 1980s when the Territory's growth rate dropped below the national average, troughing in 1987-88 with a growth rate of 0.5% compared with 1.7% for the rest of Australia. Throughout the 1990s the Northern Territory recorded reasonably strong population growth with an average annual gain of 3,200 persons (1.8%).
Graph: Annual population growth rates, Year ended 30 June

As shown in graph 3, quarterly population growth rates for the Northern Territory are unstable in comparison to the rest of Australia. This is mainly due to the small population numbers associated with the Northern Territory, but also seasonal patterns. For instance, during the last five years June quarters have consistently recorded the strongest growth rates in the Northern Territory population.
Graph: Quarterly population growth rates


The size and distribution of the Australian population changes constantly because:
  • babies are born;
  • people die;
  • people move within Australia;
  • people come from overseas to live in Australia for 12 months or more; and
  • Australian residents leave Australia to live overseas for 12 months or more.

All these changes have an impact on the Northern Territory population, although some have greater impact than others. For instance, the low population growth experienced over the last four years is largely the result of many people leaving the Northern Territory to live in other parts of Australia.

The impacts of the various components of growth can be summarised through measures of natural increase, net interstate migration and net overseas migration.
  • Natural increase refers to the excess of births over the number of deaths.
  • Net interstate migration refers to the difference between the number of Australian residents who move to a given state or territory from elsewhere in Australia and the number of residents who leave that state or territory to live elsewhere in Australia.
  • Net overseas migration refers to the difference between the number of people coming to Australia to live for 12 months or more (including Australian citizens returning after a long term absence overseas) and the number of people leaving Australia to live overseas for 12 months or more (including adjustments for changes in traveller intentions).


Graph: Annual population growth rates, Year ended 30 June - NT

Graph 4 shows that natural increase has consistently added more people to the Northern Territory's population than net interstate migration and net overseas migration. Natural Increase has been reasonably stable from year to year. In comparison, net interstate migration has been a far more volatile component of growth which therefore has had a large impact on the changes that have occurred to the Northern Territory population.

Natural Increase

The Northern Territory continues to have the highest fertility rate of all Australian states and territories. During 2003-04, the total fertility rate was 2.4 babies per woman compared with 1.8 babies per woman for the rest of Australia. However, the Territory also has the highest standardised death rate after taking account of the age differences between the populations of the states and territories.

Over recent years there has been around 2,800 more births than deaths each year in the Northern Territory, resulting in an annual natural increase rate of around 1.4%. The rest of Australia has had an average natural increase rate of around 0.6%. If the rate of natural increase for the Northern Territory were to change substantially it would have a large impact on the population. For further information on the impact of a changing fertility rate see Chapter 4: What if...? of Population Projections, Australia (cat. no. 3222.0).

Net Interstate Migration

As noted above, net interstate migration has been very volatile over the last 20 years, and has therefore had a large influence on population change in the Northern Territory. This is clearly shown in graph 4 with the total population growth rate following the same pattern as the net interstate migration rate.

Low population growth rates experienced over the last four years coincide with large losses of people through interstate migration. In 2002-03 interstate arrivals and departures resulted in a net loss of 3,400 persons, the largest loss of population interstate since 1987-88, and the second highest loss since Cyclone Tracy in 1974-75. This resulted in a net population loss of 0.1% compared with an increase of 1.2% for the rest of Australia.

Estimates for 2003-04 (a net loss of 2,108 persons) and the September quarter 2004 (a net loss of 148 persons) indicate that the Northern Territory is gradually losing fewer people to interstate migration, resulting in stronger population growth, although still at levels lower than the rest of Australia.

Net Overseas Migration

Over the last 20 years, growth in the Northern Territory population resulting from net overseas migration has varied from gains of 1,200 persons (0.8%) for 1985-86 to just 40 persons in 1992-93. During 2003-04, the Territory gained 600 persons from net overseas migration.

Due to the comparatively low numbers associated with net overseas migration, this component has always had little impact on the Northern Territory's population compared with natural increase and net interstate migration. In 2003-04 net overseas migration contributed 607 persons to the Territory's total population growth.


The Northern Territory's population into the future will be as a result of components of population growth: births, deaths, interstate migration and overseas migration. The next Census of Population and Housing to be conducted in August 2006 will provide an updated snapshot of the population for all parts of Australia.

Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0) is released by the ABS on a quarterly basis. It provides the most recent estimates of the population for states, territories and Australia. The next issues will be released as follow:


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