4705.0 - Population Distribution, Indigenous Australians, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/06/2002   
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1 The term Indigenous is used in this publication to refer to Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. All Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Indigenous population statistics are based on responses to the ABS standard question for Indigenous identification, which is used in self-enumerated collections. The same Census question has been used to determine Indigenous status (but not its component peoples) since the 1981 Census. The standard question format for Indigenous identification in the Census, that is shown below, was first used in this exact format in the 1996 Census, and was repeated in the 2001 Census.

2 For more information on definitional changes and Census questions, refer to Occasional Paper: Population Issues, Indigenous Australians, 1996 (Cat .no. 4708.0). The 2001 Census edition of this publication is expected to be released in June 2003.


3 The 2001 Census of Population and Housing was held on 7 August 2001. Australia's first national Census was held in 1911 and since 1961 a Census has been taken every five years, the frequency specified in the Census and Statistics Act 1905. The objective of the Census is to count the number of people in Australia on Census night, identifying their key characteristics and those of the dwellings in which they live.

4 The Census aims to count every person who spent Census night in Australia. This includes Australian residents in Antarctica and people in the territories of Jervis Bay, Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island. The other Australian External Territories (Norfolk Island and minor islands such as Heard and McDonald Islands), are outside the scope of the Australian Census. The only people who are in Australia on Census night, but who are excluded from the Census, are foreign diplomats and their families.

5 The Census includes people on vessels in or between Australian ports, on board long distance trains, buses or aircraft and on oil or gas rigs off the Australian coast. People entering Australia before midnight on Census night are counted while people leaving an Australian port for an overseas destination before midnight on Census night are not. Visitors to Australia are included regardless of how long they have been in the country or how long they plan to stay. However, for people who intend to be in Australia less than one year only basic demographic data are available. The Census includes homeless people and people camping out.

6 All occupied dwellings are counted in the Census with the exception of diplomatic dwellings. Unoccupied private dwellings are also counted, with the exception of unoccupied dwellings in caravan parks, marinas and manufactured home estates, and units in accommodation for the retired or aged (self-care). Unoccupied residences of owners, managers or caretakers of such establishments are counted.

7 Special Indigenous Forms were used in discrete Indigenous communities where literacy and language problems made the self-enumeration procedure impractical. They were designed to be more culturally appropriate to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as well as easier for interviewers to use, although they cover the same topics as the standard forms.

8 In the nominated discrete communities local people were recruited to act as supervisors and interviewers. Locally appointed staff helped in the enumeration of nominated discrete communities by liaising with the communities, assisting in planning workloads and, where necessary, assisting in the recruiting and training of interviewers. Urban Indigenous communities and the Indigenous peoples residing outside these communities were enumerated on standard Census Household Forms using self enumeration procedures. In these areas, assistance was offered to households experiencing difficulties with self-enumeration.

9 Details about the 2001 Census content, collection operations, confidentiality and privacy protection, processing and evaluation activities are contained in 2001 Census of Population and Housing: Nature and Content (Cat. no. 2008.0).


10 Census data are subject to a number of inaccuracies resulting from errors by respondents or mistakes in collection or processing. Whilst many of these are corrected by careful processing procedures, some still remain. The effect of the remaining errors is generally slight, although it may be more important for small groups in the population. The main kinds of error to keep in mind are:

  • Partial non-response: In some cases where an answer is not provided to a question an answer is imputed (often from other information on the form). In other cases a 'Not stated' code is allocated;
  • Processing error: While such errors can occur in any processing system, quality management is used continuously to improve the quality of processed data, and to identify and correct data of unacceptable quality;
  • Random adjustment: Table cells containing small values are randomly adjusted or suppressed to avoid releasing information about particular individuals, families, or households. The effects of these adjustments are statistically insignificant;
  • Respondent error: Because processing procedures cannot detect or repair all errors made by people in completing the forms, some remain in final data; and
  • Undercount: Although the Census aims to count each person, there are some people who are missed and others who are counted more than once. The data in this publication are not adjusted for the net undercount, with the exception of population estimates presented in Table 1.

11 Further information on data quality is provided progressively in Census Update and in 2001 Census Data Quality Working Papers.


12 See Population Measurement Issues in this publication for a discussion of the data quality issues associated with Indigenous data from the 2001 Census.

13 Information is also available in Occasional Paper: Population Issues, Indigenous Australians, 1996 (Cat. no. 4708.0). The 2001 Census edition of this publication is expected to be released in June 2003, and will include a comprehensive discussion of data quality.


14 When calculating the proportion of the population with a particular characteristic, 'not stated' responses are included in the denominator. For example, the proportion of people in Australia who are of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin would be calculated by dividing the number of persons identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander by the total population, and expressing the result as a percentage. The 'total population' includes records coded to 'not stated', represented by the 'status unknown' category.


15 On occasions, there are apparent discrepancies in tables between percentages and their sum total. This is caused by rounding.

Random adjustment

16 Where random adjustment of table cells containing small values has occurred, table totals may vary in comparison to other tables with the same population because numerical table components add to the total presented.

Usual residence and 'as enumerated' data

17 The type of data used in each cell is clearly noted in the table or footnotes. Where possible, usual residence data have been included.

Missing usual residence data

18 Tables which present population counts at ATSIC Region level or lower are affected by the absence of adequate information on place of usual residence for some records. These counts are presented in tables 4-12, and 15-16. Records without adequate usual residence information to enable them to be coded to the levels in each table are excluded, with the exceptions of table 4 (where they are separately identified) and tables 5 and 15 (where they are not separately identified). For more information on usual residence coding issues in the context of the Australian Indigenous Geographical Classification (AIGC), see Population Measurement Issues in this publication.

Indigenous Location counts

19 In tables 6-12, Indigenous Location counts are not separately presented if the geographic area and corresponding counts are equivalent to the Indigenous Area already included.

ATSIC Regions

20 ATSIC Region boundaries have changed between Censuses, without significantly affecting the comparability of population counts. Data presented in table 5 are reported with reference to the ATSIC Region boundaries current at the time of each Census.


21 Other ABS releases that may be of interest to users of this publication include:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, Australia, 2001 (Cat.no. 4713.0)

Australian Demographic Statistics - 2001 Census Edition (Cat.no. 3101.0)

Australian Indigenous Geographical Classification Maps (Cat.no. 4706.0.30.001)

Australia in Profile - A Regional Analysis (Cat.no. 2032.0)

Census Dictionary, 2001 (Cat.no.2901.0)

Census of Population and Housing: Data Quality - Undercount, 2001 (Cat.no. 2940.0)

Community Profile Series: Indigenous Profiles (Cat.no. 2002.0)

Experimental Estimates and Projections of Indigenous Australians, 1991-2016 (Cat.no. 3238.0)

How Australia Takes a Census (Cat.no. 2903.0)

Population Issues, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2001 (Cat.no. 4708.0)

Regional Population Growth, Australia - 2001 Census Edition (Cat.no. 3218.0)

Social Atlas Series (Cat.nos 2840.1-8)

Statistical Geography: Volume 1 - Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC): 2001 Census Edition (Cat.no. 1216.0) and

Statistical Geography: Volume 2 - Census Geographic Areas, Australia 2001 Census Edition (Cat.no. 2905.0).