1 This publication contains final estimates of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, non-Indigenous and total populations of Australia at 30 June 2016, based on results of the 2016 Census of Population and Housing.
2 Estimates are disaggregated by age and sex for states/territories, Remoteness Areas and Indigenous Regions. Only total estimates for Statistical Areas Level 2 are available.
Estimated resident population
3 Estimated resident population (ERP) is the official measure of the population of Australia, based on the concept of usual residence within Australia. Usual residence is that place where each person has lived or intends to live for six months or more from the reference date for data collection.
4 The estimates of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population presented in this publication are based on 2016 Census of Population and Housing counts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, adjusted for net undercount as measured by the Post Enumeration Survey. The extent of undercoverage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in the 2016 Census and the relatively small sample size of the Post Enumeration Survey to adjust for that undercoverage means the estimates should be interpreted with a degree of caution. For more information on data quality see the relevant section of this Explanatory Note and Technical Note: Estimated Resident Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Population - Method of Calculation.
5 The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of Australia comprises people who are of Aboriginal origin, Torres Strait Islander origin or both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin. The Commonwealth definition of an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person is:
- a person of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent who;
- identifies as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin and who is;
- accepted as such by the community with which the person associates.
6 The 2016 Census of Population and Housing (Household Form) asked the following question of each person
The ABS standard Indigenous question asked in the 2011 Census of Population and Housing
The ABS standard Indigenous question asked in the 2011 Census of Population and Housing
Method of estimation
7 Estimated resident populations by Indigenous status are compiled using Census, Post Enumeration Survey (PES) and other demographic information. Starting with Census counts by place of usual residence, a number of steps are involved. These include:
- Imputation of Indigenous status for Census records with unknown Indigenous status (as a result of either non-response to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin question in the Census, or unknown Indigenous status on Census records imputed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) when a form could not be obtained from occupied dwellings identified in the field);
- An allowance for net Census undercount: in a complex exercise such as the Census, it is inevitable that some people will be missed and some will be included more than once. The PES, conducted shortly after Census night, collects information about where people were on Census night and their characteristics to estimate net Census undercount;
- An estimate of the number of Australian residents temporarily overseas at the time of the Census;
- Backdating from the Census date of 9 August 2016 to the ERP reference date of 30 June 2016 using data on births, deaths, and interstate and overseas migration for the intervening period;
- Minor demographic adjustments designed to address any anomalies in age and sex composition.
8 For further information, see Technical Note: Estimated Resident Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Population - Method of Calculation.
9 The ABS aims to produce high quality data from the Census. To achieve this, extensive effort is put into Census form design, collection procedures, and processing procedures. There are four principle sources of error in Census data: partial response, processing error, respondent error and undercount.
10 Partial response: When completing their Census form, some people do not answer all the questions which apply to them. While questions of a sensitive nature are generally excluded from the Census, all topics have a level of non-response. However, this level can be measured and is generally low. In those instances where a householder fails to answer a question, a not stated code is allocated during processing, with the exception of non-response to age, sex, marital status and place of usual residence. These variables are needed for population estimates, so they are imputed using other information on the Census form, as well as aggregate data from the previous Census.
11 Processing error: The processing of information from Census forms is mostly automated, using scanning, Intelligent Character Recognition and other automatic processes. Quality assurance procedures are used during Census processing to ensure processing errors are kept at an acceptable level. Sample checking is undertaken during coding operations, and corrections are made where necessary.
12 Respondent error: The Census form may be completed by one household member on behalf of others. Incorrect answers can be introduced to the Census form if the respondent does not understand the question or does not know the correct information about other household members. Many of these errors remain in the final data.
13 Undercount: The goal of the Census is to obtain a complete measure of the number and characteristics of people in Australia on Census night and their dwellings, but it is inevitable that a small number of people will be missed, some will be counted more than once and some will not be identified correctly. In Australia, more people are missed from the Census than are counted more than once. The net effect when both factors are taken into account is an undercount.
14 Each of these sources of error are particularly relevant to, and have the potential to significantly impact on, the Census counts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. This is despite the implementation of the Discrete Community and Remote Areas Strategy, and specific urban strategies that included procedures to improve coverage, accuracy and quality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander counts. For further information see Census of Population and Housing - Counts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (cat. no. 2075.0).
The Post Enumeration Survey (PES), sampling error and undercount
16 The ABS conducts the PES shortly after the Census to determine how many people were missed in the Census and how many were counted more than once. The design of the survey is such that estimates of net undercount are suitable for augmenting Census counts for the purpose of deriving population estimates for Australia and the states and territories. For 2016, the survey had a sample size of around 42,000 households across Australia.
17 As estimates of undercount are based on a sample survey they are subject to sampling error. Since only a sample of dwellings is included in the PES, estimates derived from the survey may differ from figures which would have been obtained if all dwellings had been included in the survey. One measure of the likely difference is given by the standard error (SE) which indicates the extent to which an estimate might have varied by chance because only a sample was included. The relative standard error (RSE) is the standard error expressed as a percentage of the estimate to which it refers.
18 For Australia, the direct estimate of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population obtained from the PES was 786,689 persons, with a standard error of 19,776 (and a relative standard error (RSE) of 2.1%). For estimating the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of states and territories, undercount estimates were adjusted to improve the reliability of estimates. For more information on the method applied, see Technical Note: Estimated Resident Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Population - Method of Calculation. Unadjusted undercount rates are presented below but should be used for illustrative purposes only. The adjusted estimates which were actually used in the calculation of final Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population estimates and which should be used, can be found in Technical Note: Estimated Resident Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Population - Method of Calculation.
Unadjusted and adjusted PES undercount estimates(a), states and territories - 2016(b)
|Net undercount||SE Net undercount||SE||Adjusted undercount rate||Adjusted SE|
|New South Wales|
|Australian Capital Territory|
b. A negative value indicates a net overcount.
19 The PES sample is insufficient to produce estimates of net undercount by Indigenous status at the sub-state/territory level. Undercount was therefore apportioned to Statistical Areas Level 2 based on age, sex, Indigenous status and state/territory. For further information on this process, please refer to Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2016-17 (cat. no. 3218.0).
20 It is important to note that at the sub-state/territory level, differences between Census counts and estimates of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population should not be interpreted as a definitive measure of the actual level of undercount; rather, these differences are a by-product of the assumptions that contribute to the estimation process, and the differences should be considered indicative, based on the best available (though limited) information.
21 For further information see Technical Note: Estimated Resident Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Population - Method of Calculation.
22 For further information on the Post Enumeration Survey see Census of Population and Housing: Details of Overcount and Undercount, Australia (cat. no. 2940.0).
Australian statistical areas
23 This publication contains data coded to a number of statistical geographic structures within the statistical geography classification called the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS). The structures used are: the Main Structure, the Remoteness Structure and the Indigenous Structure. Information on the ASGS is available on the ABS website under 'Statistical Geography'. Alternatively, see Volume 1 - Main Structure and Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (cat. no. 1270.0.55.001).
Australian Standard Geographical Structure - main structure, July 2016
24 The ABS Structures are a hierarchy of regions developed for the release of particular ABS statistics. Their components are described below:
- Mesh Blocks (MBs): are the smallest geographical region in the ASGS. The 2016 ASGS contains 358,122 MBs covering the whole of Australia. They broadly identify land use such as: residential, commercial, agriculture and parks etc. As Mesh Blocks are very small they can be combined together to accurately approximate a large range of other statistical regions.
- Statistical Areas Level 1 (SA1s): have been designed as the smallest unit for the release of Census data. SA1s generally have a population of 200 to 800 persons, and an average population of about 400 persons. They are built from whole Mesh Blocks, and there are 57,523 SA1s covering the whole of Australia.
- Statistical Areas Level 2 (SA2s): are a general-purpose medium sized area built from whole SA1s. Their aim is to represent a community that interacts together socially and economically. SA2s generally have a population range of 3,000 to 25,000 persons, and have an average population of about 10,000 persons. The SA2 is the lowest level of the ASGS structure for which Estimated Resident Population (ERP), Health and Vitals and other non-Census ABS data are generally available. There are 2,310 SA2s covering the whole of Australia.
- Statistical Areas Level 3 (SA3s): provide a standardised regional breakup of Australia. The aim of SA3s is to create a standard framework for the analysis of ABS data at the regional level through clustering groups of SA2s that have similar regional characteristics. SA3s are built from whole SA2s and in general have populations between 30,000 to 130,000. They are often the functional areas of regional cities and large urban transport and service hubs. There are 358 SA3 regions covering the whole of Australia.
- Statistical Areas Level 4 (SA4s): are the largest sub-State regions in the Main Structure. They are designed for the output of Labour Force Survey data and reflect labour markets within each state and territory. SA4s are built from whole SA3s and cover the whole of Australia. There are 107 SA4 regions covering the whole of Australia.
25 For the purposes of this publication, Jervis Bay Territory, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Norfolk Island are collectively referred to as 'Other Territories' and are included in the totals for Australia. For further information see Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 1 - Main Structure and Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (cat. no. 1270.0.55.001).
26 The Remoteness Structure divides Australia into broad geographic regions that share common characteristics of remoteness in relation to access to services. There are six classes of RA in the Remoteness Structure: Major Cities of Australia, Inner Regional Australia, Outer Regional Australia, Remote Australia, Very Remote Australia and Migratory.
27 Within each state/territory, each RA represents an aggregation of non-contiguous geographical areas which share common characteristics of remoteness (constructed from SA1s). While statistical data classed to this structure may be available by state/territory, characteristics of remoteness are determined in the context of Australia as a whole. Therefore, not all RAs are represented in each state/territory.
28 For further information see Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 5 - Remoteness Structure (cat. no. 1270.0.55.005).
Indigenous geography structure
29 Data are also presented according to the Indigenous Structure of the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS). Under this classification, areas are defined as follows:
- Indigenous Locations (ILOCs): are aggregates of one or more SA1s. ILOCs generally represent small Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities with a minimum population of 90 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander usual residents. An ILOC is an area designed to allow the production of Census statistics relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a high level of spatial accuracy while maintaining the confidentiality of individuals. For the 2016 ASGS, 1115 ILOCs have been defined to cover the whole of geographic Australia.
- Indigenous Areas (IAREs): are medium sized geographical units designed to facilitate the release of more detailed statistics. IAREs provide a balance between spatial resolution and increased granularity of attribute data. They are created by aggregating one or more ILOCs. For the 2016 Census, 430 IAREs are defined to cover the whole of geographic Australia.
- Indigenous Regions (IREGs): are large geographical units loosely based on the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission boundaries. They are created by aggregating one or more IAREs. The greater population of IREGs enables the highest level of granularity of attribute data through greater cross classification of variables compared with IAREs and ILOCs. For the 2016 Census 58 IREGs are defined to cover the whole of geographic Australia. IREGs do not cross state or territory borders.
30 For further information see Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 2 - Indigenous Structure (cat. no. 1270.0.55.002).
Local Government Areas (LGAs)
31 LGAs are an ABS approximation of official gazetted Local Government boundaries as defined by each State and Territory Local Government Department. These approximated boundaries are constructed from the allocation of one or more whole Mesh Blocks. LGAs are good for understanding the characteristics of an individual LGA at a point in time.
32 The Census and Statistics Act, 1905 provides the authority for the ABS to collect statistical information, and requires that statistical output shall not be published or disseminated in a manner that is likely to enable the identification of a particular person or organisation. This requirement means that the ABS must take care that identifiable information about individual respondents cannot be derived from published data.
33 To protect confidentiality within this publication, some small cell values have been suppressed.
34 In addition, some Remoteness Areas in the states and territories have been combined to protect confidentiality when disaggregated by other characteristics, such as age and sex. In Victoria, Outer Regional Australia and Remote Australia have been combined to produce Rest of Victoria. In Tasmania, Remote Australia, and Very Remote Australia have been combined to produce Rest of Tasmania. Remoteness Areas are not available for the ACT in this product.
Related publications and references
35 Other ABS publications that may be of interest to users of this publication include:
- Australian Demographic Statistics (cat. no. 3101.0)
- Australian Historical Population Statistics (cat. no. 3105.0.65.001)
- Births, Australia (cat. no. 3301.0)
- Census Dictionary (cat. no. 2901.0)
- Census of Population and Housing - Counts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (cat. no. 2075.0)
- Census of Population and Housing - Details of Overcount and Undercount, Australia (cat. no. 2940.0)
- Deaths, Australia (cat. no. 3302.0)
- Demography Working Paper 2001/4 - Issues in Estimating the Indigenous Population (cat. no. 3126.0)
- Life Tables for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (cat. no. 3302.0.55.003)
- Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (cat. no. 3238.0)
- Occasional Paper: Population Issues, Indigenous Australians (cat. no. 4708.0)
- Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Counts Between 2011 and 2016 (cat. no. 2077.0) (to be released October 2018)
36 Current publications and other products released by the ABS are listed on the ABS web site www.abs.gov.au.
37 As well as the statistics included in this and related publications, additional information is available from the ABS web site at www.abs.gov.au and accessing Statistics/Population.