1 This publication presents analysis that draws from a range of data sources:
- Australian Census of Population and Housing
- Census Post Enumeration Survey (cat. no. 2940.0)
- Births, Australia (cat. no. 3301.0)
- Deaths, Australia (cat. no. 3302.0)
- Estimated Residential Population (cat. no. 3238.0.55.001.0)
- Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset (cat. no. 2080.5)
Census of population and housing
Scope and coverage
2 This publication presents counts from the Census of Population and Housing (1971-2016) for people who identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin and were counted in the Census of Population and Housing.
3 The 2016 Census of Population and Housing was held on 9 August 2016. The Census is the largest statistical collection undertaken by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). By counting the number and key characteristics of people in Australia on Census night, the Census provides a reliable basis for the estimation of the population of the states, territories and local government areas, for use in:
- determining the number of seats allocated to each state in the House of Representatives.
- distributing billions of dollars of annual goods and services tax revenue to the states and territories.
- determining state grants to local government areas.
4 The Census counts all people in Australia on Census night (excluding foreign diplomats and their families). This means that visitors to Australia are counted regardless of how long they have been in the country or how long they plan to stay, but that Australian residents who are overseas on Census night are not included.
5 People in Norfolk Island on Census night were counted for the first time in the 2016 Australian Census following passage of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015. The Territories of Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island have been included in the Australian Census since 1996. Expeditioners to Australian bases in the Australian Antarctic Territory (and other locations) are also included in Census counts.
6 The Census Post Enumeration Survey provides an independent measure of Census coverage through its estimate of undercount and overcount. Coverage and response rates are important measures in understanding Census data quality. The key indicators for the 2016 Census of Population and Housing support that the Census data is of high quality, with high response rates (95.1%) and low levels of net undercoverage (1.0%).
7 The Census question on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status is designed to determine the number, distribution and characteristics of people of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. It is also used in estimation and projections of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander population. The Census is the only comprehensive source of small area data on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
8 For all Censuses prior to 1971 respondents were asked to state their race and, where race was mixed, to specify the proportions of each. In the 1971 and 1976 Censuses, a question with response categories of European, Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Other was included. Since 1981, a specific question has been asked to identify Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
9 The responses to this question are captured automatically from mark box responses on the form, so the risk of processing error is minimal. Where respondents identify with both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origins, they were instructed to mark both the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boxes. In cases where a respondent marked both No and Yes boxes, then the Indigenous Status was set to Not Stated. This treatment differs to that used in the 2011 Census where if both No and Yes mark boxes were selected, the responses were accepted in the order they appeared on the form and the extra response was rejected. This change in treatment aligns with the Indigenous Status Standard, 2014, Version 1.5 (cat. no. 1200.0.55.008).
For more information on definitional changes and Census questions, refer to the Census Dictionary (cat. no. 2901.0).
10 For the 2011 Census and earlier Censuses, the ABS relied on a large field workforce to list every household across Australia. Field officers knocked on every door in an attempt to make contact with householders and to deliver paper Census forms or online Census login codes. The field officers not only delivered and collected Census material, but also recorded some characteristics about the houses in which the people lived.
11 For the 2016 Census, the ABS developed a new method that addressed the difficulties in recruiting field staff, as well as investing in the advantages and efficiencies of new technologies. Changes were designed taking into account international best practices in Census taking and building on the Australian public's increasing access to and use of the internet, and their willing support of the Census. The new method made three main changes from that used in earlier Censuses.
- The development of a national Address Register to support mailing out of materials to households across Australia. The Address Register was formed using the Geocoded National Address File (GNAF) as its base and then built on using information gained through visiting every address through a large canvassing exercise, in addition to analysing other available data. This register formed the basis of addresses to which information was mailed out.
- The postal delivery of an instruction letter detailing how to complete the Census online or how to request a paper form. Paper forms were then despatched and mailed back via Australia Post. This ensured that Census field officers only visited a minority of homes, where the use of the mail service was not considered viable, or where a Census form had not been returned.
- The use of a smarter online form. Many enhancements were made to the online form to improve quality and make it easier for respondents to complete. These enhancements are detailed in the Online form section.
12 As in previous Censuses, in 2016 there were a range of approaches used for collecting information from specific population groups. This included strategies to increase participation of remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and urban Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These approaches were designed in consultation and collaboration with relevant communities and/or service providers to ensure the coverage of all people in Australia (including these specific populations) was as complete as possible.
13 Since 1976, measures have been adopted to maximise coverage of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. These include specific Census awareness activities, greater use of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff, greater involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, and better coordination of the related field operations. In remote areas, interview forms have been used to facilitate the enumeration of this population.
14 The 2016 Discrete Communities and Remote Areas Strategy incorporated improvements to enumeration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. At a broad level, the improvements for the 2016 Census included:
- earlier and ongoing engagement;
- a reduction in the overall enumeration period for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities;
- an increase in the number of field staff recruited; and
- a greater level of support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people requiring assistance in completing their form (in both urban and remote areas).
15 For more information on the Discrete Community and Remote Areas Strategy in the Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat no. 2901.0).
16 For the 2016 Census the ABS also incorporated improvements to assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living in urban communities to participate in the Census. As part of this strategy in pre-identified urban areas increased support and assistance was provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including the option of collecting Census information through an interview.
Census Post Enumeration Survey (PES)
16 For extensive explanatory information on the PES please see Census of Population and Housing: Details of Overcount and Undercount, Australia (cat.no. 2940.0).
Scope and coverage
17 For Census and PES purposes, scope refers to the group of people about which information is required. A set of rules is applied to determine whether a selected person is within this population of interest.
18 The scope of the Census is every person present in Australia on Census night with the exception of foreign diplomats and their families. Ideally the PES would sample from all people who were, or should have been, counted in the Census. For practical reasons, however, there were a number of areas, dwellings and people outside the scope of the 2016 PES.
19 Of the people present in Australia at the time of the PES, the following are not included in the scope of the PES:
- overseas visitors who were not in Australia on 9 August 2016 (Census night)
- foreign diplomats and their families
- people in non-private dwellings such as hotels, motels, hospitals and other institutions
- homeless people (as the sample selected in the PES is based on a selection of dwellings)
- babies born after 9 August 2016; and
- people in Other territories (e.g. Christmas Island, Norfolk Island and Jervis Bay Territory) or Australian external territories (e.g. Australian Antarctic Territory, Coral Sea Islands Territory).
20 The PES also does not obtain information about people who died between Census and PES.
21 The 2016 PES sample included remote areas and Discrete Communities, which ensured a more complete geographic coverage of the PES. In 2016, the risk to statistical independence in these areas and communities was effectively managed through careful monitoring of Census field operations, interviewer training and well established field procedures. No PES interviewers worked on Census collection activities in these same areas.
22 The 2016 PES sample excluded people living in NPDs, as has been the case in previous PES cycles. NPDs are establishments which provide predominantly short-term accommodation for communal or group living, and often provide common eating facilities. They include hotels, motels, hostels, hospitals, religious institutions providing accommodation, educational institutions providing accommodation, prisons, boarding houses and short-stay caravan parks.
23 Coverage refers to a set of rules designed to give each in scope person in the PES sample a single chance of selection in the survey. These rules are implemented by associating each person with a single dwelling through a series of questions in the PES interview, such as where each person usually lives and whether they (or anyone else) are staying at their usual residence during the PES enumeration period.
24 An example of the need for coverage rules is for a visitor staying at a dwelling selected in the PES. If the visitor reports that someone else is staying at their usual residence during PES enumeration, or they return to their residence at a later point during the enumeration period, this visitor could have two chances of being included in the PES (i.e. once at their usual residence and again at their current location). In this example, the PES coverage rules would associate the visitor with their place of usual residence and not the dwelling they were visiting, thereby giving them only one chance of being included in the PES enumeration.
25 Specially trained PES interviewers collected data through interviews that started seven weeks after Census night. Interviews were conducted with any responsible adult of the household, who was asked to respond on behalf of all household members.
26 Most interviews were conducted face-to-face; however, respondents were given the option to register for a telephone interview, which had a take-up rate of 32%. Respondents were provided registration instructions on a Primary Approach Letter delivered by mail to the selected dwelling approximately one week prior to the commencement of interviewing.
27 All dwellings were enumerated using Computer Assisted Interviewing (CAI).
28 The PES collection methodology differed from the way Census collected its information, where most forms were self-completed. A major advantage of interviewer-administered questionnaires is that people can be provided with assistance if they are uncertain about the meaning of questions, and help is also given to ensure no questions are left unanswered.
29 For extensive explanatory information on the quality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander births data please see Births, Australia (cat. no. 3301.0).
Scope and coverage
30 The ABS Birth Registrations collection includes all births that occurred and were registered in Australia, including births to mothers whose place of usual residence was overseas.
31 The scope of the statistics includes:
- all births that were live born and were not previously registered
- births that occurred within Australian Territorial waters
- births to temporary visitors to Australia
- births that occurred in Australian Antarctic Territories and other external territories
- births occurred on Norfolk Island from 1 July 2016. This is due to the introduction of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015. Norfolk Island births are included in statistics for 'Other Territories' as well as totals for all of Australia. Births occurring on Norfolk Island prior to 1 July 2016 were not in scope.
- births that occurred in transit (i.e. on ships or planes) if registered in the Australian state or territory of 'next port of call'
- births to Australian nationals employed overseas at Australian legations and consular offices (i.e. children born overseas to Australian diplomats or their families); and
- births that occurred in earlier years that have not been previously registered (late registrations)
The scope of the statistics excludes:
- still births/fetal deaths (these are accounted for in perinatal death statistics published in Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0), and previously, Perinatal Deaths, Australia (cat. no. 3304.0)
- adoptions, sex changes, legitimations and corrections; and
- births to foreign diplomatic staff in Australia
32 The ABS Birth Registrations collection records a birth as being an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander birth where at least one parent reported themselves as being an Aboriginal person, Torres Strait Islander, or both on the birth registration form. Therefore, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander births may be attributed to either:
- Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander mothers, including births where both the mother and father are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians; or
- Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander fathers and non-Indigenous mothers.
33 From 2006 to 2013, the Indigenous status of the mother and father for births registered in New South Wales was inconsistent with other jurisdictions. Specifically, where one parent was an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australian, the other parent was processed as either 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander' or 'Not stated'. Furthermore, where one parent was 'Non-Indigenous', the other parent was processed as 'Non-Indigenous' or 'Not stated'. The Indigenous status of the child, where the birth was registered in New South Wales, was derived from the Indigenous status of either of the parents. The Indigenous status of births registered in New South Wales from 2006 to 2013 should therefore be interpreted with caution. The New South Wales Registry has since changed their processing rules and registration data since 2014 is consistent with the rest of Australia.
34 The ABS has investigated recent annual variability in the number of births of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In 2016, 108 births were to mothers who reported themselves as being an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australian (0.8% of children to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander mothers), and who were born overseas. Since 2009, these instances have accounted for less than 1.3% of annual births to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander mothers. Of these births in 2016, 58% were to mothers born in neighbouring countries in the Pacific, such as New Zealand, Samoa and Papua New Guinea, and of these the majority (63 births) were to mothers who reported themselves as being Torres Strait Islander, or both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander on the birth registration form. This may indicate that these mothers are seeking to report their Pacific Islander ancestry (for which provision is not made in the Birth Registration Statement forms in Australia) rather than reporting to be Torres Strait Islanders. However, the six births to mothers born in Papua New Guinea in 2016 who reported being Torres Strait Islanders may be correctly recorded.
35 For extensive explanatory information on the quality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths data please see Deaths, Australia, 2017 (cat no. 3302.0)
Scope and coverage
36 The ABS Death Registrations collection includes all deaths that occurred and were registered in Australia, including deaths of persons whose place of usual residence was overseas. Deaths of Australian residents that occurred outside Australia may be registered by individual Registrars, but are not included in ABS death statistics. However, deaths of identified Australian diplomats while overseas are included.
37 The scope of the statistics includes:
- all deaths being registered for the first time
- deaths of temporary visitors to Australia (including visitors from Norfolk Island)
- deaths that occurred within Australian Territorial waters
- deaths that occurred in Australian Antarctic Territories or other external territories
- deaths occurred on Norfolk Island from 1 July 2016 are included in this publication for the first time. This is due to the introduction of the Norfolk Island Legislation Amendment Act 2015. Norfolk Island deaths are included in statistics for "Other Territories" as well as totals for all of Australia. Deaths occurring on Norfolk Island prior to 1 July 2016 were not in scope.
- deaths that occurred in transit (i.e. on ships or planes) if registered in the Australian state or territory of 'next port of call';
- deaths of Australian nationals employed overseas at Australian legations and consular offices (i.e. deaths of Australian diplomats while overseas) where they are able to be identified; and
- deaths that occurred in earlier years that have not previously been registered (late registrations).
The scope of the statistics excludes:
- still births/fetal deaths (these are included in perinatal death statistics published in Causes of Death, Australia, (cat. no. 3303.0), and previously, Perinatal Deaths, Australia, (cat. no. 3304.0)
- repatriation of human remains of those whose death occurred overseas; and
- deaths of foreign diplomatic staff in Australia (where able to be identified).
38 The ABS Death Registrations collection identifies a death as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander where the deceased is recorded as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, or both on the Death Registration Form (DRF). The Indigenous status is also derived from the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) for South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory from 2007. For 2015 data, the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages also used MCCD information for the first time to derive Indigenous status. This resulted in a noticeable decrease in the number of deaths for which the Indigenous status was 'not stated' and an increase in the number of deaths identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in Queensland. For New South Wales and Victoria, the Indigenous status of the deceased is derived from the DRF only. If the Indigenous status reported in the DRF does not agree with that in the MCCD, an identification from either source that the deceased was an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person is given preference over non-Indigenous.
39 While it is considered likely that most deaths of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are registered, a proportion of these deaths are not reported as such by the family, health worker or funeral director during the death registration process. That is, whilst data is provided to the ABS for the Indigenous status question (99.4% of all deaths registered in 2016), there are concerns regarding the accuracy of the data. The funeral director may not always directly ask the Indigenous status question of the deceased's relatives and friends.
40 In addition to those deaths recorded as either Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian or non-Indigenous, a number of deaths occur each year where Indigenous status is not stated on the death registration form. In 2016, there were 901 deaths registered in Australia for whom Indigenous status was not stated, representing 0.6% of all deaths registered.
41 Data may therefore underestimate the level of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths and mortality in Australia. Lags in registrations may also affect the reliability of measures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mortality. Caution should be exercised when interpreting data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians presented in this release, especially with regard to year-to-year changes.
Estimated Residential Population
42 Estimated Resident Population (ERP) is the official measure of the population of Australia. For extensive information on ERP, please see Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (cat. no. 3238.0.55.001.0).
Scope and coverage
43 The ERP is based on the concept of usual residence. It refers to all people, regardless of nationality, citizenship or legal status, who usually live in Australia, with the exception of foreign diplomatic personnel and their families. It includes usual residents who are overseas for less than 12 months. It excludes overseas visitors who are in Australia for less than 12 months. In the compilation of the ERP, important adjustments are made to the Census count based on place of usual residence.
44 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 2011 to the ERP reference date of 30 June 2011 using data on births, deaths, and interstate and overseas migration for the intervening period; and
- Minor demographic adjustments designed to address any anomalies in age and sex composition.
45 For further information, see Technical Note: Estimated Resident Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian Population - Method of Calculation.
Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset
46 The Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset (ACLD) uses data from the Census of Population and Housing to build a rich longitudinal picture of Australian society. The ACLD can uncover new insights into the dynamics and transitions that drive social and economic change over time, and how these vary for diverse population groups and geographies.
47 For extensive explanatory information on the methodology and quality of the ACLD please see Information Paper: Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset, Methodology and Quality Assessment (cat. no. 2080.5).