Latest release

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: Census

Information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples including language and ancestry

Reference period
2021
Released
28/06/2022
Next release Unknown
First release

Key statistics

  • 812,728 people identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin, representing 3.2 per cent of the total population.
  • Of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people counted: 91.4 per cent identified as Aboriginal; 4.2 per cent identified as Torres Strait Islander; 4.4 per cent identified as both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
  • The median age for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has increased. In 2021, the median was 24 years, up from 23 years in 2016, 21 years in 2011.
  • Most (89.1 per cent) people who identified as being Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander at the Indigenous status question reported an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander ancestry in 2021.
  • There were 167 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages used at home in 2021 by 76,978 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The most widely reported language groups used were Arnhem Land and Daly River Region Languages (14.5 per cent) and Torres Strait Island Languages (12.0 per cent).
    Image of speech bubbles. Bubble 1: 14.5% Arnhem Land and Daly River Region Languages. Bubble 2:12.0% Torres Strait Island Languages. Bubble 3: 10.9% Western Desert Languages. Bubble 4: 8.5% Yolngu Matha. Bubble 5: 7.4% Arandic
    This image includes speech bubbles with the top 5 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language groups represented.
    Of the people who spoke Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander languages, the most common language groups were Arnhem Land and Daly River Region Languages (14.5 per cent), Torres Strait Island Languages (12.0 per cent), Western Desert Languages (10.9 per cent), Yolngu Matha (8.5 per cent) and Arandic (7.4 per cent).

    Source: Whether reported using an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander language at home (LNGP)

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons(a), 2016 and 2021 Census
         2016  2021
    New South Wales216,176278,043
    Victoria47,78865,646
    Queensland186,482237,303
    South Australia34,18442,562
    Western Australia75,97888,693
    Tasmania23,57230,186
    Northern Territory58,24861,115
    Australian Capital Territory6,5088,949
    Australia(b)649,171812,721

    Please note that there are small random adjustments made to all cell values to protect the confidentiality of data. These adjustments may cause the sum of rows or columns to differ by small amounts from table totals.

    (a) Based on place of usual residence.

    (b) Includes Other Territories.

    There have been significant increases in the number of people identifying as having Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin between censuses. Increases in the population are influenced by demographic factors such as births, deaths and migration, and by non-demographic factors including changes in whether or not a person identified as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in each Census, the identification of children or others who have had their form completed by parents or someone else on their behalf, and the impact of communications and collection procedures. Changes in Indigenous status between censuses can affect the interpretation of Census data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is important to remember that Indigenous status is collected through self-identification and any change in how a person chooses to identify will affect the count of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the Census. 

    Source: Indigenous status (INGP)

    Census data stories and concepts

    Articles and information papers that related to this topic include:

    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population summaries

    How Census data is used

    Learn how Census data helps community groups, businesses and governments make important decisions.

    Census data helps keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people informed over the airwaves

    First Nations radio services are a well-known and respected source of essential information, news and stories for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across Australia.

    Community broadcasters play an important role in keeping their listeners informed in some of the most remote parts of Australia.

    First Nations Media Australia uses Census data about communities to help keep Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people informed.

    First Nations Media Australia’s Media Operations Manager, Jennifer Nixon, an Amnatyerr, Kaytetye and Alyawarr woman, said they keep an eye on what is changing in regions and communities by keeping up to date with Census data.

    “Census data shows where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are and where communities are growing. We then look at whether people in that area have enough media services to keep them informed,” Jennifer said.

    Census data about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages was critical when broadcasters needed to get COVID-19 health messages out to remote communities.

    “Understanding how many mob speak different languages in a region was used to target public health messages to those listeners,” Jennifer said.

    Jennifer wants Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to complete the Census, so First Nations radio services can provide more targeted and relevant information to their listeners across Australia.

    “We want to make sure we’re looking after you, and the Census is a way of collecting information about everyone across Australia, all at once,” Jennifer said.

    See more Census stories.

    Key questions in 2021 Census

    • Is the person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin?
    • Does the person use a language other than English at home? 
    • What is the person’s ancestry?

    The questions from the 2021 Census are output into variables. To see descriptions of the variables, including data use considerations, relevant to this topic see the 2021 Census dictionary: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

    Data downloads

    Data table for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples data summary

    Data table for Census article - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestries

    Data table for Census article - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population summary

    Other relevant data downloads can be found on the following pages:

    Snapshot of Australia
    • Indigenous status by state and territory of usual residence - 2016 and 2021
    • Indigenous status by Greater Capital City Statistical Areas - 2016 and 2021
    • Indigenous status by age - 2016 and 2021
    Disability and carers - core activity need for assistance
    • Core activity need for assistance by Indigenous status.
    Service with the Australian Defence Force
    • Australian Defence Force Service by Indigenous status 

    Other ABS links

    To access more 2021 Census data, see Search Census data or to build your own data sets, see Census data tools.

    Explore other ABS data:

    Post release changes

    1/07/2022 - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people data summary download

    Table 3. Housing suitability for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households by state and territory

    • 'Not overcrowded' was updated to include the following categories: 'Four or more bedrooms spare', 'Three bedrooms spare', 'Two bedrooms spare', 'One bedroom spare', 'No bedrooms needed or spare'. As a result, this has increased the counts in the 'Not overcrowded' and 'Total' column.
    08/07/2022 – Census article – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population summary download

    Table 9. Equivalised weekly household income for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households by state and territory

    • Median equivalised household income (weekly)($) for South Australia, Tasmania, and Australian Capital Territory were updated to fix a minor calculation error.
    08/07/2022 – South Australia: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population summary

    Households and families: The average size of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in 2011 was updated to correct a small rounding error.

    08/07/2022 – Australian Capital Territory: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population summary

    Health: Data in graph for Long-term health conditions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people corrected.