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Census of Population and Housing: Characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians

Provides insights into the contemporary social and economic situation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians

Reference period
2016

Publication summary

Summary of findings

The Census is one of the most important sources of information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and their lives. Since the 1971 Census, there has been a clear upward trend in the counts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in each successive Census. The 2016 Census counted 649,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, an increase of 18 per cent from the 2011 Census.

This publication explores insights the Census provides on a range of important topics including Housing, Income, Education and Internal Migration. It was first released in March 2018 and has since been updated in March 2019 with new content exploring the impact of Remoteness on the characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Highlights from the publication are presented below.

Remoteness

  • Most (81%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were living in Non-remote areas at the time of the 2016 Census. The more remote the area, the greater the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Non-remote areas generally lived in areas that were more advantaged than those living in Remote areas. No Very Remote area in Australia is in the most advantaged quintile for the Index of Relative Socioeconomic Advantage and Disadvantage.
  • People aged 15-24 years living in Non-remote areas (57%) were more likely to be fully engaged in work or study than those living in Remote areas (33%).
  • A quarter (25%) of people aged 20-64 years living in Remote areas (and who are not currently studying) reported having completed Year 12 or equivalent in 2016, compared to 36% in Non-remote areas.
  • In Non-remote and Remote areas, people are more likely to have certificate level qualifications than undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications.
  • There are clear associations between Remoteness and participation in the labour force:
    • People aged 15-64 years in Non-remote areas were more likely (49%) to be employed than those in Remote areas (31%).
    • The unemployment rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15-64 years in Very Remote Australia (29%) was twice that of Major Cities (15%).
    • Half (50%) of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population aged 15-64 years in Remote areas were not in the labour force, compared to 39% of the population in Non-remote areas.
  • People living in Very Remote Australia were much less likely to speak English as their main language at home than people living in Major Cities (32% compared to 94%) and much more likely to speak an Australian Indigenous language at home (58% compared to 1%).

Education

  • There was an increase in school attendance by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students across all age groups between the 2006 and 2016. In particular, attendance for young men and women in the 15 to 17 year age group increased from 51 per cent and 54 per cent to 70 per cent and 73 per cent respectively. Attendance at university or other tertiary institutions also increased (by almost 100%) for 18 to 24 year olds.
  • In 2016, 20 to 64 year old females were almost twice as likely as males to have attained a higher level non-school qualification than males. This was true for all tertiary level qualifications including postgraduate qualifications (2% compared to 1%), Bachelor Degrees (7% compared to 4%), and Advanced Diploma or Diplomas (9% compared to 5%).
  • The gap between male and female higher educational attainment is increasing. Between 2011 and 2016 the proportional rate of growth across almost all levels of educational attainment was greater for females than males.

Employment

  • Around 223,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over reported participating in the labour force. Men (55 per cent) are more likely than women (49 per cent) to be in the labour force, as are people in urban areas compared with those in non-urban areas (54 per cent and 45 per cent respectively).
  • There was also a divide between employment to population ratio in major cities (49%) and the rest of the country (39%).

Engagement and unpaid work

  • More than half of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are engaged in work or study. Sixty five per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 to 24 years are participating in education or work, up from sixty two per cent in 2011. Those living in urban areas (55 per cent) are more likely to be fully engaged in work or study than those living in non-urban areas (42 per cent).
  • The Australian Capital Territory has the highest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15-24 years participating in education or work (72 per cent), while and the Northern Territory has the lowest rate (39 per cent).
  • People aged 15 to 24 years were more likely to be fully engaged but not doing any unpaid work (30%). 12 per cent of people in that age group were not engaged and not doing any unpaid work.
  • As people move into the middle of their lives, the volume of unpaid work they do increases. 15 per cent of people 25 to 44 were fully engaged and doing two more types of unpaid work. Only 11 per cent of people in this age group were not doing any work, study or unpaid work.
  • Persons aged 65 years and over were more likely to be not engaged and not doing any unpaid work (39%). However, relative to other age groups, the proportion of people 65 years and over who were not engaged but who undertook one or more types of unpaid work was comparatively high.

Family composition

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households are primarily one family households (75%) with a further 5% being multiple family households. Proportions between the different categories of household composition remain essentially unchanged since the 2011 Census.
  • Of the 62, 261 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons living in multi-family households in 2016, 39 per cent lived in non-urban areas of Australia. In the Northern Territory 60 per cent of persons in multi-family households lived in non-urban areas, followed by Western Australia (51%) and South Australia (49%).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander multi-family households were more likely to be overcrowded than one-family households. Almost 30 per cent of multi-family households required two or more extra bedrooms to suitably house all usual residents, compared to 2 per cent of one-family households.
  • Most families in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander multi-family households were one parent families (44%), followed by couple families with children (29%) and couple families with no children (25%). The majority of lone parents in multi-family households were female (84%) and most had never married (69%).
  • In 2016, there were 11,038 grandparent families (4%) in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households. Most were lone grandparent families (56%) and most grandparent families were significantly more likely to be in one-family households (87%) than multi-family households. The majority of grandparent families (65%) had grandchildren aged under 15 years. The median age of grandparent carers was 58.

Income

  • Almost one in five (19%) per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over and living in urban areas reported a total personal weekly income of $1,000 or more per week compared to 12 per cent in non-urban areas.
  • Females were more likely than males to report incomes between $300 and $799. There were significantly more males reporting total weekly incomes of more than $1000 (21% compared to 14%).
  • Median income was highest in the 35-44 year age group ($625 per week) followed by the 25-34 year age group ($596 per week) and the 45-54 year age group ($579 per week). The 15-24 year age group (the largest age group), had the lowest median income ($213 per week).
  • More than half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over with a Bachelor degree or higher reported a total personal weekly income of $1,000 or more (59%). This was similar to non-Indigenous persons with university qualifications who earned $1000 per week or more (57%). Those with a Certificate III or IV level (30%) qualification were twice as likely as those whose highest educational attainment of Year 12 (15%) to have a weekly income of $1,000 or more.
  • The median age of persons who earned nil income was 17 and the median age of persons who earned negative income was 22.

Internal migration

  • Census 2016 data shows that 45 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people moved house between 2011 and 2016, with the vast majority of those (89 per cent) moving within the State or Territory that they lived in.
  • In the last five years the largest interstate migration relationship was between New South Wales and Queensland with 52 per cent of people who moved to New South Wales coming from Queensland and 56 per cent of people who moved to Queensland coming from New South Wales. Almost one third (29%) of the total number of people who moved interstate moved between these two States.
  • A combination of arrivals and departures to and from each State can be used to produce a picture of the impacts of internal migration on population change within each State. When departures are subtracted from arrivals it shows that Queensland had the highest population increase due to internal migration between 2011 and 2016 (1,516 people). New South Wales recorded the largest decrease in it's residential population due to internal migration (-2,012 people). The Northern Territory recorded the second largest decrease (-964 people).
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons who moved to a capital city from a non-capital city area since 2011, were slightly more likely to be employed than those who moved from a capital city to a non-capital city area (51% compared to 49%). Year 12 completion was also higher amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons who moved to capital cities than those who moved to non-capital city areas (45% compared to 39%).

Community engagement

Engagement in education, training and employment

Nearly 4 in 10 (38%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians reported being fully engaged in education, employment and training in the 2016 Census. This represents a slight increase from 36 per cent in 2011.

More than half (53%) of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population were engaged either fully or partly in 2016. In contrast, 67 per cent of non-Indigenous people were engaged in some mix of education, employment and training, with 49 per cent fully engaged.

Understanding engagement

Engagement in Employment, Education and Training (EETP) was a new data item compiled for the 2016 Census. It classifies persons aged 15 years and over as Engaged or Not engaged in work and study. It is derived from the data items Labour Force Status (LFSP), Hours Worked (HRSP), Full-Time/Part-Time Student Status (STUP) and Age (AGEP).

A person is classified as engaged if they participate in any type of education, employment and training. A fully engaged person works or studies full-time or has any combination of work and study. The not engaged category includes persons who are unemployed, not in the labour force or not attending an educational institution. More information on this variable is available in the Engagement in Employment, Education and Training (EETP) Data Quality Statement.

For the purposes of this article, the total number of people who are either fully or partially engaged will be referred to as overall engagement. The rate of overall engagement for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and females was similar (55% and 52% respectively). However, males were more likely to be fully engaged than females (42% compared to 33%).

Where people live affects their levels of engagement. 4 in 10 (40%) people living in urban areas were fully engaged compared to 29 per cent of people living in non-urban areas. There was also considerable variation across the states and territories. Well over half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the ACT (58%) were fully engaged, with 73 per cent reporting they were engaged in some way. In contrast, 51 per cent of people living in the Northern Territory were not engaged in any education, employment and training.

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

15 to 24 year olds

Young adults' transition from school to continued study or full-time work can have long-term implications. Those who are not fully engaged in either education and/or work may be at increased risk of becoming long-term unemployed, underemployed or marginally attached to the labour force.

According to the 2016 Census, more than half (52%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 to 24 years were fully engaged in work or study, with little difference between males (53%) and females (52%) . People aged 15 to 24 years and living in urban areas (55%) were more likely to be fully engaged in work or study than those living in non-urban areas (42%).

In the last 10 years, however the rate of full engagement for persons 15 to 24 years increased from 46 per cent to 52 per cent, the rate of total engagement increased only marginally from 62 per cent to 65 per cent, and the proportion of people not engaged remains unchanged. This is due to a reduction in the partially engaged population and an improvement in response rates rather than a reduction in the number of people not engaged.

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2006 and 2016

Engagement and unpaid work

For information on unpaid work, including definitions, please refer to the related Unpaid work section.

The rest of this article will explore the interaction between formal engagement and unpaid work. For the purposes of this analysis, unpaid work includes any unpaid child care, volunteer work, or care for persons with a disability, as well as domestic work exceeding 5 hours per week.

In the 2016 Census, the amount of unpaid work reported by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons varied little in relation to their level of engagement. Just under 1 in 6 (58%) fully-engaged persons reported doing some type of unpaid work compared to 60 per cent of persons who were not engaged.

2 per cent of the population undertook all types of unpaid work regardless of their level of engagement. 40 per cent of the fully engaged population did no unpaid work. Just under 4 in 10 (38%) people who were not engaged in education, employment and training also did no unpaid work. This rate is slightly lower for the non-Indigenous population at 32 per cent.

Sex

Females were significantly more likely than males to do unpaid work regardless of their level of engagement. Around two thirds of fully engaged females (63%), engaged females (67%) and non-engaged females (68%) did some type of unpaid work. In contrast, just over half of fully engaged males (53%), engaged males (54%) and non-engaged males (51%) did some type of unpaid work.

While a marginally higher number of fully engaged males (29%) than females (28%) reported doing one type of unpaid work, fully engaged females were significantly more likely to do two or more types of unpaid work.

Unpaid work by sex by level of engagement, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Age

Age has an impact on an individual’s overall engagement, including unpaid work.

Considering retirement age, it’s not surprising that persons aged 65 years and over were more likely to be not engaged and not doing any unpaid work (39%). However, relative to other age groups, the proportion of people 65 years and over who were not engaged but who undertook one or more types of unpaid work was comparatively high.

People aged 15 to 24 years were more likely to be fully engaged but not doing any unpaid work (30%). 12 per cent of people in that age group were not engaged and not doing any unpaid work.

As people move into the middle of their lives, the volume of unpaid work they do increases. 15 per cent of people 25 to 44 were fully engaged and doing two more types of unpaid work. Only 11 per cent of people in this age group were not doing any work, study or unpaid work.

Unpaid work by age by level of engagement, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Disability

Core activity need for assistance

In the 2016 Census, 7 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported a core activity need for assistance. This increased slightly from 5 per cent in 2011 and 4 per cent in 2006.

The rate of need for assistance for Aboriginal people (7%) and Torres Strait Islander people (6%) is similar. In comparison, 5 per cent of the non-Indigenous population had a core activity need for assistance.

There is little variation between the sexes with males (7%) and females (6%) having similar rates for needs of assistance. There is also little variation across the States and Territories, with each State and Territory having similar levels of disability. Western Australia and the Northern Territory had the lowest rates at 5 per cent.

Most (69%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a core activity need for assistance lived in one-family households and 28 per cent were in couple families with children. However, more people (13%) with a need for assistance lived in lone-person households than those without a need for assistance (7%).

Core activity need for assistance, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

What is core activity need for assistance?

Core Activity Need for Assistance measures the number of people with a profound or severe disability. People with a profound or severe disability are defined as those people needing help or assistance in one or more of the three core activity areas of self-care, mobility and communication, because of a disability, long-term health condition (lasting six months or more) or old age. The Census uses a set of four questions to capture 'Core Activity Need for Assistance'. Responses to the individual questions are then combined to produce the single variable, Core Activity Need for Assistance.

Section of state and remoteness

People living in non-urban areas are less likely to have access to services that provide assistance to people who need help with their core activities. Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (513,000) live in urban areas. It is therefore not surprising that the majority of the population reporting a need for assistance are also in these regions (83%) compared to non-urban areas (17%). However, the rate of people requiring assistance in non-urban areas is much higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (17%) than it is for non-Indigenous people (9%).

Similarly, most of the 43,751 people reporting a need for assistance lived in Major Cities (41%) or Inner Regional Australia (28%), where the bulk of the population lives.

Need for assistance with core activities by remoteness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, 2016(a)

  Non-remote areasRemote areasAustralia(c)  
Major
Cities of
Australia
Inner
Regional 
Australia
Outer
Regional
Australia
Total
Non-remote
Remote
Australia
Very
Remote
Australia
Total
Remote(b)
  no. 
Has need for assistance18,06112,2348,19938,4952,1072,9685,07243,751
Does not have need for assistance214,301135,157111,099460,56134,93468,457103,388565,874
Total persons(c)242,529155,602127,874526,00940,21079,383119,595649,171
a. Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
b. Includes migratory-offshore-shipping and no usual address.
c. Includes not stated.

Note: Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016
 

Disability and ageing

The need for assistance with core activities increased with age and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is no exception. The reported need for assistance was 12 per cent in the 45 to 64 age group and increased to 27 per cent for persons 65 years and over. In contrast, rates in the non-Indigenous population stayed at 5 per cent or below until 64 years and increased to 18 per cent for people 65 years and over. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had higher rates across all age groups.

Australia

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

New South Wales

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Victoria

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Queensland

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

South Australia

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Western Australia

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Tasmania

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Northern Territory

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Australian Capital Territory

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


The age distribution of people needing assistance in Non-remote areas was very different to Remote areas. Of the people who needed assistance with core activities in Non-remote areas, 29% were aged 45-64 years and 20% were aged 5-14 years (compared to 36% and 34% respectively in Remote areas). However, in Remote areas, just over two-thirds (69%) were aged 45 years and over, compared with 47% in Non-remote areas.

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  1. Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
  2. Includes Remote and Very Remote Australia.

Note: Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.

Source(s): 2016 Census of Population and Housing

Education

Educational attendance and attainment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons

Educational attendance

3 to 17 year olds

In 2016, there were 218,776 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children between the ages of 3 and 17 years living in Australia. The large majority of 3 to 17 year old children (81%) were attending pre-school, primary school or secondary school. There was no significant difference in attendance between males and females.

School attendance increased across all age groups between 2006 and 2016. In particular, attendance for males and females in the 15 to 17 year age group increased by one third (37% and 33% respectively).

A number of States and Territories had lower school attendance than the national attendance rate of 81 per cent. They included Queensland (79%), Western Australia (77%) and Northern Territory (76%). Attendance was also marginally lower for children usually residing in non-urban areas of Australia (79%).

18 to 24 year olds

In 2016 there were 82,209 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people between the ages of 18 and 24 years living in Australia. Since the 2006 Census, attendance at Universities or other Tertiary Institutions increased for 18 to 24 year old males (from 4% to 7%) and females (from 7% to 12%). Over this 10 year period females were consistently more likely than males to attend a University or other Tertiary Institution.

9 out of 10 (92%) 18 to 24 year olds attending a University or other Tertiary Institution had completed Year 12 or equivalent, and nearly all (99%) had completed Year 10 or equivalent.

Further education attendance by sex, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, 18-24 years old, 2006 to 2016

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  1. Includes TAFE colleges

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2006, 2011 and 2016

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  1. Includes TAFE colleges

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2006, 2011 and 2016

Attendance at Universities or other Tertiary Institutions varied significantly across States and Territories. In the Australian Capital Territory almost 1 in 5 (19%) 18 to 24 year olds were attending either a University or other Tertiary Institution, followed by 14 per cent in Victoria. However, only 6 per cent attended in Western Australia and 2 per cent in the Northern Territory.

Those residing in urban areas of Australia were almost 3 times more likely than those residing in non-urban areas to attend a University or other Tertiary Institution (11% compared to 4%). They were also almost twice as likely to attend a Technical or Further Education Institution (7% compared to 4%).

Level of highest educational attainment

Between 2011 and 2016, the proportion of 20 to 64 year olds who did not attain a post-Year 12 level qualification decreased from 58 per cent to 50 per cent. At the same time, educational attainment increased across all types of higher non-school qualifications. In particular, the proportion having attained a Post Graduate Degree, Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate qualifications increased from 1 per cent to 2 per cent, or by 2,676 people.

Highest educational attainment in the Census

Level of Highest Educational Attainment (HEAP) was introduced as a new variable for the 2006 Census for the purposes of obtaining a single measure of educational attainment. HEAP is derived from information on the highest year of school completed and level of highest non-school qualification regardless of the particular field of study or the type of institution in which the study was undertaken. The derivation process determines which of the 'non-school' and 'school' attainments will be regarded as the highest. Usually the higher ranking attainment is self-evident, but in some cases secondary education is regarded as higher than some Certificate level attainments.

In 2016, 20 to 64 year old females were almost twice as likely as males to have attained a higher level non-school qualification than males. This was true for all tertiary level qualifications including Postgraduate qualifications (2% compared to 1%), Bachelor Degrees (7% compared to 4%), and Advanced Diploma or Diplomas (9% compared to 5%).

Males were more likely than females to have attained a Certificate III or Certificate IV (23% compared to 17%).

Highest educational attainment by sex, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, 20-64 years old, 2011 to 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011 and 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011 and 2016

The gap between male and female higher educational attainment is increasing. Between 2011 and 2016 the rate of growth across almost all levels of educational attainment was greater for females than males.

Educational attainment rate of growth (a) by sex, 20 to 64 years old, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, 2011 to 2016

 Postgraduate Degree,
Graduate Diploma or
Graduate Certificate
Bachelor DegreeAdvanced Diploma or
Diploma
Certificate level I to IVYear 12
 Growth 2011 to 2016 (%) 
Males127%118%135%119%110%
Females152%120%147%129%103%
a. To remove the impact that natural population growth may have, the Rate of Growth is calculated using the change in proportions (%) of the male/female population with a qualification, not the change in counts of male/female population with a qualification.

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011 and 2016
 

The Australian Capital Territory had the highest rate of higher level qualification attainment with one third (33%) of 20 to 64 year olds with a qualification at Advanced Diploma or Diploma level or above. They were followed by Victoria (20%), New South Wales (16%) and Queensland (14%). The Northern Territory had the lowest rate (5%) followed by Western Australia (10%).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons in urban areas were approximately twice as likely as those from non-urban areas to have attained:

  • a Post Graduate Degree, Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate (2% compared to 1%),
  • a Bachelor Degree (6% compared to 3%), and
  • an Advanced Diploma or Diploma (7% compared to 4%).
     

Persons usually residing in urban areas were also more likely to have attained a Certificate Level III/IV level qualification (21% compared to 16%).

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Field of study of highest non-school qualification

The Census asks persons who have a non-school qualification to specify the field of study for their highest completed qualification. The 2016 Census revealed that there was a clear divide between the fields of study that males and females completed. In 2016, qualifications for males were concentrated in the fields of Engineering and Related Technologies (21%) and Architecture (12%). Very few females had attained qualifications in these two fields (2% and 0% respectively).

In contrast, qualifications for females were most likely to be in the fields of Society and Culture (22%), and Management and Commerce (21%). A much smaller proportion of males completed studies in these two fields (8% each respectively).

Relative to males, a comparatively large proportion of females also gained qualifications in the fields of:

  • Health (12% compared to 4%),
  • Education (10% compared to 3%), and
  • Food Hospitality and Personal Services (8% compared to 4%).
     
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  1. Field of study is captured in the Census for a persons highest non school qualification.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Employment

Labour force participation

The 2016 Census found approximately 223,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were participating in the labour force (that is, they were employed or unemployed and looking for work). This represents a labour force participation rate of 52 per cent. Labour force participation has remained stable over the last ten years.

Males were more likely than females to be participating in the labour force (55% compared with 49%), as were people in urban areas, compared with those in non-urban areas (54% and 45%, respectively). Reflecting the normal working life cycle, the highest labour force participation rate was for those aged 25 to 44 years (60%), and the lowest for those aged 65 years and over (12%).

The highest labour force participation rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were in the Australian Capital Territory (68%), followed by Tasmania (57%), Victoria (56%), Queensland (55%) and New South Wales (54%). The Northern Territory had the lowest rates of labour force participation (37%), 10 percentage points below Western Australia (47%).

How labour force status is determined

Respondents to the 2016 Census were asked questions about: whether they worked last week; the hours worked; whether they were looking for work; and their availability to start work. These responses were used to determine if a person was employed, unemployed or not in the labour force.

The Census and the Labour Force Survey both collect information about labour market activity of persons aged 15 years and over. While both collections measure concepts related to employment, unemployment and being outside of the labour force, there are a number of differences between them. The fact sheet The 2016 Census and the Labour Force Survey outlines the strengths and key uses of each collection, as well as how the collections differ, and explains why the statistics produced in each of these two collections are not directly comparable.

Employment

The employment to population ratio shows the proportion of people within a population who are employed. In 2016, around 4 in 10 (42%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were employed (44% of males and 41% of females). This has remained stable over the last 10 years.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in urban areas were more likely than those in non-urban areas to be employed (45% compared with 35%). The employment to population ratio in major cities was 49 per cent, while for the rest of the country it was 39 per cent.

Non-Indigenous people in 2016 were 1.4 times more likely than Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be employed.

Full-time and part-time work

People who usually work 35 hours or more per week are considered to be working full-time. In 2016, a quarter (25%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were working full-time, and a further 14 per cent were working part-time.

While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males (44%) were only slightly more likely than females (41%) to be employed, females were much more likely to be in part-time work across all age groups.

Employment to population ratio by sex, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Australia, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

A larger proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in urban areas were working full-time (26%), compared with 20 per cent in non-urban areas.

Industry and occupation

According to the 2016 Census, most employed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians aged 15 years and over worked in health care and social assistance (14%) or public administration and safety (11%).

The most prevalent occupations were community and personal service worker (17%) and labourer (15%).

Top employing industries, 15 years and over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, 2016
Industry% of employed persons
Health Care and Social Assistance14%
Public Administration and Safety11%
Construction9%
Education and Training9%
Retail Trade9%
Accommodation and Food Services7%

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Top employing occupations, 15 years and over, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, 2016
Occupation% of employed persons
Community and Personal Service Workers17%
Labourers15%
Professionals13%
Technicians and Trade Workers13%
Clerical and Administrative Workers13%

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Unemployment

The unemployment rate is the percentage of unemployed people expressed as a proportion of people in the labour force. In 2016, the unemployment rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over was 18 per cent.

Unemployment has varied slightly over the last 10 years. In 2006, the unemployment rate was 16 per cent. It then increased to 20 per cent in 2011 before dropping slightly in 2016 (18%).

Community Development Programme

In the 2011 Census, participants in the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) were classified as employed. This scheme has since been replaced by the Community Development Programme (CDP). People participating only in this programme are not considered to be employed for the 2016 Census. For more information on this change please see the Community Development Programme Participation (CDPP) Data Quality Statement.

For the purposes of the time series in this article, 2011 CDEP participants have had their labour force status updated to unemployed.

Unemployment rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people generally decreased with age. Unemployment rates were highest among people aged 15 to 24 years (27%) and lowest for those aged 65 years and over (7%).

The unemployment rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were higher than those for non-Indigenous people, across all age groups. The difference was largest for young people aged 15 to 24 years (27% for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, compared with 14% for non-Indigenous people). The smallest difference was for those aged 65 years and over (7% compared with 3%).

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Males are slightly more likely to be unemployed than females across all age groups, although the difference is only between 1.1 and 1.3 times.

The unemployment rate was higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over in non-urban areas (21%) than in urban areas (17%). The States and Territories with the highest unemployment rates were the Northern Territory (27%) and Western Australia (22%). The Australian Capital Territory had the lowest rate of unemployment (9%) next to Tasmania (13%) and Victoria (14%). The Northern Territory’s high unemployment rate is influenced by its very high non-urban rate of 35 per cent.

Persons not in the labour force

In 2016, the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people not in the labour force was 44 per cent. This has remained stable over the last 10 years. Just over one third (35%) of the non-Indigenous population was not participating in the labour market.

Persons not in the labour force

People move in and out of the labour force for a number of reasons, including retirement or child rearing. Because the unemployment rate is calculated on the number of people in the labour force, then the proportion of people who are not participating can positively or negatively affect this number. The participation rate can also be an indicator of discouraged workers. These are people who want a job and are available for work but have given up looking for work because they believe they cannot find a job.

Half of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in non-urban areas were not in the labour force, compared to 43 per cent in urban areas. In the Northern Territory and Western Australia, 54 per cent and 48 per cent respectively were not in the labour force. In contrast, less than one third of people in the Australian Capital Territory are not participating in the labour force.

Females were more likely than males to be out of the labour force (48% versus 41%) across all age groups.

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

For those Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 years and over who said they spoke English as their main language at home, 42 per cent indicated they were not in the labour force. This increased to 56 per cent for people who said English was not their main language but who spoke English well or very well. For people who said they did not speak English well or at all, more than 70 per cent were not in the labour force.

Family composition

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households and families

In the Census, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander household is one in which at least one person usually resident in a dwelling identifies as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. There were 263,037 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households across Australia recorded in the 2016 Census, representing 3 per cent of total households. This is an increase from 209,050 (3%) in 2011. The number of people living in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households has also increased since 2011 to 858,937 (up from 704,858).

In 2016, 4 per cent of the population lived in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households, including approximately 250,000 non-Indigenous Australians.

Household composition

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households are primarily one family households (75%) with a further 5 per cent being multiple family households. Proportions between the different categories of household composition remain essentially unchanged since the 2011 Census.

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011 and 2016

Understanding household composition

A household is defined by the ABS as one or more persons, at least one of whom is at least 15 years of age, usually resident in the same private dwelling. Under this definition, all occupants of a dwelling form a household and complete one form. The Census forms asks a number of questions to allow the ABS to collect information on the household, including how persons are related to each other and if there is any person who usually lives in the dwelling but is away on Census night. 

 Household composition describes the type of household in each occupied private dwelling. This includes indicating if a family is present or not, whether it is a lone person household and whether or not unrelated members of the household are present. The ‘other not classifiable category’ includes those households which the ABS Field Officer determined were occupied on Census night but where the ABS Field Officer could not make contact; households that contained only persons aged under 15 years; or households which could not be classified elsewhere in this classification because there was insufficient information on the Census form. 

One family households

Most (79%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in one-family households in 2016. This has remained consistent since 2006. The majority of persons who lived in one-family households lived in urban areas (81%). Families who lived in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander one-family households were most likely to be couple families with children (41%) followed by one parent families (34%) and couple families with no children (22%).

The composition of one-family households is generally similar in Remote and Non-remote areas. Within one-family households, couple families in Remote areas were more likely than those in Non-remote areas to have children aged under 15 years (37% compared to 31%). One parent families in Non-remote areas were slightly more likely to have children aged under 15 years than one parent families in Remote areas (25% compared to 22%).

Understanding family composition

A family is defined by the ABS as two or more persons, one of whom is at least 15 years of age, who are related by blood, marriage (registered or de facto), adoption, step or fostering, and who are usually present in the same household. Each separately identified couple relationship, lone parent-child relationship or other blood relationship forms the basis of a family. Households in the Census can be allocated up to three families.

For more information on family concepts and coding rules please see Family Composition in the Census dictionary.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander one-family households were 2.5 times more likely to be one parent families than other one-family households. The majority of lone parents in these households were female (85%). Most lone parents had never married (60%), with a further 30 per cent having either separated or divorced.

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Multi-family households

Of the 62,261 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons living in multi-family households in 2016, 39 per cent lived in non-urban areas of Australia. In the Northern Territory 60 per cent of persons in multi-family households lived in non-urban areas, followed by Western Australia (51%) and South Australia (49%).

Australia

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

New South Wales

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Victoria

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Queensland

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

South Australia

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Western Australia

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Tasmania

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Northern Territory

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Australian Capital Territory

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing


Multi-family households in Remote areas were twice as likely as those in Non-remote areas to have a couple family with children aged under 15 years living there (33% compared to 15%). They were also less likely to consist of couples with no children (19% compared to 28%).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander multi-family households were more likely to be overcrowded than one-family households. Almost 30 per cent of multi-family households required two or more extra bedrooms to suitably house all usual residents, compared to 2 per cent of one-family households.

Most families in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander multi-family households were one parent families (44%), followed by couple families with children (29%) and couple families with no children (25%). The majority of lone parents in multi-family households were female (84%) and most had never married (69%). Female lone parents were also more likely to not be in the labour force (60%) than men (48%).

Grandparent families

In 2016, there were 11,038 grandparent families (4%) in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households. Most were lone grandparent families (56%) and most grandparent families were significantly more likely to be in one-family households (87%) than multi-family households.

The majority of grandparent families (65%) had grandchildren aged under 15 years. A further 24 per cent of families had non-dependent grandchildren aged over 15 years and a further 11 per cent had dependent student grandchildren aged over 15 years. The median age of grandparent carers was 58.

Grandparent family households in Non-remote areas were almost twice as likely as those in Remote areas to have dependent grandchildren aged over 15 years (12% compared to 7%). Grandparent carers in Non-remote areas also had a higher median age (59 years) than those in Remote areas (56 years).

What can the Census tell us about grandparent families?

A grandparent family is defined as any family where there is a grandparent/grandchild relationship but no parent/child relationship. There are three data items in the Census that can provide information on grandparent families – Grandparent Families (FMGF), Relationship in Household (including grandchildren) (RLGP) and Child Type (including grandchildren) CTGP). These variables cannot be used with standard family classifications.

Grandparent family variables are available on request or via TableBuilder Pro. For more information please see Grandparent Families in the Census dictionary.

Housing

Housing tenure, housing affordability, and housing suitability

Housing tenure

In the 2016 Census of Population and Housing, 56 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dwellings were rented, 26 per cent were owned with a mortgage and 12 per cent were owned outright. This is largely unchanged from 2011.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in capital cities were slightly less likely to be renting (54%) than households in the rest of Australia (58%). The Northern Territory had the highest rental rate with 75 per cent of dwellings rented. Tasmania had the lowest proportion of rented dwellings with 40 per cent.

Across all States and Territories, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households were between 1.7 and 2.4 times more likely than other households to live in rented dwellings.

Australia

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  1. Includes dwellings being purchased under a shared equity scheme, dwellings being occupied rent-free, dwellings being occupied under a life tenure scheme and dwellings with other tenure types.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011 and 2016

New South Wales

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  1. Includes dwellings being purchased under a shared equity scheme, dwellings being occupied rent-free, dwellings being occupied under a life tenure scheme and dwellings with other tenure types.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011 and 2016

Victoria

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  1. Includes dwellings being purchased under a shared equity scheme, dwellings being occupied rent-free, dwellings being occupied under a life tenure scheme and dwellings with other tenure types.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011 and 2016

Queensland

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  1. Includes dwellings being purchased under a shared equity scheme, dwellings being occupied rent-free, dwellings being occupied under a life tenure scheme and dwellings with other tenure types.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011 and 2016

South Australia

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  1. Includes dwellings being purchased under a shared equity scheme, dwellings being occupied rent-free, dwellings being occupied under a life tenure scheme and dwellings with other tenure types.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011 and 2016

Western Australia

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  1. Includes dwellings being purchased under a shared equity scheme, dwellings being occupied rent-free, dwellings being occupied under a life tenure scheme and dwellings with other tenure types.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011 and 2016

Tasmania

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  1. Includes dwellings being purchased under a shared equity scheme, dwellings being occupied rent-free, dwellings being occupied under a life tenure scheme and dwellings with other tenure types.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011 and 2016

Northern Territory

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  1. Includes dwellings being purchased under a shared equity scheme, dwellings being occupied rent-free, dwellings being occupied under a life tenure scheme and dwellings with other tenure types.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011 and 2016

Australian Capital Territory

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  1. Includes dwellings being purchased under a shared equity scheme, dwellings being occupied rent-free, dwellings being occupied under a life tenure scheme and dwellings with other tenure types.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011 and 2016


Respondents were also asked about how they rented their dwelling. Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households rented through a real estate agent (43%). A further 32 per cent rented from State and Territory housing authorities and 14 per cent rented privately from a person not in the same household.

What does the Census tell us about housing?

The Census collects a range of data about dwellings, which can be used to provide a picture of housing in Australia. Data on dwelling is collected both through enumeration processes and the Census form.

During enumeration key characteristics about dwellings including their location, structure and type are collected. The Census form asks respondents to provide information on the dwelling’s tenure, housing costs and some further key characteristics such as the number of bedrooms in the dwelling and internet accessibility.

For more information on dwelling data available from the Census, please see the Census Dictionary.

Median mortgage and rent payments

Aboriginal and Torres Strait households with a mortgage paid a median monthly payment of $1,660. Households in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory had the highest median mortgage payment ($2,167), while households in Tasmania had the lowest median payment ($1,300).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households that were rented had a median monthly rent payment of $1,083. Households rented in the Australian Capital Territory had the highest median monthly rent ($1,560), while households rented in the Northern Territory had the lowest median payment ($420).

Housing affordability

Census data can be used to provide a measure of the proportion of a household’s income that is spent on mortgage or rent repayments. This measure is imperfect due to the limited income data collected by the Census, however it does provide an indication of housing affordability.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households that owned with a mortgage were less likely than other households to be paying more than 30 per cent of household income on their mortgage (5% compared to 7%). Households in Western Australia were most likely to be in mortgage stress (6%), primarily due to levels of mortgage stress in urban areas (6%). Householders in the Northern Territory were least likely to be in mortgage stress (3%), however it is important to consider this in the context of the low rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households with mortgages in the Northern Territory (12%).

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  1. Mortgage Stress is defined as households that, based on their Census responses paid more than thirty per cent of household income on mortgage payments. Excludes households where proportion of income spent on mortgage payments couldn't be determined.
  2. Areas are deemed to be urban if they have a population of more than 1,000 people. Areas are deemed to be non-urban if they are a bounded locality of between 200 and 1,000 people or are in a rural area. Non-urban areas do not include migratory, offshore or shipping.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households that rented were almost twice as likely as other households to be paying more than 30 per cent of household income on rent. This is driven by high levels of rental stress in urban areas in all States and Territories. Households in Queensland were most likely to be in rental stress (25% of all households) closely followed by households in New South Wales (24%) and South Australia (24%). Households in the Australian Capital Territory were least likely to be in rental stress (14% of all households).

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  1. Rental Stress is defined as households that, based on their Census responses paid more than thirty per cent of household income on rent payments. Excludes households where proportion of income spent on rental payments couldn't be determined.
  2. Areas are deemed to be urban if they have a population of more than 1,000 people. Areas are deemed to be non-urban if they are a bounded locality of between 200 and 1,000 people or are in a rural area. Non-urban areas do not include migratory, offshore or shipping.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Housing suitability

The ABS introduced a new Housing Suitability measure for the 2016 Census. It is calculated based on the number of bedrooms in a dwelling and the household's demographics. This measure is based on the Canadian Nation Occupancy Standard (CNOS), which is widely used both in Australia and internationally. For more information on this measure please see the the Census Dictionary.

In the 2016 Census, almost one fifth of persons living in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households (18%) lived in dwellings that required one or more additional bedrooms. Overcrowding was worse in non-urban areas (28%) than in urban areas with (16%).

The Northern Territory had the highest level of overcrowding with 53 per cent of dwellings requiring one or more additional bedrooms, followed by Western Australia (20%) and Queensland (17%). The Australian Capital Territory had the lowest level of overcrowding with 9 per cent of dwellings requiring one or more additional bedrooms.

Australia

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  1. Areas are deemed to be urban if they have a population of more than 1,000 people. Areas are deemed to be non-urban if they are a bounded locality of between 200 and 1,000 people or are in a rural area. Non-urban areas do not include migratory, offshore or shipping.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

New South Wales

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  1. Areas are deemed to be urban if they have a population of more than 1,000 people. Areas are deemed to be non-urban if they are a bounded locality of between 200 and 1,000 people or are in a rural area. Non-urban areas do not include migratory, offshore or shipping.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Victoria

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  1. Areas are deemed to be urban if they have a population of more than 1,000 people. Areas are deemed to be non-urban if they are a bounded locality of between 200 and 1,000 people or are in a rural area. Non-urban areas do not include migratory, offshore or shipping.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Queensland

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  1. Areas are deemed to be urban if they have a population of more than 1,000 people. Areas are deemed to be non-urban if they are a bounded locality of between 200 and 1,000 people or are in a rural area. Non-urban areas do not include migratory, offshore or shipping.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

South Australia

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  1. Areas are deemed to be urban if they have a population of more than 1,000 people. Areas are deemed to be non-urban if they are a bounded locality of between 200 and 1,000 people or are in a rural area. Non-urban areas do not include migratory, offshore or shipping.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Western Australia

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  1. Areas are deemed to be urban if they have a population of more than 1,000 people. Areas are deemed to be non-urban if they are a bounded locality of between 200 and 1,000 people or are in a rural area. Non-urban areas do not include migratory, offshore or shipping.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Tasmania

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  1. Areas are deemed to be urban if they have a population of more than 1,000 people. Areas are deemed to be non-urban if they are a bounded locality of between 200 and 1,000 people or are in a rural area. Non-urban areas do not include migratory, offshore or shipping.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Northern Territory

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  1. Areas are deemed to be urban if they have a population of more than 1,000 people. Areas are deemed to be non-urban if they are a bounded locality of between 200 and 1,000 people or are in a rural area. Non-urban areas do not include migratory, offshore or shipping.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Australian Capital Territory

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  1. Areas are deemed to be urban if they have a population of more than 1,000 people. Areas are deemed to be non-urban if they are a bounded locality of between 200 and 1,000 people or are in a rural area. Non-urban areas do not include migratory, offshore or shipping.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Non-private dwellings

While the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons counted on Census night were staying in private dwellings (95%), approximately 30,000 were enumerated in non-private dwellings. The Census defines a non-private dwelling as an establishment which provides a communal type of accommodation such as boarding houses, hotels, hospitals and prisons.

Of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons counted non-private dwellings on Census night, 36 per cent were in prisons, 12 per cent in hotels, motels or bed and breakfasts, 11 per cent in staff quarters and 10 per cent were in boarding schools.

2016 Census data showed that 1 in 60 persons who identified as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander in the Census were counted in prisons compared to 1 in 749 persons who identified as non-Indigenous.

Despite making up 3 per cent of the total population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represented 27 per cent of persons counted in prisons on Census night.

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Income

Total personal weekly income

In the 2016 Census of Population and Housing, 18 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over reported a total personal weekly income of $1000 or more. This is 5 percentage points higher than 2011 (13%), not accounting for inflation.

Almost 1 in 5 (19%) per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over and living in urban areas reported a total personal weekly income of $1,000 or more per week compared to 12 per cent in non-urban areas.

Females were more likely than males to report incomes between $300 and $799. There were significantly more males reporting total weekly incomes of more than $1000 (21% compared to 14%).

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

In the Australian Capital Territory, 38 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over reported a total personal weekly income of $1,000 or more. Western Australian and Victoria were the next highest (20%) followed by New South Wales (19%). The Northern Territory had the lowest proportion earning $1,000 or more each week (11%). In each State or Territory a higher proportion of males than females reported a personal weekly income of $1,000 or more.

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Age

Median income was highest in the 35 to 44 year age group ($625 per week) followed by the 25 to 34 year age group ($596 per week) and the 45 to 54 year age group ($579 per week). The 15 to 24 year age group (the largest age group), had the lowest median income ($213 per week).

The median age of persons who earned nil income was 17 years and the median age of persons who earned negative income was 22 years.

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Highest educational attainment

More than half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over with a Bachelor degree or higher reported a total personal weekly income of $1,000 or more (59%). This was similar to non-Indigenous persons with university qualifications who earned $1000 per week or more (57%).

Those with a Certificate III or IV level (30%) qualification were twice as likely as those whose highest educational attainment of Year 12 (15%) to have a weekly income of $1,000 or more.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons with Certificate I and II qualifications or with Year 9 and below school qualifications were more likely to have lower incomes. Certificate I and II qualification holders had a median income of $370 per week and persons with Year 9 or below school qualifications had a median income of $371 per week.

Income per week by educational attainment, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Australia, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Industry

The Mining industry had the highest proportion (87%) of employees earning $1,000 or more per week. The next highest industries were Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services (68%) and Public Administration and Safety (62%). These three industries also had workers earning the highest median incomes: $1,887, $1,254 and $1,169. In total, there were six industries with persons who had a median income of $1000 or more a week.

There were two industries where workers had a median income of less than $600 a week, Accommodation and Food Services ($440 per week) and Retail Trade ($544 per week). Accommodation and Food Services also had the highest proportion (21%) of persons earning between $1 to$149 per week.

Occupation

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons working in Manager (62%) or Professional (62%) occupations were most likely to earn $1000 or more a week. They, along with workers in Machinery Operators and Drivers occupations were the only three occupation groups with median income higher than $1,000 per week.

Sales workers was the lowest earning occupation group with a median income of $471 per week. Labourers ($663) was the only other occupation group where median income was below $700 per week. Sales workers also had the highest proportion (19%) of persons earning between $1 to $149 per week.

Household income

The median weekly household income of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in 2016 was $1,203. The Australian Capital Territory had the highest median weekly household income ($1,872), followed by the Northern Territory ($1,224) and Queensland ($1,222).

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011 and 2016

Equivalised total household income

Almost three-quarters (71%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households reported an equivalised household income of under $1,000 a week in the 2016 Census. The largest proportion of households (12%) were in the $1,000 to $1,249 range.

Almost 8 in 10 (78%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in non-urban areas reported an equivalised total weekly household income under $1000. In comparison, 70 per cent of households in urban areas reported an equivalised total weekly household income under $1,000.

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

What is Equivalised total household income?

Equivalised total household income is household income adjusted by the application of an equivalence scale to facilitate comparison of income levels between households of differing size and composition, reflecting that a larger household would normally need more income than a smaller household to achieve the same standard of living.

States and territories

The Australian Capital Territory had the highest proportion (55%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households with an equivalised total weekly household income of $1,000 or more. South Australia and Tasmania were the lowest at 23 per cent and 24 per cent respectively.

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2011 and 2016

Internal migration

The Census of Population and Housing collects information on where people usually live at the time of the Census, where they usually lived a year prior to the Census and where they usually lived five years ago. In combination, this information can be used to determine the extent of movement or internal migration within Australia.

In 2016, 649,171 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in Australia up from 548,368 in 2011. Of these, 94 per cent were at home on Census night and 6 per cent reported they were elsewhere in Australia.

Understanding internal migration data items

A person’s usual residence is the place where a person usually lives. This can be different to the place a person filled in their Census form. For example, if a person was travelling to Darwin for work on Census night but lived in Perth, their usual address would be in Perth, not in Darwin.

Census person counts are produced on a usual residence basis as they are less likely to be influenced by seasonal factors such as school holidays and snow seasons, and provide information that is more relevant for long term planning.

Usual residence data also provides information on the internal migration patterns at the state and regional levels.

For the 2016 Census the following usual residence variables are available:

  • Place of Usual Residence (PURP)
  • Place of Usual Residence One Year Ago (PUR1P)
  • Place of Usual Residence Five Years Ago (PUR5P).


The information acquired from the answers to the usual residence questions is also used to create the usual residence indicator variables, these variables indicate if a person lived at the same address one and/or five years ago or lived elsewhere in Australia or Overseas:

  • Usual Address Indicator Census Night (UAICP)
  • Usual Address One Year Ago Indicator (UAI1P)
  • Usual Address Five Years Ago Indicator (UAI5P).

Internal migration in the year prior to Census (2015 to 2016)

Most (75%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 1 year and over did not change their usual residence between 2015 and 2016 while 120,366 (19%) people did. A small number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were overseas one year ago (1,058 or 0.2%), and a further 6 per cent (39,219) did not state their usual residence in 2015.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in non-urban areas were less likely to have relocated elsewhere in Australia (14%) than those living in urban areas (20%). The majority of people (64%) lived in households where no residents had moved in the last year.

Interstate migration (2015 to 2016)

The majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who lived elsewhere in Australia in 2015, moved within the State or Territory they lived in (91%). For persons moving interstate, New South Wales (29%) and Queensland (26%) were the most popular destinations.

The median age of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons who moved interstate in the last year was 22 years old. Those most likely to have moved interstate were children aged 1 to 14 years (29%) closely followed by those aged 15 to 24 years (26%). Interstate migrants were more likely to have a university degree than the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (11% compared to 6%). They were also more likely to be in the labour force with only 36 per cent of interstate migrants not in the labour force compared to 44 per cent of the general population. However, the rate of unemployment of interstate migrants is higher at 24 per cent compared to 18 per cent.

The largest interstate migration relationship was between New South Wales and Queensland with 52 per cent of people who moved to New South Wales coming from Queensland and 53 per cent of people who moved to Queensland originating from New South Wales. Overall, 28% of the total number of people who moved interstate, moved between these two States. There were also strong interstate migration relationships between New South Wales and Victoria (10% of total interstate migrants) and Queensland and the Northern Territory (8% of total interstate migrants).

Interstate migrants, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, 2015 to 2016 (a)(b)(c)

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  1. Excludes migratory, offshore, shipping and no usual address.
  2. Excludes not stated to question on usual residence one year ago.
  3. Excludes people who migrated within their own state (intrastate migration).

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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  1. Excludes migratory, offshore, shipping and no usual address.
  2. Excludes not stated to question on usual residence one year ago.
  3. Excludes people who migrated within their own state (intrastate migration).

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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  1. Excludes migratory, offshore, shipping and no usual address.
  2. Excludes not stated to question on usual residence one year ago.
  3. Excludes people who migrated within their own state (intrastate migration).

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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  1. Excludes migratory, offshore, shipping and no usual address.
  2. Excludes not stated to question on usual residence one year ago.
  3. Excludes people who migrated within their own state (intrastate migration).

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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  1. Excludes migratory, offshore, shipping and no usual address.
  2. Excludes not stated to question on usual residence one year ago.
  3. Excludes people who migrated within their own state (intrastate migration).

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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  1. Excludes migratory, offshore, shipping and no usual address.
  2. Excludes not stated to question on usual residence one year ago.
  3. Excludes people who migrated within their own state (intrastate migration).

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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  1. Excludes migratory, offshore, shipping and no usual address.
  2. Excludes not stated to question on usual residence one year ago.
  3. Excludes people who migrated within their own state (intrastate migration).

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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  1. Excludes migratory, offshore, shipping and no usual address.
  2. Excludes not stated to question on usual residence one year ago.
  3. Excludes people who migrated within their own state (intrastate migration).

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

When interstate arrivals and departures are examined in tandem, we can see that Queensland had the highest net inflow of interstate migrants (gaining 445 persons) between 2015 and 2016. In contrast, despite the high number of arrivals, New South Wales had a net inflow of -637 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Victoria had the second highest net inflow (285 people), while the Northern Territory and Western Australia had negative net inflows and lost residents.

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  1. Arrivals minus departures

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Capital city migration (2015 to 2016)

Between 2015 and 2016, most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who moved their usual residence did so within their own region. More than four fifths (85%) of people who moved from a capital city moved to another capital city, and 89 per cent of people that moved from a rest of State area moved to another rest of State area.

People who moved interstate were much more likely to move between capital cities and rest of State areas with 46 per cent of persons who moved interstate from a capital city moved to another capital city (compared to 88 per cent of intrastate moves). The same was true for people moving from rest of State areas where for intrastate migrants 92 per cent moved to another rest of State area compared to 64 per cent of interstate migrants.

Over one year, persons who moved to a capital city and persons who moved to the regions had a similar median age (22 years old and 23 years old). Those who moved to a capital city were more likely to be employed (52%) than those who moved to rest of State areas (41%). Those who relocated to a region were also more likely to be not in the labour force (46%) than those who moved to a capital city (38%). Year 12 completion was also higher amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons who moved to capital cities than those who moved to rest of State areas (38% compared to 27%).

Brisbane (30%) was the most popular destination for persons moving to a capital city from a rest of State area followed by Sydney (20%) and Perth (17%). Brisbane had the highest proportion of persons moving from an interstate rest of State (27%) followed by Melbourne (16%) and the Australian Capital Territory (12%).

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Overseas migration (2015 to 2016)

A small proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (0.2%) were living overseas in 2015. These persons primarily moved to New South Wales (35%), Queensland (28%) and Victoria (12%) and had a median age of 27 years old.

Internal migration between Census years (2011 to 2016)

The 2016 Census showed that 51 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons had the same usual address five years ago as they did in 2016. A further 42 per cent had moved from elsewhere in Australia in 2011 and a small number were overseas five years ago (0.3%). A further 7 per cent did not state their usual residence in 2011.

Interstate migration (2011 to 2016)

Of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons who lived elsewhere in Australia in 2011, the majority moved within the State or Territory that they lived in (89%). Of the persons who moved interstate New South Wales was the most likely destination (30%) followed by Queensland (26%) and Victoria (10%). The Australian Capital Territory was the least likely destination (3%) along with Tasmania (4%) and South Australia (6%).

Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons who moved interstate between 2011 and 2016 were aged 5 to 14 years in 2016 (25%) closely followed by persons aged 15 to 24 years (24%) and persons aged 25 to 34 years (21%). Interstate migrants were more likely to have a university degree than the general Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (11% compared to 6%). They were also more likely to be in the labour force with only 35 per cent of interstate migrants not in the labour force compared to 44 per cent of the general population.

The largest interstate migration relationship was between New South Wales and Queensland with 52 per cent of people who moved to New South Wales coming from Queensland and 56 per cent of people who moved to Queensland coming from New South Wales. Almost one third (29%) of the total number of people who moved interstate moved between these two States. There were also strong interstate migration relationships between New South Wales and Victoria (9% of total interstate migrants) and Queensland and the Northern Territory (8% of total interstate migrants).

Interstate migrants, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, 2011 to 2016 (a)(b)(c)

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  1. Excludes migratory, offshore, shipping and no usual address.
  2. Excludes not stated to question on usual residence one year ago.
  3. Excludes people who migrated within their own state (intrastate migration).

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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  1. Excludes migratory, offshore, shipping and no usual address.
  2. Excludes not stated to question on usual residence one year ago.
  3. Excludes people who migrated within their own state (intrastate migration).

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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  1. Excludes migratory, offshore, shipping and no usual address.
  2. Excludes not stated to question on usual residence one year ago.
  3. Excludes people who migrated within their own state (intrastate migration).

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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  1. Excludes migratory, offshore, shipping and no usual address.
  2. Excludes not stated to question on usual residence one year ago.
  3. Excludes people who migrated within their own state (intrastate migration).

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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  1. Excludes migratory, offshore, shipping and no usual address.
  2. Excludes not stated to question on usual residence one year ago.
  3. Excludes people who migrated within their own state (intrastate migration).

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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  1. Excludes migratory, offshore, shipping and no usual address.
  2. Excludes not stated to question on usual residence one year ago.
  3. Excludes people who migrated within their own state (intrastate migration).

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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  1. Excludes migratory, offshore, shipping and no usual address.
  2. Excludes not stated to question on usual residence one year ago.
  3. Excludes people who migrated within their own state (intrastate migration).

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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  1. Excludes migratory, offshore, shipping and no usual address.
  2. Excludes not stated to question on usual residence one year ago.
  3. Excludes people who migrated within their own state (intrastate migration).

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

A combination of arrivals and departures to and from each State can be used to produce a picture of the impacts of internal migration on population change within each State. When departures are subtracted from arrivals it shows that Queensland had the highest population increase due to internal migration between 2011 and 2016 (1,516 people). Victoria recorded the second highest increase (914 people) followed by South Australia, Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia, which all had similar increases.

The remaining States recorded population decreases as a result of internal migration, with the largest decrease in New South Wales (-2,012 people). The Northern Territory recorded the second largest decrease (-964 people), with Tasmania the only other State to record a decrease (-197 people).

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  1. Arrivals minus departures.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Capital city migration (2011 to 2016)

The 2016 Census showed that 55 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons who had changed their usual address since 2011 moved from a non-capital city area to another non-capital city area. A further 30 per cent of persons moved between capital cities. Most persons who moved either rest of State to rest of State, or capital city to capital city, moved within their own State (92% and 93% respectively).

The remaining 15 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons who had moved usual address since 2011 moved between capital cities and rest of State. More persons moved to a capital city (54%) than from a capital city (45%), however approximately two thirds of both groups moved within their own State.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons who moved to a capital city had a younger median age (22 years old) compared to persons who moved to rest of State (27 years old). Persons who moved to a capital city were also slightly more likely to be employed than those who moved to rest of State areas (51% compared to 49%) particularly persons who moved from interstate (57% compared to 52%). Year 12 completion was also higher amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons who moved to capital cities than those who moved to rest of State areas (45% compared to 39%).

Brisbane (30%) was the most popular destination for persons moving to a capital city from a rest of State area followed by Sydney (20%) and Perth (16%). Melbourne had the highest proportion of persons moving from an interstate rest of State (54%) followed by Darwin (45%) and Adelaide (44%).

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Sydney (29%) was the most likely capital city for people to have moved from to a rest of State area followed by Brisbane (26%) and Perth (15%). Brisbane had the highest proportion of persons who moved to an interstate rest of State area (22%) followed by Sydney (18%) and Darwin (16%).

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Overseas migration (2011 to 2016)

A small proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons (0.3%) were living overseas in 2011. These persons primarily moved to New South Wales (33%), Queensland (29%) and Victoria (14%), were marginally more likely to be male (54%) and had a median age of 31 years old.

Language

Main language spoken at home and English proficiency

Main language spoken at home

Between 1991 and 2016, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples reporting English as their main language spoken at home increased from 79 per cent to 84 per cent. In contrast, the proportion of non-Indigenous people who spoke English at home decreased over the same period, from 84 per cent to 77 per cent.

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing 1991,1996, 2001, 2011 and 2016.

Since 1991, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who reported speaking an Australian Indigenous language at home decreased from 16 per cent to 10 per cent. In the 2016 Census, 63,754 persons reported speaking an Australian Indigenous language at home.

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing 1991,1996, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016

In 2016, those who identified only as Torres Strait Islanders (20%) were around twice as likely to speak an Australian Indigenous language at home compared to those who identified as both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (11%) and those identifying as Aboriginal only (9%).

There were more than 150 Australian Indigenous languages spoken at home, reflecting the linguistic diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. Of the 10 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (or 63,754 people) who spoke an Australian Indigenous language at home, the largest proportion (18%) spoke Other Australian Indigenous Languages (primarily driven by Kriol speakers), followed by languages from the Arnhem Land and Daly River Region (16%), Torres Strait Island languages (12%), Western Desert languages (11%) and Yolngu Matha languages (11%).

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

A small proportion (10,402 or approximately 2%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons reported speaking a language other than English or an Australian Indigenous language at home.

Geographic distribution

In 2016, 9 out of 10 (90%) people in urban areas of Australia spoke English at home, whereas only 1 in 20 (5%) spoke an Australian Indigenous language. In contrast, people usually residing in non-urban areas were much less likely to speak English at home (63%) and much more likely to speak an Australian Indigenous language (29%).

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

This pattern can also be seen across Remoteness areas. People living in Very Remote Australia were far less likely than those living in Major Cities to speak English at home (32% compared to 94%) and much more likely to speak an Australian Indigenous language at home (58% compared to 1%). This trend has changed little over the last few Censuses.

Main language spoken at home by remoteness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, 2016(a)

                      Non-remote areas               Remote areas Australia(c)
  Major Cities of AustraliaInner Regional AustraliaOuter Regional AustraliaTotal
Non-remote
 Remote AustraliaVery Remote AustraliaTotal Remote(b) 
   Per cent (%)
Australian Indigenous Languages(d)1.31.13.51.8 19.558.345.3 9.8
 Arnhem Land and Daly River Region Languages0.30.1 5.89.48.1 1.6
 Yolngu Matha0.2 0.18.15.4 1.0
 Cape York Peninsula Languages0.20.1 2.41.82.0 0.4
 Torres Strait Island Languages0.20.11.10.3 0.37.04.7 1.2
 Northern Desert Fringe Area Languages0.1 0.84.23.1 0.6
 Arandic 3.34.03.8 0.7
 Western Desert Languages0.10.20.1 1.27.75.5 1.1
 Kimberley Area Languages 0.21.10.8 0.2
 Other Australian Indigenous Languages0.50.60.80.6 2.78.76.7 1.7
English93.794.189.492.7 72.932.345.9 83.9
Total number of persons(e)242,529155,602127,874526,009 40,21079,383119,595 649,171
a. Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
b. Includes Remote and Very Remote Australia.
c. Includes migratory-offshore-shipping and no usual address.
d. Includes Australian Indigenous Languages nfd.
e. Includes other languages, supplementary codes and not stated. For further information on the language classification used in the 2016 Census, see Census of Population and Housing: Census Dictionary, 2016 (ABS cat. no. 2901.0).
— Nil or rounded to zero.

Note: Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016
 

More than half (60%) of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population living in the Northern Territory reported speaking an Australian Indigenous language in 2016. This was almost 5 times the rate of the next highest state, Western Australia (13%). Only 1 per cent of people living in New South Wales and Victoria spoke an Australian Indigenous language.

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People in non-urban areas were more likely to report speaking an Australian Indigenous language at home. The Northern Territory had significantly more people living in non-urban areas (49%) than the next two states: Western Australia (27%) and Tasmania (27%).

Age and sex

The overall proportion of males and females who reported speaking an Australian Indigenous language at home was comparable. There was little difference between males and females across age groups.

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  1. Excludes persons who did not state English proficiency.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

English proficiency

The majority (63%) of people who spoke a language other than English at home reported they spoke English ‘Very Well’. Similar proportions of males (86%) and females (88%) reported speaking English ‘Well’ or ‘Very Well’. From 65 years onward, reported English proficiency drops considerably for both sexes. Around two thirds of women (59%) aged over 85 years reported they spoke English ‘Well’ or ‘Very Well’ compared to 69% of men.

English proficiency and the Census

For each person who speaks a language other than English at home, this variable classifies their self-assessed proficiency in spoken English.

Responses to the question on proficiency in English are subjective. For example, one respondent may consider that a response of 'Well' is appropriate if they can communicate well enough to do the shopping while another respondent may consider such a response appropriate only for people who can hold a social conversation. Proficiency in spoken English should be regarded as an indicator of a person's ability to speak English rather than a definitive measure of his/her ability and should be interpreted with care.

For people who spoke an Australian Indigenous language as their main language at home, the proportion reporting speaking English ‘Well’ or ‘Very Well’ increased steadily between the 2001 and 2016 Census from 73 per cent to 85 per cent. It also increased from 71 per cent to 77 per cent over the same period for peoples who spoke a language other than English or an Australian Indigenous language at home.

About one in eight (13%) people in Very Remote Australia who spoke an Australian Indigenous language as their main language at home reported that they spoke English ‘Not well’ or ‘Not at all’. This was slightly higher than Remote and Outer Regional Australia (7% respectively) and substantially higher than Major Cities and Inner Regional Australia (4% and 3% respectively).

The majority (89%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over with a Bachelor degree or higher reported speaking English ‘Very well’. This compared to:

  • 80 per cent of those who had attained a Diploma or Advanced Diploma,
  • 74 per cent of those who had obtained a Certificate III or Certificate IV,
  • 58 per cent of those who had attained a Certificate I, Certificate II or Year 12 Certificate or below, and
  • 32 per cent of those who reported achieving no level of educational attainment at all.

Unpaid work

Child care, domestic work, volunteering and caring for people with a disability

For the purposes of this article, unpaid work is defined as any domestic household work, unpaid child care, volunteering or unpaid care for those with a disability that is done without compensation.

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians performing unpaid work has varied little over the past 10 years. Females are more likely than males to perform all types of unpaid work. The largest differences were in child care (38% of females, 25% of males) and domestic work (67% of females, 55% of males).

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Caring for children

In the 2016 Census, 32 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over provided unpaid childcare, down from 33 per cent in 2011 and 2006. In contrast, 29 per cent of non-Indigenous people provided care.

Of those who provided care, 65 per cent cared only for their own children and 30 per cent cared for someone else’s children. In the non-Indigenous population, 72 per cent cared for their own children and 28 per cent for someone else's children.

Domestic work

In 2016, 61 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over performed unpaid domestic work, compared to 60 per cent in 2011 and 58 per cent in 2006. Just under 4 in 10 (39%) did 5 or more hours of domestic work.

One third of males reported they do no domestic work (33%) compared to one quarter of females (25%). Almost half of females (49%) did 5 or more hours, with 13 per cent doing 30 hours or more. In contrast, less than one third (29%) of males did 5 or more hours, with 4 per cent doing 30 hours or more.

Assistance to a person with a disability

In the 2016 Census, 14 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people provided unpaid assistance to a person with a disability, a slight increase from 13 per cent in 2011 and 11 per cent in 2006. Rates for non-Indigenous people were similar at 12 per cent.

Females (17%) were more likely than males (11%) to provide unpaid assistance.

Volunteering

In the 2016 Census, 15 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people did some kind of volunteer work, up from 13 per cent in 2011 and 2006. In comparison, one fifth (20%) of non-Indigenous people did some kind of voluntary work in the last 12 months.

Rates of volunteering for males (13%) and females (16%) were similar.

What is unpaid work?

Questions on unpaid work were first asked in the 2006 Census and then repeated in 2011 and 2016. Four questions were asked in the Census form to cover different forms of unpaid work undertaken by persons aged 15 years or older.

The questions asked if the respondent had spent time doing:

  • unpaid domestic work for their household in the last week
  • unpaid care, help or assistance to persons with a disability, a long-term illness or problems related to old age, in the last two weeks
  • unpaid care to their own or other people's children aged less than 15 years in the last two weeks
  • unpaid voluntary work through an organisation or group, in the last 12 months

Combined measure of unpaid work

To examine overall participation in unpaid work, the four different types of unpaid work need to be examined together. This combined item shows how many types of unpaid work an individual reported being involved in. For the purposes of this analysis, people who did less than five hours of domestic work per week have been excluded.

Of the four types of unpaid work, only 2 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and 1 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians reported that they participated in all four types of unpaid work. Just over 1 in 4 (26%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people undertook at least one type of unpaid work. 36 per cent did no unpaid work of any type.

Sex

Males were more likely to report doing no unpaid work (42%) than females (30%). A greater proportion of females than males reported they did one, two, three or all types of unpaid work. Females were almost twice as likely to be involved in two or more types of unpaid work than males (38% compared to 22%). This was predominately due to child care and domestic work.

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

More than half (56%) of males aged 15 to 24 years did no unpaid work, compared to 44 per cent of females in that age group.

The proportion of males who undertook two or more types of unpaid work increased to 29 per cent in the 25 to 44 year age group (from 11% for 15 to 24 year olds) and declined to 26 per cent for the 45 to 64 year age group. In contrast, 53 per cent of females in the 25 to 44 year age group undertook more than two types of unpaid work. 1 in 4 (39%) females 45 to 64 years reported they did two or more types of unpaid work.

States and territories

The proportion of people who participated in unpaid work is similar across all States and Territories. The exception is the Northern Territory, which had the lowest rate of people who stated they did no unpaid work (29%). The Northern Territory and Western Australia had higher rates of non-response than the other states.

Participation in unpaid work, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Employment status

Of the working age population (15 to 64 years) who undertook all types of unpaid work, most (53%) were employed, while 32 per cent were not in the labour force. Only 14 per cent of the people who reported they did all four types of unpaid work were unemployed.

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Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

The distribution of unpaid work for unemployed persons was the same as for employed people. In contrast, working age people who were not in the labour force were less likely to do unpaid work, with almost 4 in 10 (39%) stating they did no unpaid work at all. This compares to 32 per cent of unemployed people and 34 per cent of those who were employed. The rate of females who said they did two or more types of unpaid work was much higher than that of males regardless of their labour force status.

2016 Census storybooks

The ABS published hardcopy 2016 Census storybooks for selected regions with a high proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They explore insights the Census provides on a range of important topics including Housing, Employment, Income, Education and Language.

The 2016 Census storybooks cover 15 regions. These include remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, town camps and outstations, as well as some regional towns.

Map of 2016 Census Storybook Regions
A map of Australia with the geographic location of the 15 regions of remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, town camps and outstations, and regional towns.

These regions are East Arnhem, Tiwi Islands and West Arnhem, Broome and West Kimberley, Pilbara, East Kimberley, Goldfields and Mid-West, Victoria Daly and West Daly, MacDonnell and Alice Springs, Roper Gulf and Katherine, Torres Strait, Far North Queensland, North West Queensland, Central Desert, Barkly, and Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara.

The 2016 Census storybooks form a part of ABS’ commitment to returning Census data and educating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities on how they can use it.

These are downloadable and printable resources and are available from the Data downloads section.

Data presented is from the 2016 Census of Population and Housing for the total population.

Where people live

Remoteness Area

The Remoteness Area structure of the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) provides a geographical standard for the publication of statistics about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of Australia. This structure is produced by dividing each state and territory into five classes of remoteness based on relative access to services.

The five classes of remoteness are:

  • Major Cities of Australia
  • Inner Regional Australia
  • Outer Regional Australia
  • Remote Australia
  • Very Remote Australia


The five classes of remoteness for each State and Territory can be aggregated to produce Non-remote (Major Cities, Inner Regional Australia and Outer Regional Australia) and Remote (Remote Australia and Very Remote Australia) areas of Australia.

In general, regions become less remote when urban centres increase in size and when the road networks between regions improve.

In the 2016 Census, there were 649,171 people across Australia who identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin, the majority (81%) of whom lived in Non-remote areas of Australia. In Major Cities there was 1 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person for every 64 non-Indigenous persons, while in Very Remote Australia there was 1 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person for every 1.2 non-Indigenous persons.

Indigenous status by remoteness, 2016(a)

      Non-remote areas Remote areasAustralia(c)
 Major Cities of AustraliaInner Regional AustraliaOuter Regional AustraliaTotal Non-remoteRemote AustraliaVery Remote AustraliaTotal Remote(b)
          no. 
Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander242,529155,602127,874526,00940,21079,383119,595649,171
Non-Indigenous15,495,7683,809,5691,695,43021,000,766211,26993,127304,39421,341,231
Not stated895,790290,208169,4041,355,40131,41317,95749,3711,411,491
Total16,634,0784,255,3811,992,71122,882,169282,892190,461473,35623,401,892
Ratio: non-Indigenous persons to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander persons63.924.513.339.95.31.22.532.9
a. Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
b. Includes Remote and Very Remote Australia.
c. Includes migratory-offshore-shipping and no usual address.

Note: Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016
 

Over one-third (37%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians were living in Major Cities at the time of the 2016 Census. A further 44% lived in Regional Australia (Inner and Outer Regional) and the remaining 18% lived in Remote and Very Remote Australia.

With the exception of the Northern Territory, the distribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across remoteness areas in each State and Territory was similar to non-Indigenous people. In the Northern Territory, just over three-quarters (78%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in Remote areas compared to 24% of the non-Indigenous population.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders by state/territory and remoteness, 2016(a)

                Non-remote areas  Remote areas Australia(c)
 Major Cities of AustraliaInner Regional AustraliaOuter Regional AustraliaTotal Non-remote Remote AustraliaVery Remote AustraliaTotal Remote(b) 
         Per cent (%)  no.
NSW46.434.515.396.1 2.60.93.5 216,176
Vic51.834.912.699.3 0.1. .0.1 47,788
Qld.33.822.226.582.5 5.911.117.1 186,482
SA51.910.722.084.6 3.810.814.7 34,184
WA39.87.713.761.2 12.725.338.0 75,978
Tas.. .56.240.796.9 2.10.82.9 23,572
NT. .. .20.520.5 20.757.578.3 58,248
ACT99.30.2. .99.5 . .. .. . 6,508
Australia(d)37.424.019.781.0 6.212.218.4 649,171
a. Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
b. Includes Remote and Very Remote Australia.
c. Includes migratory-offshore-shipping and no usual address.
d. Includes Other Territories.
. . Not applicable

Note: Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016
 

Generally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across all remoteness areas in 2016 were distributed similarly across age groups. There was a slightly higher proportion of 25-44 year olds in Remote areas where this age group made up just over a quarter (28%) of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (compared with 24% in Non-remote areas).

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  1. Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors
  2. Includes Remote and Very Remote Australia.

Note: Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.

Source(s): 2016 Census of Population and Housing

There were no significant differences in the distribution of males and females across age groups between Non-remote and Remote areas.

Further information about where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live can be found in Census of Population and Housing – Counts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (ABS cat. no. 2075.0).

Remoteness, engagement and unpaid work

Engagement in education, employment and training

Young peoples’ transition from school to continued study or full-time work can have long-term implications. Those who are not fully engaged in either education and/or work may be at risk of becoming long-term unemployed, underemployed or marginally attached to the labour force.

Understanding engagement

Engagement in Employment, Education and Training (EETP) was a new data item compiled for the 2016 Census. It classifies persons aged 15 years and over as Engaged or Not engaged in work and study. It is derived from the data items Labour Force Status (LFSP), Hours Worked (HRSP), Full-Time/Part-Time Student Status (STUP) and Age (AGEP).

A person is classified as engaged if they participate in any type of education, employment and training. A fully engaged person works or studies full-time or has any combination of work and study. The not engaged category includes persons who are unemployed or not in the labour force and who were not attending an educational institution.

People aged 15-24 years living in Non-remote areas (57%) were much more likely to be fully engaged in work or study than those living in Remote areas (33%). Six in ten (61%) young adults aged 15-24 years living in Major Cities were fully engaged in work or study compared to just under three in ten (28%) of those in Very Remote areas.

Young adults aged 15-24 years living in Non-remote areas were also much less likely than those in Remote areas to be not engaged at all (25% compared to 46%). In Very Remote Australia, half (50%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–24 years were not engaged in either education, employment or training.

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  1. Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.

Note: Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Unpaid work

In addition to being engaged in education, employment and training, a person may also be involved in unpaid work either at home or in their community. The Census collects information about four different types of unpaid work undertaken in the week prior to Census night:

  • Unpaid childcare
  • Unpaid assistance to a person with disability
  • Unpaid domestic work
  • Voluntary work for an organisation or group
     

Generally, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s participation in all four types of unpaid work was similar across remoteness areas.

Unpaid childcare

In 2016, nearly one-third (32%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over provided unpaid childcare. Of these people, 65% cared for their own child/children, 30% cared for other children and a small proportion (6%) cared for both.

Unpaid childcare by remoteness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, 2016(a)

          Non-remote areas Remote areasAustralia(c)
Major Cities of AustraliaInner Regional AustraliaOuter Regional AustraliaTotal Non-remoteRemote AustraliaVery Remote AustraliaTotal Remote(b)
         Per cent (%) 
Provided unpaid childcare30.131.128.930.131.343.639.531.7
 Cared for own child/children(d)68.568.968.168.561.848.952.364.7
 Cared for other child/children(d)27.326.827.727.231.639.437.329.6
 Cared for own child/children and other child/children(d)4.24.44.14.26.611.710.45.7
Did not provide unpaid childcare63.860.661.062.257.845.049.359.6
Total number of persons aged 15 years and over(e)161,18699,33783,393343,91927,37254,26381,632428,777
a. Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
b. Includes Remote and Very Remote Australia.
c. Includes migratory-offshore-shipping and no usual address.
d. As a proportion of all persons who provided unpaid childcare.
e. Includes persons who did not provide unpaid childcare and not stated.

Note: Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016
 

More than two-thirds (69%) of people who provided unpaid childcare in Non-remote areas cared for their own child/children, compared to about half (52%) of people in Remote areas. It follows that people in Remote areas were more likely than those in Non-remote areas to care for children other than their own (37% compared to 27%).

Unpaid assistance to a person with a disability

About one in eight (14%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over provided care to a person with disability in 2016. This did not vary significantly between Remoteness areas. Females were more likely than males to provide care to a person with disability, regardless of Remoteness area.

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  1. Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.

Note: Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Unpaid domestic work

In both Non-remote and Remote areas, 62% of people did unpaid domestic work. 

People in Non-remote areas were more likely to do no unpaid domestic work than people in Remote areas (30% compared to 26%). However, women in Non-remote areas were more likely to do 30 hours or more of unpaid domestic work than women in Remote areas (14% compared to 10%).

Voluntary work for an organisation or group

More than one in seven (15%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 15 years and over participated in voluntary work. This was slightly higher in Non-remote areas (16%) than Remote areas (12%). 

Females were consistently more likely to have done voluntary work than their male counterparts (16% compared to 13%) across all Remoteness areas.

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  1. Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.

Note: Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Remoteness and dimensions of social and economic wellbeing

Where a person lives has an impact on their social and economic wellbeing. This is particularly important as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians living in Major Cities and Regional areas have different characteristics to those living in Remote and Very Remote Australia.

The following analysis uses the Socio-Economic Index for Areas (SEIFA) Index of Relative Socioeconomic Advantage and Disadvantage (IRSAD) compiled after the 2016 Census of Population and Housing. According to the index, the higher the SEIFA score, the more advantaged the area. Detailed information about how the IRSAD was compiled for 2016 is available in Census of Population and Housing: Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), Australia, 2016 (ABS cat. no. 2033.0.55.001).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Non-remote areas generally lived in areas with a higher SEIFA score than those in Remote areas. People living in Remote areas are much more likely to be living in an area in the lowest, most disadvantaged quintile. No Very Remote area in Australia is in the top, most advantaged quintile for the IRSAD.

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  1. Quintiles used are area based and at the SA2 level. Refer to SEIFA on the ABS website for more information.
  2. Includes Remote and Very Remote Australia.
  3. Includes other Territories, comprising Jervis Bay Territory, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Christmas Island and Norfolk Island.
  4. Includes Migratory-Offshore-Shipping and No usual address.

Note: Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Education

School attendance

In 2016, the proportion of 3-17 year olds attending pre-school, primary school or secondary school was 82% in Non-remote areas and 75% in Remote areas. School attendance was highest in Major Cities (83%) and lowest in Very Remote Australia (74%).

Year 12 attainment

There is a noticeable difference in Year 12 attainment for people living in Remote areas versus those living in Non-remote areas.

A quarter (25%) of people aged 20-64 years living in Remote areas (who are not currently studying) reported having completed Year 12 or equivalent in 2016, compared to 36% in Non-remote areas. The difference was greatest between Major Cities and Very Remote areas, with 41% of people in Major Cities having completed Year 12 or equivalent compared to 25% of people in Very Remote areas.

Highest year of school completed by remoteness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders aged 20-64 years, 2016(a)

  Non-remote areas Remote areasAustralia(c)
Major Cities of AustraliaInner Regional AustraliaOuter Regional AustraliaTotal
Non-remote
Remote
Australia
Very Remote
Australia
Total Remote(b)
        Per cent (%)
Year 12 or equivalent40.531.731.735.925.824.625.033.6
Year 11 or equivalent11.911.814.312.516.415.015.513.1
Year 10 or equivalent31.836.234.833.734.229.230.833.1
Year 9 or equivalent9.812.911.511.111.611.911.811.3
Year 8 or below5.26.97.16.110.316.514.47.8
Did not go to school0.70.60.70.71.72.82.41.0
Total number of persons aged 20-64 years(d)101,52761,16451,552214,24717,85236,07353,931269,426
a. Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
b. Includes Remote and Very Remote Australia.
c. Includes migratory-offshore-shipping and no usual address.
d. Excludes students who are still attending an educational institution.

Note: Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.

Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016
 

Non-school qualifications

Looking at levels of educational attainment across Remoteness areas can show how Remoteness impacts the kind of qualifications Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have attained.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were more likely to have certificate level qualifications than undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications regardless of remoteness. However, people living in Non-remote areas were nearly three times more likely than those in Remote areas to have attained a Bachelor Degree or postgraduate qualification.

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  1. Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
  2. Includes students who are still studying at non-school institutions but excludes those still at school. Excludes not stated responses and those where insufficient information was obtained to determine the level of qualification.
  3. Includes Graduate Certificate and Graduate Diploma.
  4. Includes Remote and Very Remote Australia.

Note: Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Employment

Employment to population ratio

The employment to population ratio shows the proportion of people within a population who are employed. Remoteness has a substantial impact on the employment to population ratio. In 2016, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15-64 years in Non-remote areas were much more likely (49%) to be employed than those in Remote areas (31%). The employment to population ratio was largest in Major Cities (53%) and lowest in Very Remote Australia (28%).

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  1.  Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.

Note: Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Unemployment rate

With the employment to population ratio being lower in Remote areas than in Non-remote areas, it is not surprising that the unemployment rate was higher in Remote areas (26%) than in Non-remote areas (17%). The unemployment rate in Very Remote Australia was twice that of Major Cities (29% compared to 15%).

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  1. Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.

Note: Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Persons not in the labour force

Any discussion of the unemployment rate is incomplete without considering those who are not in the labour force. People move in and out of the labour force for a number of reasons such as retirement or child rearing.

Half (50%) of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population aged 15-64 years in Remote areas were not in the labour force, compared to 39% of the population in Non-remote areas. The proportion of people not in the labour force in Non-remote areas was higher in Inner Regional and Outer Regional Australia (42% and 44% respectively) than in Major Cities (36%).

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  1. Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.

Note: Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Income

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Non-remote areas had a higher income on average than those living in Remote areas. This is the case for both personal and household income.

The median personal income for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Non-remote areas was $474 per week compared to $314 per week in Remote areas. Weekly incomes were highest in Major Cities ($513) and lowest in Very Remote Australia ($286) with incomes decreasing as remoteness increases.

Similarly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in Non-remote areas had a median total household income of $1,226 ($1,390 in Major Cities) compared with $1,016 in Remote areas ($964 in Very Remote).

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  1. Usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.
  2. Place of Enumeration Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.

Note: Cells in this table have been randomly adjusted to avoid the release of confidential data. No reliance should be placed on small cells.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016

Data downloads

To view the following Census Storybooks:

NT - Barkly,

NT - Central Desert,

NT - East Arnhem,

NT - MacDonnell & Alice Springs,

NT - Roper Gulf & Katherine,

NT - Tiwi Islands & West Arnhem,

NT - Victoria Daly & West Daly,

QLD - Far North Queensland,

QLD  - North West Queensland,

QLD - Torres Strait,

SA - Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara,

WA - Broome & West Kimberley,

WA - East Kimberley,

WA - Goldfields & Mid-West, and

WA - Pilbara,

Please click here.

History of changes

Show all

14/03/2019 - New content on Disability, Family Composition (including household composition) and Language disaggregated by Remoteness added to existing pages. Remoteness areas used include: Non-remote (Major Cities, Inner Regional Australia and Outer Regional Australia) and Remote (Remote Australia and Very Remote Australia) areas of Australia. Key findings relating to Remoteness have also been added to Publication Summary.

13/03/2019 - New chapters added: Where People Live, Remoteness, Engagement and Unpaid Work, and Remoteness and Dimensions of Social and Economic Wellbeing, all disaggregated by Remoteness. Remoteness areas used include: Non-remote (Major Cities, Inner Regional Australia and Outer Regional Australia) and Remote (Remote Australia and Very Remote Australia) areas of Australia.

12/07/2018 - Added a new data story - 2016 Census Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander storybooks - and accompanying PDFs.

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 2076.0.