A GROWING POPULATION
Based on current trends in fertility and mortality, Australia's Indigenous population is projected to increase from 386,000 in 1996 to 469,000 in 2006 at an annual average rate of 2.0% per year. However, the growth in the Indigenous population in recent decades can not be explained by natural increase alone. Much of the unexplained growth can be attributed to an increasing prevalence of persons to be identified as Indigenous on census forms. If the increasing rate of identification
(as experienced between 1991 and 1996) is assumed to continue, the Indigenous population is projected to increase at an annual average rate of 5.3% per year, reaching 649,000 in 2006.
Under either assumption the Indigenous population is growing much faster than the total Australian population (1.2% during the 1996-97 financial year).
A YOUNG POPULATION
In 1996 the median age of the Indigenous population (20 years) was much younger than that of the total Australian population (34 years). In both projection series the median age is expected to increase slightly to 21 years by 2006.
As at 30 June 1996, 40% of the Indigenous population were aged under 15 years compared with 21% of the total population. By the end of the projection period, under both series, this proportion is expected to still represent about 37% of the total Indigenous population.
Under the low projection series, Queensland and New South Wales (133,000 persons) are projected to have the largest Indigenous populations, followed by Western Australia (67,000), the Northern Territory (61,000), South Australia and Victoria (27,000), Tasmania (18,000) and the Australian Capital Territory (4,000).
Under the high series (where an increasing rate of Indigenous identification is assumed), New South Wales (216,000 persons) remains the State with the largest Indigenous population, followed by Queensland (179,000 persons) and Western Australia (80,000 persons).
LOWER LIFE EXPECTANCY
The life expectancies of Indigenous males (57 years) and females (62 years) are nearly 20 years below those recorded for the total Australian population.