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4705.0 - Population Distribution, Indigenous Australians, 2001  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/06/2002   
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SUMMARY OF FINDINGS


INTRODUCTION

The five-yearly Census of Population and Housing is one of the most important sources of information about Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, providing a wide range of socioeconomic indicators for Indigenous Australians, particularly for small areas. It is also the basis for estimates of the resident Indigenous population for Statistical Local Areas (SLAs) and higher spatial units, and provides population counts for smaller geographic areas. This publication presents information on the geographic distribution of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.


ESTIMATED RESIDENT INDIGENOUS POPULATION

To arrive at an estimate of the size of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population using the Census count (on a usual residence basis), allowance is made for net undercount, and for instances in which Indigenous status is unknown. While each Census aims to count every person in Australia once, some people are inevitably missed and some are counted more than once; the net effect is referred to as undercount. In addition, Indigenous status is unknown in some cases, due to the Indigenous origin question not being answered, or the inability to obtain a Census form from persons who were identified in the field. A proportion of records in both categories will represent Indigenous residents. Population estimates for dates other than the Census date must also take account of births, deaths and migration in the intervening period.

At 30 June 2001 the experimental estimated resident Indigenous population of Australia was 460,140, or 2.4% of the total estimated resident population of Australia.

The States/Territories with the highest Indigenous populations were New South Wales (135,319 or 29%), Queensland (126,035 or 27%), Western Australia (66,069 or 14%) and the Northern Territory (57,550 or 13%). More than one in four people in the Northern Territory (29%) were estimated to be of Indigenous origin. In all other States/Territories, Indigenous Australians were estimated to comprise less than 4% of those populations, with Victoria's Indigenous population being the lowest proportion at 0.6% of that State's estimated resident population.


CENSUS COUNTS

The Census count of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia increased by 16% between the 1996 and 2001 Censuses. The Census count for the total population increased by 6% over the same period.


Graph - Census indigenous population counts


The Indigenous count has increased by 12% due to births and deaths, and a further 4% primarily due to an increasing propensity for persons to be identified as Indigenous on Census forms, giving a total increase of 16% for the intercensal period. Between the 1991 and 1996 Censuses, the Indigenous count increased by 14% due to births and deaths, and a further 19% due to other factors, giving a total increase of 33% between 1991 and 1996.

There are two main types of Census counts of Indigenous Australians. The Census counts people where they are on Census night (place of enumeration) as well as where they live (usual residence).

Both counts can be used for analysis although the usual residence count is preferred in geographical analyses because it classifies people who are away from home at Census time to the area in which they usually live, as long as address details are provided. Counts on a usual residence basis therefore correct for the effect of seasonal fluctuations in holiday/resort areas and, in remote areas, for the effect of visitation and mobility issues and events such as festivals or funerals.

The following table presents the population measures for Australia, States and Territories on the basis of place of enumeration Census counts, usual residence Census counts, and estimated resident population.


POPULATION MEASURES
CENSUS PLACE OF ENUMERATION,
7 AUGUST 2001(a)
CENSUS USUAL RESIDENCE,
7 AUGUST 2001(b)
ESTIMATED RESIDENT POPULATION
AT 30 JUNE 2001
Indigenous
Total
Indigenous
Total
Indigenous(c)
Total(d)

State/Territory
no.
no.
no.
no.
no.
no.
New South Wales
119,865
6,311,168
120,047
6,326,579
135,319
6,609,304
Victoria
25,078
4,612,097
25,059
4,660,991
27,928
4,822,663
Queensland
112,772
3,585,639
112,575
3,522,044
126,035
3,635,121
South Australia
23,425
1,458,912
23,377
1,470,057
25,620
1,514,854
Western Australia
58,496
1,832,008
58,467
1,828,294
66,069
1,906,114
Tasmania
15,773
454,841
15,856
460,672
17,442
472,931
Northern Territory
50,785
202,729
50,845
188,075
57,550
200,019
Australian Capital Territory
3,576
309,184
3,548
309,998
3,941
321,680
Australia(e)
410,003
18,769,249
410,003
18,769,249
460,140
19,485,278

(a) Number of persons counted in each State/Territory on Census night, 7 August 2001. Excludes overseas visitors.
(b) Number of persons usually resident in each State/Territory on 7 August 2001 regardless of where they were counted on Census night.
(c) An explanation of the method used for calculating the estimated resident Indigenous population is available in Appendix 2.
(d) Census usual residence counts, plus Australian residents temporarily overseas on Census night, plus the estimated Census underenumeration, plus deaths and less births occurring between 30 June and 7 August 2001, giving estimated resident population at 30 June 2001.
(e) Includes Jervis Bay Territory, Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island.


UNKNOWN INDIGENOUS STATUS AND UNDERCOUNT

There are two situations which result in Indigenous status being unknown: where Census forms are returned to the ABS with the Indigenous origin question unanswered (question non-response); and where the ABS cannot obtain forms from persons identified in the field (imputed records).

Question non-response can occur given Census forms are completed by respondents themselves (apart from Special Indigenous Forms). The Indigenous origin question is more comprehensively answered than most other Census variables. Nevertheless, the question non-response rate for Indigenous status has increased slightly from 1.7% in the 1996 Census to 2.0% in 2001. Some of the people who did not have a response provided for them will be Indigenous, although the proportion that is actually Indigenous is not known.

In addition, completed forms are not able to be obtained from all people found during enumeration and Census records therefore need to be imputed. The proportion of the total Australian population represented by imputed records was 2.1% in the 2001 Census, compared to 1.3% in the 1996 Census. The number of imputed records in the 2001 Census was substantially higher (up by 71%) on the level of imputation necessary in the 1996 Census. Once again, some of these imputed records would relate to people who, if a form had been completed, may have been identified as Indigenous, although the proportion who were actually Indigenous is not known. The most marked increases in imputed records since the 1996 Census were in New South Wales (up from 1.4% to 2.7%), the Australian Capital Territory (up from 1.3% to 2.1%) and Victoria (up from 1.2% to 2.1%).

Taken together, question non-response and imputed records where Indigenous status is unknown, represented 4.1% of the total Australian population, compared with 3.0% in the 1996 Census. The number of people for whom Indigenous status is unknown (767,757) was higher than the number of people who were identified as Indigenous (410,003). The most marked increases in the number of records with Indigenous status unknown since the 1996 Census, were in New South Wales (up from 3.0% to 4.6%), the Australian Capital Territory (up from 2.1% to 3.4%) and the Northern Territory (up from 4.9% to 6.1%).

To produce estimates of the resident Indigenous population, the unknown records are allocated Indigenous status. See Population Measurement Issues for more analysis of question non-response and imputed records, and Appendix 2: Estimated resident Indigenous population - Method of calculation for an explanation of the method of allocation.


Undercount

Some people are missed each Census and some are counted more than once. The net effect is called net undercount. The preliminary net undercount for Indigenous Australians for the 2001 Census has been estimated at about 6.5%, not significantly different from the 1996 Census undercount of 7.0%.

In estimating the resident Indigenous population, the Indigenous net undercount rate is applied to Census usual residence counts to account for Indigenous residents who were missed or counted more than once.

For more information, see both Population Measurement Issues and Appendix 2: Estimated resident Indigenous population - Method of calculation.


GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION


ATSIC Regions

In the more populous metropolitan Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) Regions, while Indigenous Australians are a minority of the total populations of these regions, the numbers of Indigenous Australians in these regions tend to be larger than in other ATSIC Regions. Nine ATSIC Regions (Sydney, Brisbane, Coffs Harbour, Perth, Cairns, Townsville, Hobart, Adelaide and Darwin), out of a total of 36 regions, account for almost half (48%) of the Indigenous population of Australia.

The ATSIC Region with the largest Indigenous population, based on Census usual residence counts, is Sydney (37,557), followed by Brisbane (34,809), Coffs Harbour (32,122), Wagga Wagga (20,966), and Perth(20,506). The ATSIC Regions with the highest proportion of Indigenous residents are outside the major population centres and include: the Torres Strait Area in Queensland (77%); and the Jabiru and Apatula regions in the Northern Territory (both 75%).

The highest intercensal regional increases in the Indigenous population, (based on Census place of enumeration counts because comparative data for place of usual residence at this level of geography are not available for 1996), occurred in the ATSIC Regions of Coffs Harbour (30%), Brisbane (28%), Queanbeyan and Roma (both 23%), Broome (22%) and Tamworth (20%). As in previous Censuses, high Indigenous population growth was mainly associated with more urbanised areas. In contrast, the smallest increases occurred in the Torres Strait Area (2%), Bourke (3%) and Warburton (6%). The Indigenous population of Tennant Creek decreased by 7% between 1996 and 2001, the only ATSIC Region to record a decline.

The extent to which Indigenous status is unknown varies considerably from one region to another. For example, it is relatively high in the Western Australian ATSIC Regions of Derby (16%) and Kununurra (13%), and as low as 3% for the Apatula ATSIC Region in the Northern Territory.


Indigenous Areas and Indigenous Locations

Indigenous Areas and Indigenous Locations provide a useful basis for analysing data about the Indigenous population. In about one in five Indigenous Areas, over half the population were recorded as being of Indigenous origin.

The Indigenous Area with the most Indigenous Australians, based on Census usual residence counts, was Townsville (C) (4,369). While many of the areas with high Indigenous counts (more than 2,500 Indigenous residents) also had proportions of Indigenous residents higher than the national average of 2.2%, only Tanami (85%) had a majority of residents recorded as Indigenous.


2001 CENSUS(a), INDIGENOUS AREAS WITH HIGHEST INDIGENOUS COUNTS
Indigenous persons
Proportion of population
which is Indigenous
RankIndigenous AreaATSIC Region
no.
%

1Townsville (C)Townsville
4,369
5.0
2Gold Coast City Part B SSDBrisbane
3,484
1.0
3Lake Macquarie (C)Coffs Harbour
3,416
1.9
4Dubbo (C)Wagga Wagga
3,358
9.1
5Cairns (C) - Central SuburbsCairns
3,133
15.3
6Mount Isa Mount Isa
3,046
15.6
7Alice Springs (T): excl. town campsAlice Springs
3,043
12.8
8Burdekin/ThuringowaTownsville
3,004
5.0
9Rockhampton (C)Rockhampton
2,881
5.2
10Wollongong (C)Sydney
2,659
1.5
11TanamiApatula
2,639
84.7
12Brisbane northern outerBrisbane
2,627
1.5
13Mackay (C) - Part ATownsville
2,591
4.2
14Toowoomba (C)Roma
2,546
3.0
15Wyong (A)Coffs Harbour
2,536
1.9
16Ipswich central & westBrisbane
2,520
3.0
17BroomeBroome
2,514
24.0
Australia(b)
410,003
2.2

(a) Usual residence.
(b) Includes persons whose place of usual residence was inadequately described.

The Indigenous Areas with the highest recorded Indigenous populations were not all in the ATSIC Regions with the highest Indigenous counts. Within the most populous ATSIC Region of Sydney (37,557Indigenous residents), the most populous Indigenous Areas were on the southern outskirts, including Wollongong (C) (2,659), Kiama(A)/Shellharbour(C) (1,412), Liverpool (C) (2,030), Campbelltown surrounds (1,262) and Bankstown (C) (1,218).

Within each ATSIC Region, Indigenous Areas can be aggregated in many ways. In some cases larger places can be represented by several Indigenous Areas. Examples from the Sydney ATSIC Region include: Blacktown (C) (twelve Indigenous Areas, 6,062Indigenous residents); Campbelltown (six Indigenous Areas, 3,582Indigenous residents); and Penrith (six Indigenous Areas, 3,426 Indigenous residents). Further afield, examples include the Australian Capital Territory (three Indigenous Areas, 3,496 Indigenous residents); Brisbane (C) (nine Indigenous Areas, 10,737 Indigenous residents); Cairns (C) (six Indigenous Areas, 5,878 Indigenous residents); and Adelaide (four Indigenous Areas, 1,798 Indigenous residents).

The Indigenous Locations with the highest recorded Indigenous populations were also Indigenous Areas, and tend to be major population centres. For example, Townsville (C), with 4,369 people of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, is both an Indigenous Area and an Indigenous Location. In contrast, some of the remote Indigenous Areas such as Fitzroy River in Western Australia, and Cape York in Queensland, are comprised of numerous Indigenous Locations (in these cases ten and eight respectively). Overall, about 60% of Indigenous Areas comprised a single Indigenous Location, while others were represented by a number of Indigenous Locations.

Instances of Indigenous status being unknown tended to occur in particular Indigenous Locations, many of which are also Indigenous Areas. In some Indigenous Locations, Indigenous status was unknown for over 20% of the population. Although examples of a high incidence of Indigenous status being unknown occurred in Indigenous Locations all over Australia, there were two major clusters: the Kimberleys in Western Australia; and Cape York Peninsula and the Gulf country in Queensland. While question non-response was the major contributor for Cape York, in the Kimberleys question non-response and imputation both contributed, and in the Gulf country imputed records dominated. The extent to which Indigenous status is unknown was also high in the inner areas of some major population centres, largely due to the imputation of Census records. These included: Sydney(C) (31% of Census records); [Darwin]City-Inner (31%); Perth(C) (17%); Cairns(C) - City(14%); and Melbourne(C)/PortPhillip (C) (12%). See Population Measurement Issues for more analysis of question non-response and imputed records.


TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLE

In the 1996 and 2001 Censuses, people were able to be reported as being of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin. The term Torres Strait Islander refers to people of Torres Strait Islander origin, whether or not they are also of Aboriginal origin.

Of the 410,003 people who were identified as Indigenous in the 2001 Census, 6.4% were reported to be of Torres Strait Islander origin only (8.1% in 1996), 89.4% were reported to be of Aboriginal origin only (89.0% in 1996), and 4.3% were reported to be of both origins (2.9% in 1996).

Over half (58%) of all Torres Strait Islander people live in Queensland. The rest of the population is scattered around the other States, with 18% in New South Wales and 6% in Victoria. The Indigenous Area of Cairns(C) - Central Suburbs had the highest Torres Strait Islander population in Queensland (1,814 people), followed by Townsville (C) (1,379). Within the Torres Shire, the largest Indigenous populations were recorded for the Indigenous Locations on Thursday Island (804 people in Tamoi, Rose Hill, Applin, Wyborn and Quarantine (TRAWQ), and 754 people in Port Kennedy). Bamaga (655) and Badu Island (518) also have relatively large Torres Strait Islander populations. A majority of the people in the Torres Shire settlements are Torres Strait Islanders (74%).

The proportion of people for whom Indigenous status is unknown in the Torres Shire (5.9%) was higher than the national average of 4.1%. For some Indigenous Locations the rate of Indigenous status being unknown was relatively high e.g. Horn Island (24%) and TRAWQ (Thursday Island) (16%). In all Indigenous Locations in the Torres Shire, the number of Torres Strait Islanders far outweighed the number of people of unknown origin.

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