Recent changes to the Indigenous population geography of Australia: evidence from the 2016 Census
Background The Indigenous population of Australia has grown very rapidly since the first tabulation of census statistics about Indigenous people in the 1971 ABS Census of Population and Housing (Census). Understanding the size and location of the Indigenous Australians is important to the State for service delivery and policy, and for Indigenous peoples themselves.
Aims This paper summarises changes to population geography of Indigenous Australians between 2011 and 2016. It describes the growth in the estimated population, and its changing geographic distribution. The paper derives a measure of ‘unexpected population change’: the spatial mismatch between demographic projections from the 2011 and 2016 Census counts.
Data and methods Census data and population projections are tabulated and mapped.
Results Indigenous people now comprise 3.3 per cent of the total Australian population, or 798,381 persons. This population grew by 3.5 per cent each year between 2011 and 2016, a rate of growth 34 per cent faster than that explained by natural increase alone. Both aspects of growth were concentrated in more urban parts of the country, especially coastal New South Wales and southeast Queensland. For the first time, fewer than 20 per cent of Indigenous people were recorded as living in remote areas.
Conclusions Indigenous population growth continues to be remarkably rapid. Future research is required to understand the correlates and causes of population growth beyond that explained by natural increase.