Census of population and housing: understanding the increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander counts, 2006-2011

17 September 2013

This publication examines the issues underlying the change in Census counts for people identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin from the 2006 Census to 2011 Census and attempts to quantify elements of this increase.

It provides an analysis of key demographic factors and selected characteristics that highlight the scope and implications of the increased population count to assist policy makers, researchers and other data users to understand and assess the impact of this change.

Key findings:

  • Over two-thirds (70% or 65,500 people) of the total increase in the Census count of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (93,300) between 2006 and 2011 can be accounted for by demographic factors of population change (that is, births, deaths and overseas migration). This means that 30% (27,800 people) of the total increase in the Census count of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people cannot be explained by demographic factors.
  • There were 67,400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0-4 years in the 2011 Census, which is the highest Census count of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children of this age group in any Census.
  • Fertility rates remained relatively constant from 2006 to 2011 for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.
  • Of the 27,800 increase in Census counts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that cannot be explained by demographic factors, 9,400 was attributable to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5-9 years in 2011. Half of these children (4,700) had one parent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin and one non-Indigenous parent (mixed parentage).
  • The vast majority (90% or 83,100) of the 93,300 increase in the count of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people between 2006 and 2011 occurred in non-remote areas. Of this, just over two-thirds (67% or 62,400) of the increase was in New South Wales and Queensland.
  • A change in people's propensity to identify as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin is found to be a significant contributor to the increase in counts of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people which cannot be attributed to measurable demographic factors. In particular, the large increase in the count of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children aged 5-14 years in 2011 has been driven by a greater propensity of their parents to identify themselves and their children as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin in the 2011 Census when compared to the 2006 Census.
  • Analysis of the change in the Census undercount between 2006 and 2011 indicates it is unlikely that this was a significant factor in the increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people counted in the 2011 Census.
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    Suggested Citation

    , 2013, Census of population and housing: understanding the increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander counts, 2006-2011, Australian Bureau of Statistics, viewed 25 September 2016, <http://apo.org.au/node/35825>.

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