The Australian desert's unique social, economic and environmental characteristics create challenges in supporting its 179,000 people. This report presents research commissioned as part of supporting documentation for a proposal to establish a Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre (CRC). The aim was to explore the scope for demographic analysis of the desert by preparing population projections to 2016 and comparing these with projections for the total Australian population. The desert population is forecast to grow at around half the Australian rate to around 190,000 by 2016. The major increase will be in the Indigenous component of the population, particularly the working age years from 25 to 64. The findings have major implications for planning and evaluation of social and economic policy. The data and analytical tools for regional demographic analysis are presently crude and blunt. Focusing on a single ecological zone provides the opportunity to refine and sharpen them for wider application.