Indigenous Australians have often been described as highly mobile people--particularly in historical and remote ‘wilderness’ contexts. The literature paints a picture of regular, short-term population movement within and between desert, hinterland, and tropic regions of Australia, with significant implications for targeting and delivering a range of health, housing, and education services in these regions. To date though, very little research has examined the nature of Indigenous temporary mobility in and through urban environments. Scant scholarly consideration has been given to how cities and large regional centres feature in the mobility networks of Indigenous peoples. This paper examines the relationship between Indigenous temporary mobility and service delivery in the town of Broome, Western Australia. It explores various kinds of data—both qualitative and quantitative—that can be drawn upon to better characterise, explain and engage with Indigenous temporary mobilities through regional centres such as Broome. In particular, it focuses on experience in the formal primary school sector as a window onto the relationship between temporary mobility and service delivery in the town.
Administrative education data generally supported the existing local narratives: that most Indigenous temporary movement through Broome is the product of service-related in- and out-moves amongst Indigenous people whose primary connections lie outside the town; and that Indigenous Broome locals were generally less mobile than many Indigenous groups in other parts of the Kimberley. While these administrative data are limited in their capacity to render statistically visible the full spectrum of temporary population dynamics, they can be used to develop a clearer picture of the frequency, duration, direction and scale of temporary movement through regional centres. Because these locales play a particularly critical role in shaping Indigenous mobility practices and networks across the settlement hierarchy, there is a strong imperative for policy makers and service providers to utilise all available data to more effectively define and cater to the actual service populations associated with them. These are necessary steps to improving service delivery to highly mobile Indigenous people in not just in urban environments, but in the often expansive service catchment areas that surround them.