Current frameworks for considering the structural situation of Indigenous peoples are increasingly focused on State and Territory jurisdictional levels. While this may ease access to data and help determine federal-state responsibilities, it provides little guidance regarding the spatial underpinnings of Indigenous disadvantage.
It prevents a view of policy issues and dilemmas in terms of their contextual site and situation. The structural circumstances facing Indigenous populations are increasingly diverse and locationally dispersed leading to variable constraints and opportunities for social and economic participation. The present paper explores key aspects of this diversity by synthesising the findings of recent regional and community demographic studies. The aim is to highlight what, for want of a better term, might be described as emerging demographic ‘hot spots’ in the sense that particular Indigenous population dynamics in particular regions are giving rise to particular issues of public policy concern. The trends that emerge are seen to spatially align with particular categories of place that transcend State and Territory boundaries and many other areal configurations. They coalesce around particular structural settings (city suburbs, regional towns, town camps, remote Indigenous towns, outstations) as opposed to what has tended to guide Indigenous policy formulation in recent times which has been a changing set of regionalised conceptions. The overriding implication for policy is that whole-of-government approaches need to consolidate around these structural settings so that we have a clear national statement and approach to policy for outstations, with the same for town camps, for growing remote Indigenous towns, for regional country centres, and for poor city neighbourhoods, and that policy directions in regard to these categories involve close collaboration across and between all levels of government. Failure to recognise the implications of demographic trends in these settings may be significant not only in terms of Indigenous well-being but also for social cohesion and a compounding of existing high levels of disadvantage with resultant high downstream costs to governments in addressing the consequences.