Population and distribution

Torres Strait Islander performance during the National Native Title Conference 2014
Torres Strait Islander performance during the National Native Title Conference 2014

Australia’s population is richly diverse, as reflected in the 2011 Australian Census of Population and Housing, with 5.3 million Australians (27%) born overseas and 4.1 million Australians (20%) having at least one overseas-born parent. Australian-born people whose parents were both born in Australia, which include most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, amount to 10.6 million Australians or 53% of the population.

Among the 548,370 people identified as part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in 2011, 90% of people identified as being of Aboriginal origin, 6% were of Torres Strait Islander origin, and 4% were of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and distribution patterns remain unique and different to those of the mainstream society in Australia particularly in age structure, population change, structural ageing, mobility, geography and urbanisation. The 2011 Australian Census Papers identified the following six key demographic and geographic features of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population:

  • Age Structure – The Indigenous population is relatively young. The median age of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population at 30 June 2011 was 21.8 years, compared to 37.6 years for the non-Indigenous population.
  • Population change – the Indigenous population is increasing at a much faster rate than the non-Indigenous population. The final estimated resident Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of Australia as at 30 June 2011 was 669,900 people, or 3% of the total Australian population. This population estimate represents a large increase in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population estimates from the estimate of 517,000 for 30 June 2006.
  • Structural ageing – the Indigenous population is ageing and projected to age even faster over the next few decades.
  • Mobility – Indigenous Australians are more likely to be away from their usual place of residence at a given point in time, and more likely to change their usual place of residence over a given time period.
  • Geography – the Indigenous population is much more likely to live in remote and very remote Australia relative to the non-Indigenous population. 51,300 people lived in Remote Australia in 2011, and 91,600 lived in Very Remote Australia.
  • Urbanisation – the Indigenous population is becoming more urban and likely to become more urban over the next few decades. At 30 June 2011, around one-third of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in Major Cities of Australia (233,100 people). A further 147,700 people lived in Inner Regional Australia and 146,100 people in Outer Regional Australia.

Of the states and territories, the largest populations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians lived in New South Wales (208,500 people) and Queensland (189,000 people). The smallest population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians lived in the Australian Capital Territory (6,200 people). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians comprised 30% of the population of the Northern Territory, the highest proportion of any state or territory.