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Demographic context

The estimated resident Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population of Australia as at 30 June 2011 was 669,881 people (ABS 2013e). Using population projections for 2014, Indigenous Australians represent 3% of the Australian population, although this proportion varies from region to region—from 30% of the population of the Northern Territory to 0.9% of the population of Victoria (see Table 1) (ABS 2014g).

When the data are analysed as a proportion of the Indigenous population, the projected results for 2014 show that, 31% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples lived in NSW, 29% lived in Qld, 13% in WA and 10% in the NT (see Figure 18)(ABS 2014g).

In 2011, around 79% of Indigenous Australians lived in regional and metropolitan areas. While only 14% of Indigenous Australians lived in very remote areas, they made up a large proportion of Australians living in very remote areas (45%) (see Table 2).

The age structure of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is significantly younger than the non‑Indigenous population (see Figure 19). In 2011, the median age for Indigenous Australians was 22 years compared with 38 years for non‑Indigenous Australians. In 2011, 36% of Indigenous Australians were aged 0–14 years compared with 18% of non‑Indigenous Australians. The younger age structure also represents a tremendous opportunity. With well-designed and competently delivered antenatal care and early childhood programmes, along with effective timely interventions helping young adults to adopt healthy lives, there is an opportunity to reduce the gap in long-term health outcomes. While it is vital that the focus is on ensuring improvement of health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across their life course, it is important to take account of demographic composition in planning for resource requirements and service delivery for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

While the Indigenous population is young relative to the non‑Indigenous population, it is also gradually ageing. In 2011, 36% of the Indigenous population was aged under 15 years, down from 38% in 2006. This is projected to decrease further to 32% in 2026. The share of the Indigenous population that is of workforce age (15–64 years) has risen from 58.6% in 2006 to 60.7% in 2011, and is projected to increase slightly to 61.2% in 2026. In contrast, the total Australian working age population (aged 15–64 years) was estimated to be 66.9% of the total population in 2012. This is projected to decrease to 63.6% by 2026.

The proportion of Indigenous people aged 65 years and over has increased from 3.0% in 2006 to 3.4% in 2011 and is projected to almost double from 2011 to 2026 to 6.4%. A gradual demographic shift in the age profile of the Indigenous population will also have implications for service delivery particularly for services aimed at older Indigenous Australians including aged care and planning for diseases such as cancer. The total Australian population aged 65 years and over was estimated to be 14.2% of the total population in 2012. This is projected to increase to 17.7% by 2026.

Figure 18 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population by state and territory, 2014
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population by state and territory

Figure 18 shows the distribution of the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population across Australia. The results show that 31% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples lived in NSW, 28.5% lived in Qld, 13.1% in WA and 10.1% in the NT in 2014.

Source: ABS population projections based on the 2011 Census (ABS 2014g)

Table 1 Projected population by jurisdiction and Indigenous status, 2014
Number of Indigenous population by jurisdiction Indigenous population % by jurisdiction (a) Number of total population by jurisdiction(b) Indigenous population as % of jurisdiction population
New South Wales 220,902 31.0 7,493,619 2.9
Victoria 50,983 7.1 5,828,969 0.9
Queensland 203,045 28.5 4,760,693 4.3
Western Australia 93,778 13.1 2,596,719 3.6
South Australia 39,800 5.6 1,690,973 2.4
Tasmania 25,845 3.6 515,823 5.0
Australian Capital Territory 6,707 0.9 390,080 1.7
Northern Territory 72,251 10.1 244,005 29.6
Australia* 713,589 100.0 23,524,055 3.0

a) See Figure 18

b) Indigenous plus non‑Indigenous

* Australia total includes 'other Territories'

Source: ABS population projections (Series B) based on the 2011 Census (ABS 2014g) ABS 2014, Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians,

Table 2 Estimated resident population by remoteness area and Indigenous status, 2011
Number of Indigenous Australians Indigenous as % of total population Indigenous as % of total Indigenous population
Major cities 233,146 1.5 34.8
Inner regional 147,683 3.6 22.0
Outer regional 146,129 7.2 21.8
Remote 51,275 16.3 7.7
Very remote 91,648 45.1 13.7
Australia* 669,881 3.0 100.0

Source: ABS population estimates based on 2011 Census (ABS 2013)

Figure 19 Age distribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians, by Indigenous status and sex, 2014 (projections)
age distribution of all Australians

Figure 19 shows the age distribution of the Australian population. Data is presented for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and females; and non-Indigenous Australian males and females. The age structure of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is significantly younger than the non-Indigenous population.

Source: ABS population projections based on the 2011 Census (ABS 2014g)