Understanding the Spatial Dimensions and Drivers of Future Indigenous Population Change in Australia

Andrew J. Taylor , Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University
Tom Wilson, The University of Melbourne
Jeromey Temple, The University of Melbourne

A key contemporary demographic trend in Australia has been rapid growth in the Indigenous population, which more than doubled in size from 1996 to 2016. Growth rates were highest in urban areas and their surrounds while slower in rural and remote areas. Differences across space were partly driven by Net Identification Change; the aggregate outcome of increases in numbers of people choosing to declare their Indigenous status in the census. Although the Australian Bureau of Statistics is projecting continued high annual growth rates of between 2.14% and 2.52% from 2016 to 2031, their methods omit Net Identification Change and explicit interactions with the non-Indigenous population, as a result, growth is likely to be higher still, especially in urban areas and their surrounds. To map-out possible future regional growth rates we developed a new projection model specifically incorporating Net Identification Change assumptions. Results suggest future population sizes and growth rates will be far higher than are currently projected, especially in some regions of eastern Australia, while parts of the north and west may lose population share from much lower growth than in southern more urbanized regions. In the fast-growing regions identification change is projected to be the primary driver, accounting for up to 57% of growth in Sydney, for example. These outcomes have major implications for services targeting Indigenous people in high-growth regions and would significantly shift Indigenous geographic settlement patterns. Our study demonstrates how important it is to incorporate all demographic processes affecting the population of interest.

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 Presented in Session 27. Data and Methods