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What details do we know about the Indigenous population?

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Indigenous people make up 3% of the population in Australia [1]. NSW has the largest Indigenous population and the NT has the highest proportion of Indigenous people.

How many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are there?

Based on information from the 2011 Census, the ABS estimates that there were 669,736 Indigenous people living in Australia in 2011 [1]. NSW had the largest number of Indigenous people, and the NT had the highest percentage of Indigenous people. Indigenous people made up 3.0% of the total Australian population. For more details on the Indigenous population in each state and territory see the table below.

Table 1: Estimated Indigenous population, by jurisdiction, Australia, 30 June 2011
JurisdictionIndigenous population (number)Proportion of Australian Indigenous population (%)Proportion of jurisdiction population (%)
Source: ABS, 2012 [1]
  1. Preliminary estimates are subject to revision; population projections are expected to be finalised by 2014
  2. Australian population includes Jervis Bay Territory, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, and Christmas Island
  3. Proportions of jurisdiction population have used total population figures estimated from demographic information for June 2011
NSW 208,364 31.1 2.9
Vic 47,327 7.1 0.9
Qld 188,892 28.2 4.2
WA 88,277 13.2 3.8
SA 37,392 5.6 2.3
Tas 24,155 3.6 4.7
ACT 6,167 0.9 1.7
NT 68,901 10.3 29.8
Australia 669,736 100.0 3.

In 2011, 90% of Indigenous people identified as Aboriginal, 6% identified as Torres Strait Islanders, and 4% identified as both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander [2].

In 2011, around one-third of Indigenous people lived in major cities [2].

The number of Indigenous people counted in the 2011 Census was much higher than the number counted in the 2006 Census [3]. This could be explained by a number of factors:

What do we know about the age of the Indigenous population?

The Indigenous population is much younger overall than the non-Indigenous population [1]. In 2011, more than one-third of Indigenous people were aged less than 15 years, compared with one-fifth of non-Indigenous people [4][5]. Almost 4% of Indigenous people were aged 65 years or over, compared with 14% of non-Indigenous people. Figure 1 shows a comparison of the age profiles of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.

The Figure below is called a population pyramid and reflects these differences. The bars show the percentage of the total population that falls within each age group. The 75+ years bars appear out of proportion to the other bars because they represent all the people aged 75 years or more. The general shapes of the Indigenous and the non-Indigenous pyramids differ. The Indigenous pyramid is wide is at the bottom (younger age groups) and tapers off at the top (older age groups). The non-Indigenous pyramid has a more even spread of ages through the population.

Figure 1: Population pyramid of Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, 2012

Population pyramid of indigenous and non-indigenous populations, 2011

Source: ABS, 2012 [1]


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) Australian demographic statistics, March quarter 2012. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) Census of population and housing - counts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2011. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  3. Yap M, Biddle N (2012) Indigenous fertility and family formation: CAEPR Indigenous population project: 2011 census papers. Canberra: Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research
  4. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2010) Population characteristics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2006 (reissue). Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
  5. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2009) Experimental estimates and projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians 1991 to 2021. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
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