First counts, 1991 Census: a comment on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population growth

Author/editor: Gaminiratne, K
Year published: 1992
Issue no.: 24


Due to a lack of accurate data on the size, distribution and trends in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations in different geographic regions, past census data cannot be used for policy planning, administion or other uses. Data on the sex distribution of the Aboriginal and Islander populations by State and Territory are now available from the first count (released on 30 April 1992) of the 1991 Population Census.

This paper examines the geographical distribution and changes in the Aboriginal and Islander populations during the intercensal period of 1986-91 and makes an early evaluation of the data. The Aboriginal and Islander populations have increased at a rate of 2.4 per cent per annum during this period, which is 1.6 times the rate of increase of the Australian population over the same period. Although the overall Aboriginal and Islander intercensal growth rate of 2.4 per cent appears reasonable to accept, its disaggregation by Aboriginals and Islanders reveals data problems.

For instance, the average annual growth rate of the Aboriginal population is 2 per cent per annum while that of the Islander population is 5.6 per cent. The growth rate recorded for the Aboriginal population is only marginally lower than the expected rate for the intercensal period. Other characteristics, such as the sex ratio, are also consistent with expected trends for the Aboriginal population. The extremely high growth rate and questionable sex ratio recorded for Islanders indicate that data on Islanders may be of dubious quality. The paper proposes that ABS undertake a thorough evaluation of the quality of the data on the Aboriginal and Islander populations, so that suitable measures can be adopted to further improve data quality in future censuses.

ISBN: 0 7315 1422 X

ISSN:1036 1774

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