This paper utilises 1986 Census data to examine the demographic and economic characteristics of Aboriginal people in Australia's remotest locations. In so doing three objectives are fulfilled. First, to assert that it is important to examine Aboriginal society in a spatial context. Second, to demonstrate how Census statistics may be manipulated to isolate meaningful spatial sub-categories of the Aboriginal population. Third, to consider the extent to which extreme remote location for a particular segment of the Aboriginal population is associated with distinct social and economic characteristics.
In considering the special circumstances of remote areas, the notion of 'locational disadvantage', as posited in the Commonwealth Social Strategy Statement of 1990, is discussed. This is regarded as an essentially technocratic view of remote area settlement. Viewed from an Aboriginal perspective, movement to outstations represents the spatial optimum in a locational trade-off which is aimed at balancing a range of cultural, economic, social and political considerations.
A range of data for the outstation population of the Northern Territory are presented from a specially derived Census sub-file. These are compared with equivalent data for Aborigines in the rest of the Northern Territory and with Aborigines in Australia as a whole. This comprises the most comprehensive set of data for outstations available to date and confirms some of the major findings of individual case studies. The paper concludes that, on the whole, remote location is reflected in lower economic status but not in demographic structure.
ISBN: 0 7315 1241 3