The Indigenous population of Cape York Peninsula, 2001-2016

Author/editor: Taylor, J, Bell, M
Year published: 2002
Issue no.: 227


Recent projections made by the Australian Bureau Statistics (ABS) of Indigenous populations resident in various regions of north Australia included a set of estimates for Cape York Peninsula. These were found to be substantially at odds with the results for adjacent regions such as the West Arnhem and Gulf regions of the Northern Territory. The Cape York projections produced population growth rates that were substantially lower than those recorded for other regions, with projected numbers in certain age groups actually declining over the forecast period to 2016. Two factors were regarded as responsible for this outcome:

  • a deficient 1996 estimated resident population (ERP), and
  • a lack of regionally-derived age-specific fertility rates (ASFRs).

This paper seeks to redress these shortcomings by presenting an alternative and improved set of 1996 population estimates, and by applying regionally-derived ASFRs to projections from this base year. The basic strategy employed in constructing alternative population estimates was to identify other regional population counts that had some claim to credibility in terms of their coverage of the Indigenous population within the region at specified points in time. A number of such sources were identified, and each was assessed for suitability as an element in a proxy count.

A composite methodology applying each of these data sources to different age components of the census count delivers an estimate of the Indigenous population of the Peninsula ATSIC Region in 1996 of 6,504 persons. This is 869 persons (15.4%) higher than the 1996 Census Count of 5,635, and 320 persons (5.2%) higher than the 1996 estimated resident population of 6,184.

A cohort-component method was used to carry forward the composite estimate for 1996 by successive five-year periods to 2016. Overall, the population is projected to increase by 2,150, representing an increase of 33 per cent, or 1.65 per cent per annum. The effects of sustained high fertility, population momentum and overall ageing are clearly visible.

The policy implications of the revised estimates are wide-ranging.

  • They raise the prospect, for regional and State authorities, of developing population estimates and projections in addition to those available from the ABS.
  • Adoption of these alternative estimates would impact on the calculation of rate and ratio measures, as the larger denominator would reduce those derived from consistent numerators.
  • Existing social and economic pressures affecting different age groups in the population (children, youth, and adults both young and old) can only intensify, all other things being equal, as the larger estimated birth cohorts advance through the age profile.
  • The greatest future growth is in older working-age groups. The cohorts which will enter this part of the age structure by 2016 are characterised by limited workforce experience and a high level of welfare dependency. The size of these cohorts raises the stakes in regard to capacity-building for regional social and economic development.

ISBN: 0 7315 5602

ISSN:1036 1774

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