Until World War 2, Torres Strait Islanders were restricted in their distribution to the Torres Strait. Since that time, migration to the Australian mainland has contributed to a significant redistribution with the majority of Torres Strait Islanders now resident in the major cities of eastern Australia. Despite the importance of migration in determining Torres Strait Islander involvement in the labour market, study of their population movement has been limited, and such analysis as does exist is unsystematic, spatially restricted and generally dated. This paper is therefore an attempt to draw from the literature what is known about the spatial diffusion of Torres Strait Islanders and to supplement this with the most recently available internal migration data from the 1986 Census.
While it appears that the search for employment was an important stimulant for migration in the past, this is less so now, not least because Torres Strait Islanders now find themselves located predominantly in places where labour markets exist. No evidence is found from the 1986 Census to support the idea of sustained redistribution away from areas of long-standing settlement in north Queensland. This contrasts with distribution patterns based on preliminary counts of the 1991 Census and the extent to which this discrepancy is due to migration or census error raises a critical issue in the analysis of Islander population change.
ISBN: 0 7315 1423 8