Friday, March 09, 2007

Australia's Aborigines - another demographic note

In my last post I referred to the PriceWaterhouseCoopers report into the Aboriginal Community Housing and Infrastructure Program (CHIP). An appendix in the report provides some basis statistical data by state drawn from the 2001 census. I have repeated this below.

There may be some problems with the data. The indigenous population figure given for NSW, 119,835, is much lower than the NSW Government estimate - 134,888 - also based on 2001 census data. I will have to check the data against the original ABS figures. That said, the state figures reveal some interesting variations.

I have summarised this in the following lists. The full source data is at the end of the post.

Total Numbers

Total indigenous numbers by state are:

  • NSW 119,835
  • Queensland 112,777
  • WA 58,496
  • NT 50,790
  • Victoria 25,090
  • SA 23,410
  • Tasmania 15,780

I have already commented on the discrepancy in NSW numbers. Even given the lower NSW numbers, NSW and Queensland have around 57 per cent of Australia's total indigenous population.

As an aside, total indigenous numbers living within the traditional New England New State boundaries were probably of the order of 50,000 in 2001, equivalent to the NT number.

Aborigines Living in Remote Areas

Another way of looking at the numbers is by remoteness, since this is important in determining service needs. Here a different picture emerges:

Indigenous people classified as living in remote areas by state:

  • NT 41,204
  • Queensland 26,397
  • WA 26,210
  • NSW 7,311
  • SA 5,172
  • Tasmania 537
  • Victoria 57

Looking at these numbers, I was surprised at the PWC recommendation that all of NSW should be excluded from the proposed new housing and infrastructure program targeting remote Aborigines.

Home Ownership

The statistics paint an interesting picture of the variations in Aboriginal home ownership - a traditional Australian measure of wealth - across Australia. To calculate this, I have expressed home ownership - outright and with mortgage - as a percentage of Aboriginal households.

  • Tasmania 59 per cent
  • Victoria 42 per cent
  • NSW 36 per cent
  • SA 29 per cent
  • Queensland 28 per cent
  • WA 27 per cent
  • NT 14 per cent

While even Tasmania is below the national average, I think that this is around 70 per cent, these numbers were actually more than I had expected for the top ownership states. There is a clear negative correlation between rates of home ownership and the proportion of indigenous people living on communal lands.

Private Rental and Private Ownership

Another interesting measure is the proportion of households living in private rental accommodation since this is another proxy for integration into the broader community. Here we find:

  • Queensland 31 per cent
  • NSW 26 per cent
  • Victoria 25 per cent
  • Tasmania 21 per cent
  • South Australia 18 per cent
  • WA 17 per cent
  • NT 2 per cent

What we need to do now is to combine home ownership with private rental since this gives us a better proxy still for integration. The remainder of the population live in both public (generally available social housing) and Aboriginal specific social housing.

Here we find:

  • Tasmania 80 per cent
  • Victoria 67 per cent
  • NSW 62 per cent
  • Queensland 59 per cent
  • SA 47 per cent
  • WA 44 per cent
  • NT 16 per cent

Now I would be the first to agree that these figures are far from perfect, but what we can say is that a clear majority of Australia's indigenous people live in homes that they either own or are renting privately. This is not the picture as normally presented.

Indigenous People living in Indigenous Housing

The last statistic I want to present is the proportion of indigenous households living in indigenous community housing, ranked from highest to lowest:

  • NT 46 per cent
  • Queensland 14 per cent
  • WA 14 per cent
  • NSW 7 per cent
  • Victoria 3 per cent
  • Tasmania 1 per cent

This is the proportion of the indigenous population that attracts the greatest attention and really drives the policy debate.

Source Data


  • Total indigenous population 119,835
  • Indigenous people in remote areas 7,311
  • Total indigenous households 37,598
  • Indigenous dwellings in community housing 2,725
  • Indigenous dwellings owned outright 6,021
  • Mortgaged indigenous dwellings 7,490
  • Privately rented indigenous dwellings 9,828
  • Publicly rented indigenous dwellings 8,146


  • Total indigenous population 112,777
  • Indigenous people in remote areas 26,397
  • Total indigenous households 31,336
  • Indigenous dwellings in community housing 4,271
  • Indigenous dwellings owned outright 3,434
  • Mortgaged indigenous dwellings 5,464
  • Privately rented indigenous dwellings 9,638
  • Publicly rented indigenous dwellings 5,058

Western Australia

  • Total indigenous population 58,496
  • Indigenous people in remote areas 26,210
  • Total indigenous households 14,471
  • Indigenous dwellings in community housing 2,069
  • Indigenous dwellings owned outright 1,091
  • Mortgaged indigenous dwellings 2,752
  • Privately rented indigenous dwellings 2,445
  • Publicly rented indigenous dwellings 4,288

Northern Territory

  • Total indigenous population 50,790
  • Indigenous people in remote areas 41,204
  • Total indigenous households 9,748
  • Indigenous dwellings in community housing 4,434
  • Indigenous dwellings owned outright 380
  • Mortgaged indigenous dwellings 953
  • Privately rented indigenous dwellings 847
  • Publicly rented indigenous dwellings 1,414


  • Total indigenous population 25,090
  • Indigenous people in remote areas 57
    Total indigenous households 8,359
  • Indigenous dwellings in community housing 276
  • Indigenous dwellings owned outright 1,407
  • Mortgaged indigenous dwellings 2,142
  • Privately rented indigenous dwellings 2,068
  • Publicly rented indigenous dwellings 1,665

South Australia

  • Total indigenous population 23,410
  • Indigenous people in remote areas 5,172
  • Total indigenous households 6,698
  • Indigenous dwellings in community housing 738
  • Indigenous dwellings owned outright 684
  • Mortgaged indigenous dwellings 1,261
  • Privately rented indigenous dwellings 1,178
  • Publicly rented indigenous dwellings 2,156


  • Total indigenous population 15,780
    Indigenous people in remote areas 537
  • Total indigenous households 5,879
  • Indigenous dwellings in community housing 43
  • Indigenous dwellings owned outright 1,365
  • Mortgaged indigenous dwellings 1,973
  • Privately rented indigenous dwellings 1,209
  • Publicly rented indigenous dwellings 921

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