This short post looks at the distribution of our Aboriginal people across NSW, drawing from a set of regional studies published in November 2006 by the NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
In this context, while I am very critical of current approaches to the development of public policy in Australia, I do want to make two positive points.
First, no one can doubt the commitment of the public servants in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to the cause of the advancement of the Aboriginal peoples of NSW. You will see this if you browse the Department's web site or the Aboriginal infonet .
Secondly, whatever its other weaknesses, the current approach to public policy with its strategies and plans does allow for a cascade effect in which higher level objectives can flow down through an organisation to individual policy or program units.
In 2001, the date of the last published census, there were an estimated 134,888 Aboriginal people living in NSW, comprising just over 2 per cent of the total NSW population and approximately 29 per cent of the total Aboriginal population in Australia.
We can expect the 2006 census to show a significant increase in total Aboriginal numbers in NSW.
The Aboriginal population has been growing quite rapidly, up by 16 per cent in the period between the 1996 and 2001 Censuses.
Three-quarters of this intercensal increase is a 'natural' increase which can be explained by demographic factors (births, deaths and migration) and especially the younger age pyramid and higher birth rate among Aborigines as compared to the broader population.
The remaining quarter or 'unexplained' growth is attributable to other factors such as the improvements in the Census collection methods and increased self identification of people as Aboriginal.
We can also expect the census to show shifts in the distribution of Aboriginal people across NSW as a consequence of internal migration.
Accepting this, the following data shows the distribution of Aboriginal people across NSW at the time of the 2001 census by regions as defined by the NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
I have ranked the list by the proportion of the Aboriginal population in the total population to drive home my point about the need to recognise regional variation. Remember, too, that there are significant variations within regions.
Murdi Paaki (Far West). Aboriginal population 7,542 or 14 per cent of the total population.
New England North West. Aboriginal population 12,047 or 7.28 per cent of the total population.
Mid West. Aboriginal population 13,619 or 6 per cent of the total population.
North Coast. Aboriginal population 16,402 or 3.5 per cent of the total population.
Riverina Murray. Aboriginal population 7,291 or 2.74 per cent of the total population.
Hunter. Aboriginal population 11,605 or 2.2 per cent of the total population.
Illawarra/South East. Aboriginal population 13,100 or 2.2 per cent of the total population.
Central Coast. Aboriginal population 4,748 or 1.7 per cent of the total population.
West and South Western Sydney. Aboriginal population 23,282 (Western 15,276, South West 8,006). I do not have total population numbers, but the Aboriginal proportion would appear to be around 1 per cent.
Coast Sydney. Aboriginal population 11,931 or 0.54 per cent of the total population.