NACCHO Aboriginal health news : Understanding the 21% Increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Census Counts, 2006-2011

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Understanding the Increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Census Counts, 2006-2011

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the publication Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Counts, 2006-2011 (cat. no. 2077.0) on 17 September 2013.

You can view here

The key findings in this publication are as follows.

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Explaining the increase

  • Between 2006 and 2011, the increase in the Census counts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was much larger than expected, rising by 21% (93,300 people).
  • The vast majority (90% or 83,100) of the increase occurred in non-remote areas, with just over two-thirds (67% or 62,400) of the increase occurring in New South Wales and Queensland.
  • More than two-thirds of the increase (65,500) can be explained by measurable demographic factors of population change (births, deaths, and migration).
  • The remainder of the increase (27,800) is due to a range of other factors. Analysis suggests the most significant other factor contributing to the increased count was a change in the way some people reported their Indigenous status between 2006 and 2011, resulting in them identifying themselves and (if they had children) their children as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin in 2011 but not in 2006.
  • When demographic analysis is undertaken on population estimates (which are adjusted for the Census undercount), a similar conclusion about an increased propensity to identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin can be made.  In other words, the non-demographic component of the increase in the Census counts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (27,800) is not explained by significant changes in the Census undercount.

Family and age dynamics

  • The increase in the count of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children aged less than 15 years can be partly explained by an increased count of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander parents.
  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children with mixed parentage (where one parent is of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin and the other parent is not) accounted for half of the increase in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children aged 5-9 years in 2011.

Changes in socio-economic characteristics

  • Comparisons of the Census counts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in 2006 and 2011 suggest there has been little change in selected characteristics, such as the proportion of people living in each Remoteness Area, fertility rates and labour force outcomes.
  • The main differences between 2006 and 2011 were an increase in the proportion of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over with a Year 12 or equivalent qualification (up from 20% to 25%) and in the proportion of those aged 25 years and over with a non-school qualification (up from 25% to 31%).
  • Since the count of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was much larger in the 2011 Census than in the 2006 Census, any change in socio-economic characteristics should not be assumed to reflect an outcome for the population identified in 2006.
  • Because of the likely change in the propensity of people to identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin, caution should be exercised when comparing rates calculated using 2006 data and 2011 data (e.g. proportion of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people with a Year 12 or equivalent qualification). Revised estimates of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander population (back to 2001) based on the 2011 Census results will be released by the ABS on 30 April 2014 and using those estimates for the denominator will provide a more consistent basis for rate calculations and comparisons.

Further analysis is expected to be undertaken in the future to investigate some of the key contributors to the increase in counts in more detail. The ABS Statistical Longitudinal Census Dataset, due to be released in December 2013, will provide a new data source for analysing changes in the characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples between Censuses.

Please direct any questions about this publication to:

  • Julie Nankervis, Director, National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics, ph 08 8943 2146, email Julie.nankervis@abs.gov.au, or
  • Bjorn Jarvis, Director, Demography, ph 02 6252 6411, email bjorn.jarvis@abs.gov.au.

Australian Bureau of Statistics

17 September 2013

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