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The Australian National University

Indigenous population projections, 2006–31: Planning for growth

Working Paper 56 / 2009

Abstract

Policy development in Indigenous affairs often proceeds with dated estimates of population and with little understanding of the likely impact of changing demographic parameters on future Indigenous population size and composition. To the extent that policy itself can influence demographic outcomes, this represents a significant deficiency in current planning methodology. To stimulate a dialogue around such issues, this paper models the national and regional population impacts of a continuation of existing mortality and fertility regimes compared to a situation where these converge. The effects of inter-regional migration are also considered. The scenarios presented are heuristic only and reflect the logic of sustaining into the future recently observed demographic trends, compared to following through on the idea of convergence in sociodemographic outcomes over timescales that are commensurate with stated policy ambitions. As such, they are designed to sketch out the effects on the size and composition of Indigenous population of no change in current conditions compared to maximum change. What they show is that while the overall size of the Indigenous population is conservatively projected to be around 830,000 by 2031, regardless of which assumptions are adopted, any movement towards convergence in demographic outcomes, as implied by current Closing the Gap policies, produces a population that is much older and more urban in profile.

Note: Five .csv files of the population projections series used in this paper are available for download below.