This paper reports on a survey of the Aboriginal population of the Fitzroy Valley in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, funded by the Fitzroy Futures Forum. The survey was designed to collect two different kinds of data. One aim was to carry out a comprehensive head count of the population and gather basic demographic information on age and sex. The second was to collect data that would begin to flesh out the picture of how that population lives as people. In proposing a categorisation of relationship to place that is more complex than the ‘resident’ versus ‘visitor’ distinction employed in the national census, the survey addresses the cultural factors that influence patterns of settlement and mobility, and the patterns of connection within and between the communities of the Valley. It is hoped that this data will be useful to the people of the Valley in their dialogue with government. Governments tend to view communities primarily as collections of bricks and mortar with ‘populations’ that require ‘servicing’ and ‘infrastructure’, whereas the social fabric of their communities is at least equally important to Fitzroy Valley people. This survey goes some way to making that social fabric visible, so that it, too, can feature in the ongoing dialogue.
Keywords: Indigenous demography, census, population change, Fitzroy Valley, Kimberley, anthropological demography, cultural circumstances