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The Australian National University

New directions in Indigenous service population estimation

Working Paper 88 / 2013


Accurate assessments of the number of people who access goods or services in a particular location are crucial to the equitable allocation of resources and the delivery of services. In particular, Indigenous Australians are an important subpopulation for whom such estimates would be useful, given the high levels of Indigenous temporary mobility. We review previous estimates of service populations relevant to Indigenous Australians and find that there is no currently accepted method for quantification. We argue that any attempt to develop a single measure of service populations for all services at a place is likely to meet only limited success. Instead, we propose that service populations should be estimated on a service-by-service basis. We then give a hypothetical example of how the Indigenous service populations of hospitals might be estimated using existing administrative data and a geographical approach. We conclude by arguing that access to key datasets remains the most important barrier to the estimation of Indigenous service populations.

Keywords: Indigenous demography, service delivery, population dynamics, Indigenous migration and mobility, Indigenou