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The Australian National University

The changing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population: Evidence from the 2006–11 Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset


Populations change and grow through time. Keeping
track of this change and associated improvements or worsening in outcomes is a key role for statistical agencies and researchers, and is necessary for an informed and evidence-based policy debate. This is no truer than for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (generally referred to as Indigenous Australians throughout the rest of this paper). Despite making up only a small percentage of the total Australian population, Indigenous people are a key focus of policy discussion in Australia, with a number of targets set by government against which progress is evaluated. The release of the Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset (ACLD) by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in the form of aggregate data in late 2013 and individual data in late 2014 provides an opportunity to better understand and evaluate the changing nature of the Indigenous population between 2006 and 2011. For the first time, it is possible to compare the identified Indigenous status for an individual in one year with their identified status in previous years using census data. Furthermore, the ACLD provides the first opportunity to look at the changing socioeconomic circumstances of Indigenous Australians, and compare these circumstances with the rest of the population. This paper provides a summary of such an analysis with the aim of spurring additional research and policy discussion.

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