Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The Geographical Distribution of Indigenous Australian's in 2016: A tale of two maps

Dr Andrew Taylor

In this short blog I look at the geographical distribution of Indigenous Australian's, comparing and contrasting absolute numbers with proportional distributions to highlight important demographic and social trends.

Please provide the citation below if you would like to use this information in your own documents or presentations: Taylor, A. (2017).  The Geographical Distribution of Indigenous Australian's in 2016: A tale of two maps. Accessed online (date) from


Monday, 14 August 2017

Birthplace diversity of the Northern Territory

Dr. Tom Wilson

The Northern Territory is an increasingly diverse jurisdiction in terms of the countries of birth of its resident population. These maps show the largest overseas-born populations by local area (SA2 area) as revealed by recently released 2016 Census data.

Map 1 shows the largest overseas-born populations by local area across the whole Territory. UK and New Zealand born form the largest overseas-born populations across much of outback NT. Map 2 zooms into the Greater Darwin area, showing that in addition to the UK-born, those from the Philippines form the largest migrant populations in many suburbs. Map 3 zooms into Alice Springs. The UK, New Zealand, India and USA are the largest overseas-born populations in individual local areas in the town.

Map 1 - Overseas born population across the whole Territory

Map 2 - Overseas born population Greater Darwin Area

Map 3 - Overseas born population Alice Springs


Thursday, 10 August 2017

Looking north at the directive for ‘statistical information’ on same-sex marriage laws

Dr Andrew Taylor

The directive

We heard on August 9 this year that the Australian Statistician (the head of the Australian Bureau of Statistics) may, pending legal challenges, be directed to conduct a statistical survey of the nation in relation to laws on same-sex marriage:
"The Treasurer will be directing the Australian statistician to request, on a voluntary basis, statistical information from all Australians on the electoral law [roll] as to their views on whether or not the law in relation to same-sex marriage should be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry."

While some are questioning the legal validity of this directive, Section 9 of the Census and Statistics Act (1905) states that the Statistician can be directed by the Minister to collect “…such statistical information in relation to the matters so prescribed as is specified in the notice.” (Census and Statistics Act, 1905). At the moment, and not surprisingly given the scale and short timeframe it has been directed to conduct the work within, the ABS has provided limited information on the process

Putting aside political and legal considerations, the proposal for a postal-based collection to be run by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in just a few weeks’ time raises many questions. Not least, there is no suggestion that the results of the exercise should be representative. This would require a carefully planned sample to obtain a certain number of reposes from sub-sections of the population based on where they live, their gender and age.

Secondly, there are questions about the logistical capacity of the ABS to effectively garner the preferences of those living in some parts of Australia where electoral enrolments are low (for example, only half of those aged 18-25 in the Northern Territory are enrolled - see our Research Brief on this topic) and where it is logistically difficult to get mail to individuals in a timely fashion, if at all. In parts of the north up to a third of the population do not have letterboxes. If updates to the roll are allowed in the period leading up to the collection, the very short timeframe may leave many Australian’s (not least those in remote areas) at risk of not receiving a form.


Where do Australia’s Same Sex Couples Live?

Given these developments, it is interesting to look at the geographic distribution of same-sex couples according to the 2016 Census. The chart below shows the proportion of couples who said they were in same sex relationships in 2016. While inner city areas, and especially Sydney, have by far the highest rates of same-sex couples, some northern parts (coloured in orange) are at or over the national average of 0.9% of couples (shown by the red dotted line). Regions in the north that stand out include Outback NT, Darwin, Cairns and Townsville (right click and select 'open in new tab').

When we look more closely within the NT, we see the proportion of same sex couples is highest in the Alice Springs, Darwin, McDonnell and the Tiwi Island regions (the latter is home to the now famous ‘Sister Girls’). These have below average enrolment rates and a substantial proportion of the population are without household letterboxes - particularly in remote areas like Alice Springs.

The very limited time frame and non-representative approach which is proposed for this exercise raises questions about how well the ‘views and opinions’ of Northern Australians in particular will be obtained. And for some parts of the north, less representation may mean a reduced ‘no’ vote. It is also not clear whether this is a vote-type exercise, where people might answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to one question, or a survey-type exercise in which there may be a number of more detailed questions.

Demography North

Monday, 7 August 2017

The Missing Mobile: Impacts from the Incarceration of Indigenous Australians from Remote Communities

Dr. Andrew Taylor

In this new research paper we have provided significant context on the pressing issue of incarcerations of remote living Indigenous Australians. This included addressing incarceration from the theoretical paradigm as a form of mobility and discussing several key aspects of this nexus, namely: Complex individual behaviours and motivations; High churn and return mobility; the ‘immobile’ cohort; historical influences and the question of whether, in some circumstances, incarceration may be a rite of passage. 

Discussion on these aspects highlights both the complexity and multi-layered factors driving and affecting incarcerations, and in turn how these relate to pre-existing mobilities, such as household mobility. 

Our examination and profiling of recent data on incarcerations for Indigenous people in the NT of Australia and review of Australian and international comparative literature points to a range of likely social, cultural and intergenerational effects. With such high rates, and with many prisoners coming from remote Indigenous communities, the magnitudes of impacts for remote communities in the north of Australia and for individuals who are incarcerated are also likely to be far reaching. 

Using a Poisson Distribution to estimate the proportion of 20-39 year-old residents as a means of demonstrating the scale of effects, our results indicate, on average, about 1 in 20 men and 1 in 200 women aged 20-39 from remote communities may be incarcerated at any point in time. However, for some communities these rates could be as high as 14% for men and up to 2% for women.

Such proportions are sufficient to suggest significant impacts on present and future population compositions and on population growth for individual communities. For example, the absence of males is likely to increase the proportion of single parent families. The absence of both males and females aged 20-39 means that fertility rates are likely lower comparative to communities without such proportions incarcerated at any given point in time. Besides a rise in single parent households and a reduction in the number of newborns (from women and men in their prime child bearing years being in prison), incarceration represents another form of temporary out ‘migration’, with flow-on effects for the community including social and economic dysfunction.

Finally, our study demonstrates the complex and multifaceted issues facing residents of remote Indigenous communities in the NT and northern Australia more broadly. Rising rates of incarcerations may be both a symptom of and contributor to historical and contemporary impacts from the effects of colonisation, disempowerment and breakdowns in traditional rules and norms. To help depict and understand some of these layers of complexity we now propose a framework which lays out community level impacts for Indigenous remote communities in the NT. The aim of the framework is to describe in simple terms the interrelationships between high incarceration rates and the resulting social, economic and demographic impacts found in our statistical analysis and the literature (Figure below)

A framework of community level impacts from incarceration; created by the authors

The starting point of our framework is the significant proportions of incarcerated people from remote communities at any point in time. These lead to specific demographic, social and economic impacts. On a broader level, these impacts can bring about the loss of social capital and the loss of social control, leading to greater dysfunction within the community and ultimately increased criminal behaviours. Augmented levels of criminal behaviour in turn contribute to higher numbers of incarcerated people. These interrelationships display the fierce cycle that high incarceration numbers found in remote communities can generate. While in essence this framework can be applied to any community, prior dysfunction in a community, such as in remote Indigenous communities, high incarceration rates and the location of the community, present critical factors in the extent of the effects.

At the moment, a range of ‘Closing the Gap’ targets are in place nationally to reduce disparities between Indigenous and other Australians in the areas of school attendance, life expectancies and work outcomes. The study we undertook underlines Mick Gooda’s call for the need for a social justice indicator as part of that strategy. 

The final pre-publication manuscript of the paper has been published on ResearchGate...
The publishers version is available here…