Our numbers on the rise, says demographer

Indigenous Population

Australia’s Indigenous population is expected to hit one million in four or five years’ time, and over two million by the middle of the century, a leading demographer said.

Dr Tom Wilson, of Charles Darwin University, said the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had jumped markedly between the last two censuses.

“The Indigenous population grew by 19 per cent between 2011 and 2016,” he said. “And we saw a net increase of about 80,000 people identifying as Indigenous in 2016 who didn’t identify in 2011.

“Assuming that continues, we would expect the Australian Indigenous population to reach one million in four or five years’ time, and over two million by mid-century.”

Dr Wilson said Australia’s population overall was set to reach in the high 30 millions by the middle of the century, partly driven by birth rates and also immigration.

He said Sydney and Melbourne would top eight million people each which is about the current size of London.

“We expect to see some growth in regional Australia but stronger growth in the capital cities,” he said.

“The percentage of people living in metropolitan areas will increase from about 67 per cent today to about 73 per cent by mid-century.”

Dr Wilson said Australia would need to plan for the basics like water and power and provide more schooling and health care.

He was speaking at the Australian Population Association Conference in Darwin last week.

Meanwhile, immigration is shaping up as one of the upcoming Federal election’s biggest issues.

But National Congress of Australia’s First Nations Peoples co-Chair Rod Little said if a values test was to be introduced for people wanting to come to live in Australia, there should also be some questions about Indigenous culture.

He said the questions could be along the lines of ‘What is the history of First Nations people?’ or ‘How long have they been in Australia?’.

“Some questions to enable people to explore,” he said.

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