Notes on the data: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, age distribution

2020 estimated resident Aboriginal population by sex and 5-year age group: 0-4 years to 65+ years


Policy context: In the 2016 Census of Population and Housing, 649,171 people (or 2.8% of the total Australian population) identify as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin [1]. Of this figure, 91% identify as Aboriginal, 5% were Torres Strait Islander and 4.1% reported being of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin [2]: this population is referred to collectively here as ‘Aboriginal’ people. This represents an increase of 42.7% since the 2006 Census [3]; and reflects natural population increase (the excess of births over deaths) and other factors, including improvements in data collection methods especially in rural and remote areas and people newly identifying as Indigenous in the Census.

Using an updated estimated resident population for 2020 (see Notes below), the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is considerably younger than the non-Indigenous population. In 2020, the median age for this population was 23 years, 14 years less than the national median age of 37 years for the non-Indigenous population [2]. One in three (33.6%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were estimated to be aged less than 15 years, while just 5.1% were aged 65 years and over (and although very low, this is higher than in 2011, when the proportion was 3.8%). The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is disadvantaged across all domains of wellbeing compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts [4].


  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016 Census community profiles, Canberra: ABS; 2017, accessed 8 August 2017. Available from:
  2., ABS: 2020 Census shows growing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population; 2017, accessed 8 August 2017. Available from:
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Media fact sheet: Census shows increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, Canberra: ABS; 2007, accessed 8 August 2017. Available from:
  4. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Media release, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population nearing 700,000; Canberra: ABS; 2013, accessed 18 October 2013. Available from:

Notes: There is a substantial difference between the Census count of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and the estimated resident population (ERP), adjusted for net undercount as measured by the Post Enumeration Survey undertaken by the ABS (the (Aboriginal) ERP is 17.5% higher for Australia than the Census count). Given this difference, and as the ABS has not released Aboriginal ERP by age at the Indigenous Area (IARE) level used in the Social Health Atlases, PHIDU produces updated estimated resident population by age and sex for years after 2016. These updates are of particular importance for the calculation of percentages by age group, or attending preschool, or of rates of hospitalisation, mortality etc.


Method of calculation: The ERP for June 2016 for Aboriginal populations is available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for Statistical Areas Level 2 (SA2, total population only): PHIDU concorded the SA2 populations to produce a 2016 ERP for each IARE (total population only). The ERP for 2016 is available by Indigenous Region (IREG), by 5-year age group. To produce estimated resident populations by age group for each IARE, PHIDU applied the proportional age distribution from the Census counts (usual resident population) in each IARE to the ERP total for the IARE. The 2016 estimated counts were then used as a base to project estimates for 2020 using the ABS projected population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, Indigenous Regions, 2011-2026.


Geography: Data available by Indigenous Area, Primary Health Network, Quintile of socioeconomic outcomes (based on IRSEO) and Remoteness Area


Numerator: Aboriginal male, female and total estimated resident population by 5-year age group: 0-4 years to 65+ years


Denominator: Total Aboriginal males, females or persons, estimated resident population


Detail of analysis: The age group as a percentage of the total Aboriginal population for males, for females and for persons


Source: Developed by PHIDU, using the method as noted above


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