Central Desert Shire drops 11% of its Indigenous population


Alice Springs gains 4.3% Indigenous residents, 5.2% non-Indigenous
Central Desert Shire lost 6.6% of its population in the five years from 2006, according to the 2011 Census. And this was with a gain of 11.7% in its non-Indigenous population. Its Indigenous population fell by 11.1%. This was one of the standout snapshots from a presentation by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to the Alice Springs Town Council last night.
Central Desert Shire stretches in an arc north of Alice, from the WA border in the west to the Queensland border in the east and deep into the Tanami.
MacDonnell Shire, which takes in a vast swathe of land largely to the south of Alice, again stretching from border to border, lost only .5% of its population, although with a drop of 3% in its Indigenous population, while gaining 8.9% in non-Indignous residents.
Barkly Shire, which takes in Tennant Creek, gained 2.2%, with a 5.5% rise in its Indigenous residents and 4.6 in its non-Indigneous population.
Alice gained 5.4%, with a 4.3% increase in Indigenous residents and 5.2% in non-Indigenous.  The NT as a whole gained 9.9%, ahead of the Australian average of 8.3%. The NT’s Indigenous population grew by 5.8%, while its non-Indigenous residents jumped by 12.3%.
The Australian Indigenous population grew by 21.38% in the intercensal period, although Stephen Collett from the ABS, who presented the information to council, said a significant part of this growth was down to more people identifying as Indigenous since the last count.
The NT continues to have a significantly younger population than Australia as a whole, with significantly more children and young people, and significantly fewer older people, with the difference becoming extreme in the 65 years plus age group. There also start to be fewer women in the NT from the 45-49 years age group onwards. The fewer males measure does not kick in until the 55-59 years age group.
The differences in age distribution between the NT’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations is starker. There are proportionally many more children and adolescents in the Indigenous population, with the trend reversing from the 25-29 years age group onwards.
Gains are being made in Indigenous education in Alice Springs. The count of Indigenous persons aged 15 and over, no longer attending primary or secondary school, showed that 15.5% of them had completed Year 12 or equivalent in the 2011 Census, compared to 11.8% in 2006. The percentages for having completed Year 10 or equivalent were 18.8% (2011) and 18.5% (2006). And the graph reverses where you would hope it would, with fewer people reporting Year 9 completed as their highest attainment, Year 8 or below or not having been to school at all.
In the non-Indigenous population of Alice also there are more people reporting having completed Year 12 (55.7% in 2011, compared to 47% in 2006).
Alice has gained dwellings, in line with the Australian figure, and its household size average, 2.6, is the same as Australia’s. Household sizes in the surrounding shires are significantly higher (CDS, 4.2; MacDonnell, 4.0), though they have decreased slightly since 2006. Indigenous household sizes are higher than non-Indigenous (3.3 in Alice compared to 2.5; 5.2 in CDS; 4.7 in MacDonnell).
Median weekly rent in Alice Springs ($300) is significantly dearer than the Territory average ($224) and somewhat dearer than the Australian average ($285). These figures are inclusive of public housing rents. The median rents in the surrounding shires are dramatically lower – $25 in MacDonnell, $20 in CDS.
To compensate a little, median household weekly income is higher in Alice ($1691) compared to the NT ($1674). Median household weekly income in the shires is $1058 for CDS and $947 for MacDonnell (remembering that household sizes are larger).
Critically for the Town Council, Alice did not reach the 30,000 population mark in the 2011 Census, which means it misses out on some funding programs for which this figure is the cutoff. Its estimated resident population as of June 30, 2011 was 28,449 . This was up from the ERP of  26,887 in 2006.


  1. As a proportion of income and even taking into account the high cost of living out bush the cash strapped shires are charging very low rents. I doubt they would even cover maintenance costs.


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