Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (abbreviated to ATSI or Indigenous throughout this paper) continue to experience worse outcomes across a range of indicators compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts. According to the Australian National University’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, this divergence in areas such as income are an ongoing consequence of historic violence, dispossession and other forms of colonial domination faced by ATSI people.
Various efforts have been made to rectify this situation, most notably the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap framework at the Commonwealth level and NSW Government initiatives such as the OCHRE Plan, the Premier’s Priorities and the Connected Communities Strategy.
Addressing entrenched disadvantage is no easy feat for Australian policymakers, yet as stated by Markham and Biddle: “[k]nowledge of the size and composition of the Indigenous population is a matter of much concern to policy makers and Indigenous people”. Given the scale and complexity of this endeavour, it is important to emphasise that the Census can provide us with some of the most detailed and important sources of information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their lives.
This paper uses the latest 2016 Census figures to provide a snapshot of how the ATSI peoples of NSW compare with non-Indigenous residents across a range of key indicators, including population, age, education, income and employment. The paper also provides a comparative analysis of these indicators over three Censuses (2006, 2011 and 2016) for both NSW as a whole and for three custom NSW regions that incorporate different State Electorates based on their location. These geographies were selected to not only to provide an indication as to how location affects the wellbeing of the State’s Indigenous peoples, but to also help Members of the NSW Parliament gain greater insight into the Indigenous peoples residing in or around their electorates.