Indigenous identification and transitions in Australia: Exploring new findings from a linked micro-dataset

By Paul Campbell, Nicholas Biddle, Yin Paradies


Indigenous Australians make up a small segment of the country’s population, but one with a distinct demographic profile. Academics and the central statistical agency of Australia regularly create Indigenous-specific population estimates. Changes in the identification (from Indigenous to non-Indigenous or vice versa) contribute to that population’s dynamic. Until now, however, there has been no individual-level Australian population data that would allow researchers to analyse the characteristics of those whose identification changes. This paper explores a new data source containing the largest longitudinal sample of Indigenous Australians, the Australian Census Longitudinal Dataset. We show, quantitatively, that Indigenous identification is not necessarily a fixed construct. New identification appears to account for a considerable proportion of the growth in the Indigenous population between 2006 and 2011. The newly identified group also appear to possess different characteristics to those who consistently identified as Indigenous across the two time points. They were more likely to live in urban areas (and unlikely to live in remote communities) and had higher socioeconomic status, a finding that has implications for policy design and implementation.


  • Indigenous Australians
  • identification
  • census
  • projections
  • longitudinal analysis
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