The turmoil of Aboriginal enumeration: mobility and service population analysis in a Central Australian community


*PO Box 4066, Alice Springs, NT 0871 Fax: (08) 8951 6952. Email:


This paper documents Aboriginal population change and mobility over time in a remote community in central Australia. The movement of population has implications for service delivery and resource allocation. Aboriginal population in the region is characterised by high mobility. We conducted four population surveys in a selected remote community over a 12 month period and categorised individuals into four mutually exclusive groups: residents, dual residents, visitors and absent residents. Based on these categories we developed two population classifications: actual and potential service populations. The potential service population was consistently higher than the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) census figure. We question the use of ABS census estimates as appropriate population figures for determining resource allocation to remote communities. We quantify inter– and intra–community mobility. When the potential population is used as denominator, 35% of the population of this community was classified as inter–community mobile. Given this level of mobility we argue that: (1) Resources should be allocated to compensate health services for the additional time and resource requirements to deal with the high level of population mobility. (2) Health programs such as STD control, trachoma, scabies and other communicable diseases common in Central Australia should be coordinated and delivered as regional programs often crossing State/Territory borders.