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Postcolonial Transformation of the Australian Indigenous Population

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Abstract

The 1967 constitutional referendum paved the way for the application of a single national methodology for the construction of a self-identified Indigenous population via census, survey, and administrative data collection and these sources have provided for statistically meaningful official estimates of Indigenous population growth and spatial redistribution as well as for some understanding of the dynamics underpinning change. The primary purpose of this paper is to outline the course of this change and to reflect on matters arising that are of concern and interest to public debate on population growth and its implications. To do this meaningfully it is necessary first to gain an appreciation of what is referred to as ‘postcolonial demography’. This term encapsulates the post-referendum acquisition of official population data involving the construction of Indigenous population as simply the minority half of a statistical binary. While these data provide for an analysis of growth and change in an aggregate Indigenous population, and while the product continues to play a key role in Indigenous-state relations, we remain pressed to articulate the geography of Indigenous peoples' sociality amidst growing demands to do so.

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