Indigenous people ripped off by dodgy census data

Issue 

Indigenous communities have been underfunded and deprived of essential resources for decades because of faulty census data, a technical paper produced by Australian National University (ANU) academics has discovered.

Indigenous communities have been underfunded and deprived of essential resources for decades because of faulty census data, a technical paper produced by Australian National University (ANU) academics has discovered.

Analysing the 2006 census results, John Taylor and Nicholas Biddle of the ANU's College of Arts and Social Sciences found large discrepancies in population figures in what are called Indigenous Areas.

"The results revealed substantial undercounting of the Indigenous population in certain jurisdictions", according to their paper published in June called Locations of Indigenous Population Change: What Can We Say?

This analysis was possible because the ABS 2006 Post Enumeration Survey was extended to include a sample of localities from the whole of Australia for the first time. The PES is a kind of quality assurance check to ensure that the census was conducted accurately.

Taylor and Biddle say that the 2006 census count of the Indigenous population was "deficient in many remote towns, many Indigenous towns, and many outstation areas, but was higher than expected in regional country towns and many city suburbs".

These inaccuracies have possibly been going on for decades, they conclude, giving rise "to issues of public policy concern".

Taylor and Biddle ask if "fiscal settings based on such estimates have been commensurately undervalued over the past 35 years" so that "services and programs provided to remote communities on the basis of official population estimates have been chronically inadequate?".

The report says that there is a need to reassess the nature of census figures in determining the financial resourcing for Indigenous policies and programs. "This reassessment should consider implications for ... both the historic adequacy of population-based funding and programs and for future demand for these", they conclude.