Post-colonial populationsin remote Australia, ageing in a high migration population

Tony Barnes, Charles Darwin University

The Northern Territory of Australia is the last parts of Australia to be colonised by Europeans. The Territory constitutes one sixth of the Australian land mass but despite above average growth in recent decades has just one percent of the Australian population. High (but declining) fertility and low out-migration among the local indigenous population has seen its size steadily and quite rapidly grow in recent decades despite high mortality. This contrasts with the highly volatile growth of the Territory’s non-indigenous (post-colonial) population, which is subject to extremely high levels of both in and out migration. Besides unpredictable and large fluctuations over time in the magnitude of net migration, the age and gender make up of net non-indigenous migration flows has been complex with major implications for the further growth and long term development of the Territory, including future ageing of this section of the Territory’s population. Despite having a much younger population than the rest of Australia, the Territory will suffer a much larger labour force crisis than elsewhere in Australia as unprecedented numbers of ageing past migrants leave the work force (and possibly the Territory) in coming years. Census data suggest this crisis may be largely unavoidable if the apparently predictable patterns of age-related migration and employment behaviour among the Territory population continue over the coming five years. To avoid this more migrants from the rest of Australia or overseas must be attracted to and/or remain in the Territory for longer. Factors that might influence whether people more to, stay longer, leave or return to the Territory have been studied with a view to developing appropriate strategies to alleviate the looming employment crisis. In the longer term a more important and possibly more difficult strategy must see more local indigenous people educated and trained to a “work-ready” level.

Presented in Poster Session 1

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