Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the Indigenous peoples of Australia. They are not one group, but rather comprise hundreds of groups that have their own distinct set of languages, histories and cultural traditions (AIHW 2015). The health and welfare of Indigenous Australians living in the big cities are different to those living in the Torres Strait, which are different again to those living on the outskirts of Alice Springs or those living in remote communities.

This page provides some demographic information on the Indigenous population, as well as information on languages and cultures. Some information is also included on Closing the Gap.

Indigenous identification in data collections

The Australian Government defines Indigenous Australians as people who: are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent; identify as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin; and are accepted as such in the communities in which they live or have lived.

In most data collections, a person is considered to be Indigenous if they identified themselves, or were identified by another household member, as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin. For a few data collections, information on acceptance of a person as being Indigenous by an Indigenous community may also be required.

Population size and location

In 2016, an estimated 798,400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were in Australia, representing 3.3% of the total Australian population (ABS 2019b).

Among the Indigenous Australian population in 2016:

  • 91% identified as being of Aboriginal origin (an estimated 727,500 people).
  • 4.8% identified as being of Torres Strait Islander origin (an estimated 38,700 people).
  • 4.0% were of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin (an estimated 32,200 people) (ABS 2018a).

Based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) projections, the number of Indigenous Australians in 2022 was estimated to be around 896,300. The Indigenous Australian population is projected to reach about 1.1 million people by 2031 (ABS 2019c).

About Indigenous populations estimates

The ABS produces Estimated Resident Populations (ERPs) for Indigenous Australians every 5 years (the Census years), with the latest available relating to 2016. The ABS also produces ‘backcast estimates’ for years before the Census year and ‘projections’ for future years, based on the latest Census year estimates along with assumptions about births, deaths and migration (see Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians for details).

This page uses ERP data for the 2016 Indigenous population, and ABS 2016 Census-based projections (Series B) for 2022 of the Indigenous population where available. Note that these projections, first published by the ABS in 2019, do not account for any impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Age distribution

The Indigenous population has a relatively young age structure. In 2016, the median age was 23.0 years, compared with 37.8 for non-Indigenous Australians (ABS 2018a).

In 2022, a projected 32% of Indigenous Australians are aged under 15 (compared with 18% of non-Indigenous Australians), and only 5.6% of Indigenous Australians are aged 65 and over (compared with 17% of non-Indigenous Australians) (Figure 1).


This chart shows that, based on population proejctions for 30 June 2022, the Indigenous Australian population is younger than the non-Indigenous population. A projected 11.2% of Indigenous Australians are aged 0–4, compared to 5.7% of non-Indigenous Australians. On the other hand, 0.2% of Indigenous Australians are 85+, compared to 2.2% of Indigenous Australians.

Geographic distribution

Indigenous Australians live in all parts of the nation, from cities to remote tropical and desert areas. Indigenous Australians are more likely to live in urban and regional areas than remote areas, though the proportion of the total population who are Indigenous is generally higher in more remote areas. 

Based on projections for 2022, among Indigenous Australians:

  • 38% (344,800) live in Major cities.
  • 44% (395,900) live in Inner and outer regional areas.
  • 17% (155,600) live in Remote and very remote areas combined (Figure 2, ABS 2019b).

The proportion of the total population who were Indigenous increased with remoteness, from 1.09% in Major cities, to 32% in Remote and very remote areas.

In 2022, an estimated 33% of Indigenous Australians (297,400 people) live in New South Wales and 28% (252,700 people) in Queensland (Figure 2).

The Northern Territory has the highest proportion of Indigenous residents among its population – an estimated 32% (79,000 people) in 2022 (Figure 2).


The figure shows that in 2022, the highest proportion of Indigenous Australians lived in New South Wales (33.2%), followed by Queensland (28.2%) and Western Australia (12.5%). The Australian Capital Territory has the smallest proportion of Australia’s Indigenous population (1.0%).

Looking at smaller geographies, the majority of Indigenous Australians live on (or near to) the East coast of Australia (Figure 3).


This interactive map shows that, in 2016, the majority of Indigenous Australians lived on (or near to) the East coast of Australia. The Indigenous region with the most Indigenous Australians was NSW Central and North Coast, with a population of 85,169 Indigenous Australians.

Visualisation not available for printing

Language and culture

Indigenous communities pass on knowledge, tradition, ceremony and culture from one generation to the next through language, performance, protection of significant sites, storytelling and the teachings of Elders. Cultural factors such as connection to community, land and spirituality are important for the social and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous Australians (Bourke et al. 2018).

In the 2016 Census of Population and Housing, 1 in 10 (9.8%) Indigenous Australians reported that they spoke an Indigenous language at home, with over 150 different Indigenous languages being spoken (ABS 2019a). The most common Indigenous language spoken at home was Kriol (11%), followed by Yumplatok (Torres Strait Creole) (9.4%) and Djambarrpuyngu (6.7%) (ABS 2019a).

Data from the 2018–19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey show that Indigenous Australians have strong connections to their family, community and culture.

Figure 4 shows that in 2018–19, among Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over:

  • 74% (357,400 people) recognised an area as a homeland/traditional country – this was 91% in remote areas compared with 71% in non-remote areas.
  • 66% (314,200 people) identified with a tribal group, language, clan, mission or regional group – this was 86% in remote areas compared with 61% in non-remote areas.
  • 24% (130,500 people) lived on their homeland – this was 43% in remote areas compared with 20% in non-remote areas (ABS 2019c).


The figure show that, across all measures, the proportion of Indigenous Australians who are connected to their culture is higher in remote areas.

Where do I go for more information?

For more information on Indigenous Australians, see:

Visit Indigenous Australians for more on this topic.