Australia's indigenous people - Statistics & Facts

Indigenous people in Australia have lived in the country for over 65,000 years, making them one of the oldest living populations in the world. That is why indigenous Australians are also referred to as ‘first people’ or ‘traditional owners of this land’. Australia has two groups of indigenous peoples: Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islander people. Aboriginal peoples inhabited the whole of Australia, whereas Torres Strait Islanders lived in the islands between Australia and Papua New Guinea. There used to live many different Aboriginal regional groups in Australia, each with their own languages, traditions and arts. As such, there is no single Aboriginal or indigenous culture in Australia.

Today’s Australia is home to about 800,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Nowadays, most live in regional areas or major cities. When it comes to education, indigenous people still seem to be underrepresented in Australia. Only 5.8 percent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population currently study or hold a bachelor’s degree or above.

On the contrary, Australia’s indigenous population seems to be overrepresented when it comes to health issues. Almost 45 percent of the indigenous people in Australia are smoking and around 30 percent of the Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders used substances in the last year. Almost six times more children are born to indigenous teenagers compared to all teenagers in Australia.

Indigenous communities keep their cultural heritage alive by passing their knowledge, arts, ceremonies and performances from one generation to another. Teaching and speaking indigenous languages are very important heritages. About 18 percent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population in Australia is currently speaking an indigenous language. However, with the adaption to the Western values, the numbers of speakers of those languages are decreasing. Nonetheless, most of the Australian population still thinks that indigenous arts are an important part of the culture in Australia, contributing to Australia’s diverse contemporary culture and national identity. All forms of cultural expressions such as fine arts, crafts and design, dance or literature are highly represented in the creative landscape with several Indigenous festivals taking place across Australia.

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Indigenous cultures in Australia - Important statistics

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