Understanding the causes and consequences of population change to improve Northern Territory futures

    Project: Research

    Project Details


    The challenge
    More than any other State or Territory in Australia, the Northern Territory experiences high population churn, volatility in its growth rates and extreme seasonality in its migration flows. Stable growth reduces costs for businesses and helps develop community cohesion. Growth is critical for the NT as half the population lives in remote areas. Consequently, we receive a higher per-person allocation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) funds. But when our population is not growing as quickly as the rest of Australia our allocation is cut and our governments have less resources for services and infrastructure. Understanding the causes of past and future population trends is important, particularly as 30% of our population are Aboriginal Territorians. But attracting and retaining skilled demographers in the Territory is difficult. Consequently, the Northern Territory Department of Treasury and Finance provides a research grant for independent demographic research at CDU. This maintains a small core of demographic researchers within the Northern Institute, whose focus is on four critical work areas:
    -Growing the capacity for population analysis and research within the Northern Territory Government;
    -Dissecting population data to identify trends and inform policy;
    -Researching areas where data and information on the Territory’s population can be improved and feeding these to relevant national agencies; and
    -Development and continual improvement of a Northern Territory population projections model to plan for the future.

    What we're doingThe Demography and Growth Planning team at the Northern Institute has forged an international profile and reputation for applied demographic research on the causes and consequences of population change in the Northern Territory, nationally and for other sparsely populated areas. Our aim is to make positive differences to communities, society and policy with robust and independent research. We work with governments, business and NGOs to better understand how our population trends, the economy and our community wellbeing interact now and into the future.
    Our team are recognised experts in collecting, analysing and modelling population and socio-economic data. The explanation for and anticipation of future population dynamics are at the core of our research which extends across the key fields of demography, economics, labour studies, history and sociology. Collaboration and partnership mark our approach and include academic research and project work with other universities, government agencies, non-government agencies and research organisations from around the world that explore the big population issues affecting communities, regions and their peoples.
    We are invited members on three national advisory groups including the national Centre for Population and ABS’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Demographic Statistics Expert Advisory Group where we provide advice and research to generate a better national understanding about and Territory population issues and their impacts, including on the quality and suitability of population data for the Territory and with a focus on Indigenous demography.
    How it helps
    Without robust population projections and an understanding of population drivers for fertility, interstate and overseas migration, governments and the business sector cannot effectively plan, activate and evaluate social and economic policies or investments. Our research provides knowledge about how we’ll change as a society and economy in the future so that investments in services and infrastructure are evidenced-based. Some of our important achievements include:
    -In collaboration with the Northern Territory Department of Treasury and Finance we developed a world-first population projections model for separate projections of Indigenous and Non-Indigenous futures (the most recent projections are here).
    -Helping improve the quality of Census data for the Territory, on which a plethora of major investment decisions are based; and
    -‘The Territory and Me’ research investigated population drivers affecting the Territory. And included a large survey with 5,000 respondents. Findings are being used to help develop initiatives around the ‘rebound’ from the COVID-19 pandemic and have been published on The Territory and Me website. We publish our research in journal articles, books, in our research brief series and through the media. You can learn more about our team here.
    Short titleDemographic Research Grant
    Effective start/end date1/07/1931/12/24


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