The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management

The demography of desert Australia

Dominic Brown A , John Taylor B C and Martin Bell A

A School of Geography, Planning and Architecture, University of Queensland, St Lucia,Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia.

B Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, The Australian National University,Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 30(1) 29-43
Submitted: 15 June 2007  Accepted: 29 November 2007   Published: 1 April 2008


In recent years, with the formation of organisations such as the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre, social science interest in the Australian desert has re-surfaced with a research emphasis that is focused on creating sustainable futures for the region. One consequence of this is a demand for detailed demographic information to allow an assessment of different quanta of need in social and economic policy, and for assessment of the impact of these in environmental policy. However, demographic analysis on human populations in the desert to date has attracted very little research attention. In this paper we begin to address this lack of analysis by focusing on the populations, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, of the arid and semi-arid zones of Australia. We extend earlier analysis by including for the first time demographic information on the semi-arid as well as the arid zone to establish the spatial pattern of population growth within the whole desert area drawing attention to the resulting settlement structure as an outcome of prevailing social, cultural and economic conditions. By examining population structure and demographic components of population change we also present for the first time population projections for the semi-arid zone and, therefore, in combination with the arid zone, for the entire Australian desert. All of this provides a basis for considering social and economic policy implications and the nature of underlying processes that drive change in this region.

Additional keywords: arid, indigenous, population, projections, semi-arid.


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