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The annual censuses of Aborigines, 1925-1944: technical imperative, social demography or social control?

Ellen Percy Kraly, Colgate University
John McQuilton, University of Wollongong

In 1925, the Australian Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics initiated a program to estimate the size of the Aboriginal population at the time of the decennial census. Over the next two decades, aggregate data on Aboriginal persons were collected annually by various administrators of Aboriginal affairs. This paper reveals the objectives of census programs, the use made of the data by Commonwealth statisticians and demographers, and the relationship to policy-making and administration of Aboriginal affairs. The paper is composed of five sections: (i) role of the Commonwealth government in Aboriginal affairs during the first decades of federation; (ii) place of Aboriginal persons in Australian census-taking; (iii) origins, implementation of the annual censuses of Aborigines; (iv) use made of the data by statisticians and administrators; and (v) role of this population data system in social and demographic analysis of the Aboriginal population within Australian population and society.

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Presented in Poster Session 5: Poster Session 5: contexts