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Commonwealth Government Records about the Northern Territory

Population censuses in the Northern Territory

Image 28: Extract from the Northern Territory's first population census, 1881.

Image 28: Extract from the Northern Territory's first population census, 1881.
NAA: F108, Volume 1
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In the pre-Commonwealth period a census of the Northern Territory's white population (Aboriginal people were usually not included) was undertaken on at least three occasions. The first, held in 1881, recorded 407 persons. For each person the details included: name, age, occupation, where born, religion and remarks. A second census was held in 1891 (872 persons) and a third in 1901 (864 persons).

The first Commonwealth census was held in 1911. Later that year the Acting Administrator reported that the Territory had a non-Aboriginal population of 3,271, comprising 2,673 males and 598 females. This figure included all Europeans as well as people from China, Japan, Philippines, Malaya and Java.3

After 1911 the census was held intermittently, being interrupted by wars and the Great Depression until 1961, following which they have been held every five years. Aboriginal people were first included in the 1971 census and every census thereafter.

The National Archives in Darwin holds records from each census conducted in the South Australian period, as well as administrative records from the early Commonwealth period. Individual census returns from 1911 to 1996 have been destroyed in accordance with Commonwealth census legislation.

Records relating to citizenship in the Northern Territory
National Archives, Darwin
Registers of census returns, 1881–1901 F108, Volume 1
Area census maps, 1976 E1280


Chapter notes | All notes

3 Northern Territory Report of the Acting Administrator for the Year 1911, p. 15; Commonwealth Parliamentary Papers (1912), volume III, pp. 595–652.


Chapter 10
Customs, Immigration and Population