Official Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) numbers released yesterday suggest a small decline in Darwin’s population during 2017-2018.
Charles Darwin University’s Northern Institute demographer Dr Andrew Taylor said the numbers were not unexpected and were part of a longer-term population slow-down for the Territory.
“The regional growth figures show a small overall decline in growth for the Greater Darwin area. In general, the ABS figures suggest net losses occurred in established suburbs while newer or greenfield areas like southern Palmerston see continued growth,” Dr Taylor said.
Dr Taylor said the Territory’s long-term struggle with growth reflected increasing difficulties governments and businesses in Northern Australia faced in attracting and retaining workers and residents, with a population decline evident for the north as a whole for some years.
“Our research has shown that northern economies are increasingly affected by national and global trends, which see diminishing proportions of migrants coming to and staying in the north as long-term residents,” he said.
“We are not alone in this respect and the challenge is to make a difference in the migration markets that are growing, such as attracting more overseas migrants or retaining existing residents such as retirees.”
Dr Taylor said he believed the Australian Government’s population plan was timely but could benefit from prior research conducted by CDU demographers.
“This showed the Northern Territory, and Northern Australia more broadly, require discrete approaches to attract and retain migrants compared to places in rural southern fringes and large centres close to our major cities,” Dr Taylor said.
“Population and economic systems in our north are quite different to southern rural areas in terms of drivers and trends.
“Consideration of these at local levels is needed to effect a turn-around. Unfortunately, there is little evidence yet of the Designated Areas Migration Agreement for the Territory making a difference and more may need to be done to incentivise moves to the north,” he said.
Dr Taylor said the Northern Territory Government had recognised the need to address key segments through its Population Strategy, which included a focus on these as well as research to better understand how drivers were changing for these groups.
Dr Taylor also highlighted the need for existing residents not be forgotten through continued efforts to address costs of living, community safety and lifestyle amenity.
“There are also opportunities for welcoming refugees and climate change migrants,” he said.