The Regional Community

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The region has a total population of approximately 155 000 people based on 2004 estimates, 145 800 of which reside in Townsville. Townsville is the major regional hub of the Burdekin and for other areas of North and Western Queensland. General population issues include:

  • There is an average rural population loss (~1% pa)

  • There is an increase (~1.8% pa) in the population of Townsville

  • The median population age for 2001 has increased, indicating an ageing population, and is higher than the Australian average.

  • There is a decline in the population of persons younger than 15 years

  • There is a decline in population of people between 20-39 years of age: particularly in the Charters Towers, Dalrymple, Flinders and Burdekin shires (B. Burkett, pers com.).

These findings also reflect the Australia-wide issues of rural exodus of young people, urbanisation and the ageing population (eg. Alston 2002, ABS 2003, Huego 2002).

Individuals and communities need both the motivation and the capacity to adopt sustainable land management practices. Among other things, a "desire to remain" (on the property), may increase the propensity of landholders to adopt sustainable resource management practices; they have a higher motivation than landholders who have little desire to remain. The same applies for the general public. If a high proportion of individuals within an area have little desire to remain, then one would expect to see declining populations. Hence, it is useful to consider changes in population when considering the propensity of communities to adopt sustainable resource management practices (Greiner et al. 2003).

Much of the decline in population across shires in the Burdekin Dry Tropics since 1986 is due to declines in the number of young people. To the extent that declining youth populations reflect lower 'desires to remain', the recent demographic changes within the Burdekin Dry Tropics region may reflect low, or declining, propensities to adopt innovative NRM changes (BRS, 2001).

Like Queensland and Australia as a whole, the median age in all shires within the Burdekin Dry Tropics region has increased steadily over the last five years. This is indicative of an ageing population. In 1991, median age within the Burdekin region was at or below the Australia median of 32 years, with the exception of Bowen, which had a median age of 33 years. By 2001, Bowen, Burdekin and Dalrymple shires had median ages which were greater than the Australian median (Greiner et al. 2003).

Based on the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA), most of the Burdekin area is remote, the southern part around Alpha very remote and only areas around Townsville are readily accessible. This indicates potential issues for the implementation, administration and monitoring of natural resource management and for the rural population, who face long distance travel for even the most basic of services (Greiner et al. 2003).

Family and Housing

Based on the 1996 census, two-parent families are the most prevalent in the Burdekin Dry Tropics area with the proportions being above the Queensland average. Single parent families occur more frequently in Townsville, Charters Towers and Bowen, than other rural shires with Charters Towers and Bowen being above the Queensland average (Greiner et al. 2003a).

There is a dichotomy in the proportion of house ownership between the Isaac and other shires in the area. While the Isaac shire have a high proportion of rented dwellings 45% and 65% respectively, fully owned private dwellings exceed the Australian average (45%) for the Burdekin, Barcaldine, Charters Towers and Mackay shires. This almost certainly reflects the transitory nature of communities that are largely reliant upon mining.

Indigenous Population

There are at least fifteen Traditional Owner groups that have an affiliation with the Burdekin Dry Tropics region. Based on the 2001 census data, Indigenous people represent approximately 5% of the Burdekin area's population with approximately 80% of these living in the Burdekin, Bowen and Charters Towers local government areas. The indigenous population has been increasing at 2.9% pa between 1996 and 2001. Indigenous persons under 18 years comprise approximately 50% of the total indigenous population, which is double that of the total population (approximately 25%) . Indigenous people over 50 years are in markedly lower proportions than for the general populous (Census 2001 data).

Current population estimates suggest that shires in the Burdekin will soon have a significantly increased indigenous proportion. This poses a future challenge, given that the indicators for social wellbeing of the indigenous community are lower than for the general community (B. Burkett, pers. com.) and that Indigenous people currently lack the capacity to engage in sustainable natural resource management, both financially and in terms of access to and ownership of land, albeit having a strong motivation for ensuring sustainable management of their country (Greiner et al. 2003a).


  • Burkett, B. Department of Communities

  • Alston, M. 2002 Inland rural towns: Are they sustainable? Paper presented at the Academy of the Social Sciences Session on Rural Communities at the Outlook 2002 Conference. Canberra 5-7 March 2002.

  • Greiner, R., Stoeckl, N., Stokes, C., Herr, A., and Bachmaier, J. 2003a Natural resource management in the Burdekin Dry Tropics: social and economic issues. Report for the Burdekin Dry Tropics NRM Board. CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems

  • Bureau of Rural Sciences Social Sciences Centre. 2001. Compilation of a Database of Socio-economic Indicators for the Rangelands, Report for National Land and Water Audit Theme 4 Project 4.2.3, BRS Australia

Grazing and Nutrition Workshop.jpg

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