Population conference stirs fertile minds 


The Australian Population Association's 14th Biennial Conference ended with plenty of questions, reinforcing the contentious nature of topics surrounding demography in the 21st Century.

The conference, held in Alice Springs last week, attracted more than 200 national and international academics, researchers and industry specialists.

Australia's challenges were well documented with the ageing workforce, drug use, low fertility and diabetes discussed at the four-day event.

Indigenous demography, demography of Australia's northern neighbours and policy responses to demographic change were three streams explored.

Charles Darwin University's School for Social and Policy Research provided in-kind support to the conference and researchers tackled many national issues including Indigenous urbanisation, nursing shortages, mobile classrooms and town planning and statistical methods.

Strong media interest reinforced the importance of these issues in public debate and policy development.

The conference was sponsored by the Northern Territory Government, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, the Bureau of Statistics and the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre.

Mr Andrew Taylor, Chair of the organising committee of the conference, said it demonstrated important contemporary demographic issues.

“Our research has helped to inform and broaden territory and national policy debate around key issues like urban drift, the value of Census information, our rapidly ageing population and the double-edged sword of a booming economy with a lack of workers,” he said.

He was one of eight CDU researchers who spoke at the event.

Others included Professor Stephen Garnett and Dr Kate Golebiowska, who spoke about the challenges of stemming nursing turnover in the Territory and the movement intentions of international nurses and midwives working in the Territory

Dr Nick McTurk addressed a radical education initiative that involves mobile professionals training regional support workers to improve early childhood Indigenous education.

Professor Tony Barnes raised concerns about the rapidly ageing Northern Territory workforce and the potential economic implications if the workforce failed to expand in the near future.

Mary Beneforti, adjunct researcher with CDU, discussed how ABS population data might be selling the Northern Territory short by undercounting the Indigenous population.