The National Census recorded the population of the Southern Gulf region as 30,700 in 2008. The towns of Mount Isa (21,209), Cloncurry (3,138) and Hughenden (1792) are the major population centres in the region. Other population centres are Gununa on Mornington Island (1,032), Doomadgee (1,233), Richmond (902), Julia Creek (898) and Burketown (498), McKinlay, Gregory and Kajabbi. The towns of Normanton and Karumba in Carpentaria Shire, north-east of the region, provide an important focus for economic and social activity.
One of the most notable features of the population of the Southern Gulf is that it is extremely sparse. The overall density is 0.1 people per square kilometre, which falls to a figure of 0.05 if the population of Mount Isa is excluded. This compares with a figure of 5.8 people per square kilometre for regional Victoria and a level of 0.5 people per square kilometre for West Wimmera which has the lowest population density of any local government area in Victoria.
This low density means that the level of economic activity is generally of equally low intensity. This should minimise impacts on natural resources, however, it also creates serious risks to social cohesion and the resilience of social capital – due to the remoteness of individual properties and the difficulties that social centres have in attracting and retaining younger people.
Key attributes of the population are:
- The region is noticeable for the relative weighting towards the 25-44 year age bracket and the low figures for retirees above 65 (5 percent different from all of Queensland data);
- The first provides a powerhouse for economic activity and reflects the significant employment in mining in the region; and the second indicates that many residents retire to locations outside the region. This will reduce the dependency ration for the regions’s economy;
- The relative weighting to the 0-14 age-bracket reflects the number of parents in the prime child-bearing range of 25-44 and also the significant indigenous population;
- The low figures for the 15-24 age bracket reflect younger people leaving the region, either for education or in search of work or experience. There is a risk to the region’s viability if these younger people do not return. However, the comparison with the figures for all of Queensland suggest that the data is broadly comparable with the rest of the State.
An approximation of the distribution of Aboriginal groups in the Southern Gulf of Carpentaria region
- Borroloola and NT border region – Binbinga, Yanuwa, Mara, Waanyi (Ganalanja or Nicholson River), Garawa, Gunindiri
- Mornington island – Lardil
- Bentinck Island – Gayardilt
- Burketown – Ganggalida, Gananggalinda, Mingin, Kukatj
- Normanton – Kuthant, Kurtijar, Koknar, Takalak, Agwamin, Uanga
- Mount Isa – Kalkadoon (Georgina-Corella Rivers), Yalarmga, Yanda, Guwa, Pitta-Pitta (Mulligan River), Wakabunga (Leichhardt & Gregory Rivers), Nguburinji
- Cloncurry – Mitakoodi
- Richmond – Mbara, Wanomara
- Julia Creek – Jgawun, Mayi-Kulan
- Hughenden – Yirandali
- Wambaya, Alawa, Ngandji, Wakaya, Bularnu, Waluwarra