Over the last thirty years Hervey Bay has been one of Australia’s fastest growing cities. In 1976 the population was only about 10,000. By 2021 it is projected to reach 75,000, with the biggest gains being in the retirement and pre-retirement age groups (Hervey Bay City Council 2004: 11-12). The area already has an aged population profile, with an average age of 41 years. Most of the population growth is due to inward migration from interstate and from inland areas of Queensland.
According to the 2001 Census, the Indigenous population of Hervey Bay was 955, accounting for 2.3% of the population (477 males and 478 females). The Indigenous population of the area is growing rapidly due to both inward migration and natural increase arising from a high Indigenous birth rate. The 1991 Census estimated the Indigenous population to be just 344 people (1991 Census). Five years later it had almost doubled rising to 611 (1996 Census). As a result of these demographic changes, the local Indigenous population now encompasses both local Butchella traditional owners and an equally substantial group of ‘newcomers’. It is noted, for instance, that some families from the large Aboriginal community of Cherbourg near Kingaroy have moved to Hervey Bay in recent years.
The Indigenous population as a proportion of the total population of Hervey Bay is also growing. At the 1996 Census Indigenous people comprised 1.8% of the population, but by 2001 this had risen to 2.3%.