Both IDUs and others consulted were asked about their impressions of gender and age group among local Indigenous injectors. As for gender, the typical responses were either that IDUs were about 50/50 male/female, or else that males accounted for a majority – perhaps two-thirds – of Indigenous IDUs. (It will be noted that these estimates echo the information and impressions reported in earlier research – see section 2.1.2.) As with the wider IDU population, couples who both inject are reportedly quite common; it was said that a male might well introduce his female partner to drug injecting. Thus, while females may be in the minority, they represent a significant part of the Indigenous IDU population. In Cairns it was reported that hepatitis C rates among female IDUs were higher than for males in the 16-24 age group – possibly reflecting unsafe injecting among female IDUs with an older partner.

As for age group, it was reported by numbers of NSP outlets that the most typical age range for Indigenous NSP clients was between about 25 and 45, with relatively few younger people using the service. In Darwin, for example, NTAHC representatives noted that despite the young average age of the Northern Territory population, their NSP saw relatively few clients in their teens or early 20s (this was true for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous clientele). A group of Indigenous IDUs who were consulted in Darwin, however, reported that there were significant numbers of young Indigenous injectors in an area like Palmerston. A number of NSP workers commented that it was difficult for them to judge whether there were significant numbers of younger injectors whom them were not seeing.

Numbers of IDUs and workers who were interviewed during the study referred to young Aboriginal people first injecting in their mid teens – including young women influenced by older partners or family members. Whether Indigenous or non-Indigenous, 'kids are hitting the party scene from Year 8', said a Canberra worker. A Melbourne stakeholder stated that in his experience Aboriginal people may tend to start injecting drugs at a young age – possibly reflecting 'low horizons' or life expectations and the fact that friends or older siblings may be injecting. (A health worker consulted in Carnarvon spoke of Aboriginal people often having little reason to be optimistic about their long-term prospects, and of encountering 'that horrible fatalism' among those he met in his work.) In Taree it was suggested that injecting often began around the age of 16, with the peak IDU age group being up to about 30. One woman in Cairns described herself as a 'late starter' who did not inject until she was 27.

In this context it is interesting to note that the Implementation Plan for Aboriginal People under the NSW HIV/AIDS, Sexually Transmissible Infections and Hepatitis C Strategies notes that in the period 2000- 2005, 20% of newly acquired HCV notifications among Aboriginal people were among those aged between 15 and 19 years; this was almost double the corresponding rate (11%) for non-Aboriginal people.

The view in Alice Springs seemed to be that Aboriginal IDUs were pretty much a cross-section of the local Aboriginal population. For example, it was said, there were Aboriginal IDUs who depended on pensions or benefits, but others who were employed in either the public or the private sector.

One other point that deserves mention here is that Indigenous IDUs may be transient or without a permanent home. This is to some extent a characteristic shared with other Indigenous Australians, but possibly exacerbated in the case of IDUs by poverty, dysfunction and alienation from family.