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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2005  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/01/2005   
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This page was updated on 22 Nov 2012 to include the disclaimer below. No other content in this article was affected.

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Users are warned that historic issues of this publication may contain language or views which, reflecting the authors' attitudes or that of the period in which the item was written, may be considered to be inappropriate or offensive today.


Selected findings from the 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey

The 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), provides a large and rich source of data on Indigenous people aged 15 years and over. This multidimensional social survey collected information from 9,400 Indigenous Australians across all states and territories of Australia, including people living in remote areas, and builds on the 1994 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey (NATSIS). It is planned to repeat the survey at six-yearly intervals as part of a cycle of Indigenous household surveys being conducted to provide a wide range of information about the well-being, social circumstances and outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

This article presents a selection of data available from the 2002 NATSISS, measures of selected changes over the eight years between this survey and the 1994 NATSIS, as well as comparisons with results for the non-Indigenous population from the 2002 ABS General Social Survey (GSS).

Population context

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples comprise 2.4% of the total Australian population. They are a relatively young population with a median age of 20.5 years compared with 36.1 years for the non-Indigenous population and a significant proportion of the Indigenous population (69%) live outside the major urban centres (ABS 2003). In 2002 there were an estimated 282,200 Indigenous people aged 15 years and over with 27% living in remote areas (Statistical Geography Volume 1, Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), 2001 (1216.0) for information about remoteness classifications).

Family and community

Strong family life and involvement with the community are important for the functioning of any society. Participation in social activities and voluntary work, perceptions of neighbourhood problems and the availability of community support can indicate the level of resilience of Indigenous communities.

Community involvement

In 2002 Indigenous people aged 15 years and over showed high levels of community involvement with 90% reporting they had been involved in social activities in the past three months, 49% had participated in sport or physical recreation activities in the past 12 months and 28% had undertaken voluntary work in the past 12 months. Levels of support within Indigenous communities were also high with nine out of ten Indigenous people reporting, in a time of crisis, they would be able to ask someone outside the household for support. The most common sources of support were family members (80%), friends (55%) and neighbours (20%). Ability to get support in a time of crisis increased steadily with income from 89% of those in the lowest quintile to 96% of those in the two highest income quintiles.

The 2002 NATSISS also provided information on issues which respondents felt were a problem in their neighbourhood. Based on respondents' perceptions, nearly three-quarters (74%) of Indigenous people aged 15 years and over reported the presence of at least one problem in their neighbourhood or community with similar levels reported in remote and non-remote areas. The most commonly reported problems were theft (43%), alcohol (34%), and vandalism, graffiti or damage to property (33%).

Personal stressors

Overall, 82% of Indigenous people aged 15 years and over in 2002 reported they had experienced at least one life stressor in the past 12 months. The most frequently reported stressors experienced by a respondent or by someone close to them were the death of a family member or close friend (46%), serious illness or disability (31%) and inability to get a job (27%). However, for those living in remote areas, the most frequently reported stressors, after death of a family member or close friend (55%), were overcrowding at home (42%) and alcohol or drug-related problems (37%). Indigenous people aged 18 years and over were almost one-and-a-half times more likely to have experienced at least one life stressor than non-Indigenous people (83% compared with 57%).

Culture and language

Indicators of Indigenous cultural retention have not shown any decline since 1994. A similar proportion (just over half) of Indigenous people continued to identify with a clan, tribal or language group. There was, however, a decline in the proportion (29% to 22%) of people who lived in homelands and traditional country. In 2002 about seven out of ten Indigenous people aged 15 years and over had attended cultural events in the past 12 months, similar to the situation in 1994. Use of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language as the main language spoken at home also remained at 1994 levels (about one in eight Indigenous people). For each of these aspects of cultural attachment, higher rates were reported in remote areas (graph S5.1).

Graph S5.1: ASPECTS OF CULTURAL ATTACHMENT BY REMOTENESS(a) - 2002



Health

Previous reports have detailed a number of health concerns among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, including high rates of diabetes, heart disease and respiratory conditions (ABS 2002). For remote communities, isolation and limited access to health services may exacerbate these problems.

In 2002 Indigenous people reported their health as either excellent/very good (44%), good (32%) or fair/poor (23%). While the proportion of people who reported excellent/very good health was similar in remote and non-remote areas, those in remote areas were less likely to rate their health as fair/poor (20% compared with 25%).

After adjusting for the different age structures of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, Indigenous people aged 18 years and over were twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to report their health as fair/poor (table S5.2). They were also nearly one-and-a-half times more likely to have a disability or long-term health condition.


S5.2 HEALTH AND DISABILITY OF INDIGENOUS AND NON-INDIGENOUS PERSONS(a) - 2002

Age-standardised rates

Indigenous

Remote
Non-remote
Total
Non-Indigenous
%
%
%
%

Self-assessed health status
Excellent/very good
34.9
35.4
35.2
58.9
Good
35.6
30.5
31.9
25.0
Fair/poor
29.0
34.1
32.7
16.1
Has a disability or long-term health condition
(b). .
56.6
(b). .
40.1

(a) Persons aged 18 years and over.
(b) The disability criteria used in the GSS are only comparable with those used in non-remote areas in the NATSISS.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2002 (4714.0).


Education

There were gains in the educational attainment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people between 1994 and 2001. The proportion with a certificate or diploma doubled (from 11% to 22%), while those with a bachelor degree or higher qualification rose from 1% to 3%. Excluding those who had a non-school qualification, the proportion of Indigenous people who had completed Year 12 also increased (from 7% in 1994 to 10% in 2002).

Despite these gains in educational attainment, Indigenous people aged 18 years and over were still far less likely than non-Indigenous people to have a non-school qualification in 2002 (29% compared with 50%).

Graph S6.3: HIGHEST EDUCATION ATTAINMENT(a) - 2002



Work

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people generally experience lower levels of labour force participation and higher levels of unemployment than non-Indigenous people. In 2002, after adjusting for the different age structures of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, Indigenous people aged 18 years and over were less likely to be employed than non-Indigenous people (43% compared with 63%). They were also more than twice as likely to be unemployed (9% compared with 4%) and more likely not to be in the labour force (48% compared with 33%).

In recognition of the limited employment opportunities in remote areas, the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme was established and has since extended into some non-remote areas. By providing Indigenous community organisations with funds to pay participants working on community projects, the scheme provides jobs and training for people who agree to forego an unemployment allowance. While the total proportion of Indigenous people in the labour force remained constant at around 60% in both 1994 and 2002, there were marked changes in employment status with the proportion of employed people increasing from 36% to 46%. The CDEP scheme increasingly contributed to Indigenous employment, although the proportion of Indigenous people employed in mainstream jobs also rose (from 28% to 34%) (graph S5.4).

Graph S5.4: LABOUR FORCE CHARACTERISTICS(a)



Between 1994 and 2002 the proportion of unemployed Indigenous people fell from 22% to 14% which translates to unemployment rates of 38% in 1994 falling to 23% in 2002. This is consistent with the general decline in national unemployment from 10% in June 1994 to 6% in December 2002. Improvements in long-term unemployment were also evident. In 1994 about half of all unemployed Indigenous people had been unemployed for one year or longer. By 2002 this proportion had reduced to a quarter.

Income

To allow comparisons of income between households of different size and composition, gross household income is adjusted using an equivalence scale. For a lone-person household, equivalised gross household income is equal to income received. For a household comprising more than one person, it is an indicator of the gross household income that would be required by a lone-person household in order to enjoy the same level of economic well-being as the household in question. For more information see National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2002 (4714.0).

In 2002 the mean equivalised gross household income of Indigenous people aged 15 years and over was $387 per week, up from $345 per week in 1994. The likelihood of being employed and having non-school qualifications both increased with income. Compared with those in the lowest income quintile, those in the fourth or fifth income quintile were almost five times as likely to be employed (88% compared with 18%) and more than twice as likely to have a non-school qualification (43% compared with 18%).

Despite increases since 1994, the incomes of Indigenous people in 2002 still fell well below those of non-Indigenous people. The mean equivalised gross household income of Indigenous people aged 18 years and over was $394 per week, equal to 59% of the corresponding income of non-Indigenous people ($665 per week). Income data from the 2001 and 1996 censuses confirms that while Indigenous mean equivalised gross household income has increased, the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous incomes has not narrowed (Population Characteristics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2001 (4713.0)).

Housing

In 2002 the majority (70%) of Indigenous people were living in rented dwellings. The proportion renting was higher in remote areas (86%) where the majority of Indigenous people (64%) were living in accommodation provided by Indigenous Housing Organisations or in other community housing. Overall, about a quarter (27%) of Indigenous people were living in dwellings either owned or being purchased in 2002 (up from 22% in 1994) (table S5.5).


S5.5 HOUSEHOLD TENURE TYPE(a)

2002

Household tenure type
Units
1994
Remote
Non-remote
Total

Owner
Owner without a mortgage
%
10.9
3.8
12.0
9.7
Owner with a mortgage
%
10.8
4.8
21.3
16.8
Renter
State/territory housing authority
%
33.3
13.2
25.4
22.1
Indigenous housing organisation/community housing
%
18.7
63.9
9.3
24.3
Other landlord types
%
18.7
8.5
28.9
23.3
Total
%
71.2
85.6
63.7
69.7
Total
'000
214.6
77.1
205.1
282.2

(a) Indigenous persons aged 15 years and over.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2002 (4714.0).


Overall, 40% of Indigenous people reported they were living in a dwelling which had major structural problems (58% in remote areas and 32% in non-remote areas), and 63% were living in dwellings where repairs and maintenance had been carried out in the previous year (52% in remote areas and 67% in non-remote areas). Overcrowding was much more prevalent in remote areas, with just over half (52%) of people living in dwellings that needed at least one extra bedroom, compared with 16% of people in non-remote areas. Of those living in overcrowded dwellings in 2002, nearly half (44%) reported stress from overcrowding at home in the past 12 months. For more information on the measurement of overcrowding see National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2002 (4714.0).

Law and justice

Victimisation

In 2002, 24% of Indigenous people aged 15 years and over reported they had been a victim of physical or threatened violence in the past 12 months, nearly double the rate reported in 1994 (13%). However, some of this increase may reflect under-reporting by respondents to the 1994 NATSIS. Rates of victimisation were similar for people living in remote and non-remote areas (23% compared with 25%) and for men and women overall (26% compared with 23%). Rates of reported victimisation were higher among younger people (graph S5.6), unemployed people (38%) and those who reported that they had first been formally charged before the age of 17 years (44%).

Graph S5.6: VICTIMS OF PHYSICAL OR THREATENED VIOLENCE IN PAST 12 MONTHS(a) - 2002



After adjusting for age differences between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, Indigenous people aged 18 years and over experienced double the victimisation rate of non-Indigenous persons (20% compared with 9%). These data are consistent with the very much higher rates in the Indigenous population of both hospitalisation and mortality due to assault (ABS & AIHW 2003).

Involvement in the criminal justice system

The proportion of Indigenous people who reported having been arrested at least once in the past five years declined by about a fifth between 1994 and 2002 (from 20% to 16%). In 2002, 7% of Indigenous people aged 15 years and over reported they had been incarcerated in the past five years. Males were far more likely than females to report they had been arrested (24% compared with 9%) and incarcerated (11% compared with 3%) in the past five years.

The data presented in this article represent only some of the insights that can be obtained from the NATSISS. Other topics covered in the survey include transport, alcohol consumption, smoking, child care, computer and Internet use, educational participation, mobility, substance use, removal from natural family, and use of legal services. Readers interested in undertaking further analysis of the data are referred to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey: Data Reference Package, 2002 (4714.0.55.002).

References

ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics)
  • 2001, Statistical Geography, Volume 1: Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), 2001, cat. no. 1216.0, ABS, Canberra
  • 2002, National Health Survey: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Results, Australia, 2001, cat. no. 4715.0, ABS, Canberra
  • 2003, Population characteristics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, Australia, 2001 cat. no. 4713.0, ABS, Canberra
  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey: Data Reference Package, 2002, cat. no. 4714.0.55.002, ABS, Canberra
  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 2002, cat. no. 4714.0, ABS, Canberra
  • Population Characteristics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2001, cat. no. 4713.0, ABS, Canberra

ABS & AIHW 2003 (Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2003, Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2003, cat. no. 4704.0, ABS, Canberra

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