This publication is the sixth in the series of reports on the health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. By drawing on recent data available from a variety of sources, it aims to provide a comprehensive picture of the health and welfare of Australia's Indigenous population. It covers a range of topics regarded as important for improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The definition of health that underpins the publication is a holistic one put forward in the National Aboriginal Health Strategy Working Party report:
‘Not just the physical well-being of the individual but the social, emotional and cultural well-being of the whole community. This is a whole of life view and it includes the cyclical concept of life-death-life’ (National Aboriginal Health Strategy Working Party 1989).
This report also provides a broader context for the two major indicator based reports on Indigenous health and welfare - the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework (auspiced by the Australian Health Minister’s Advisory Council) and the COAG Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage (OID) Key Indicators Report. The Health Performance Framework has around 70 indicators under three tiers of reporting - health status and outcomes, determinants of health, and health system performance - while the OID framework reports on 12 headline indicators of social and economic outcomes, such as life expectancy at birth, Years 10 and 12 retention and attainment, labour force participation and unemployment, home ownership, suicide and self-harm, family and community violence, and imprisonment and juvenile detention rates.
Information about the social context and specific issues that impact on the health and welfare of Indigenous Australians is presented in Chapters 2, 3, 4, and 8. Chapter 2 provides background information on the demographic, social and economic context in which Indigenous Australians live. Chapter 3 provides information on education and employment status, including the transition from school to work. Chapter 4 examines the housing circumstances of Indigenous Australians, while Chapter 8 looks at selected health risk factors.
Health status of, and outcomes for, Indigenous Australians are described in Chapters 5, 6, 7, and 9. Chapter 5 focuses on disability (need for assistance with core activities) and carers, primarily using data from the 2006 Census. Chapter 6 provides information on the health status of Indigenous mothers and children; Chapter 7 provides an overview of the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; while Chapter 9 describes Indigenous mortality, including a discussion of trends where these can be observed.
Chapters 10 (Health service - provision, access and use) and 11 (Community services) look at system performance issues, including access to, and utilisation of, these services by Indigenous Australians.
Chapter 12 provides a summary of the relevant, available information about the health and welfare of Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The breadth and depth of data assembled for this report will also provide the basis for the development of an ABS Framework for the measurement of Indigenous wellbeing. The Framework has been identified as a key strategic area in the ABS Indigenous statistics program and will be developed in consultation with Indigenous researchers and stakeholders.