Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians typically experience higher rates of disability and long-term health conditions and hospitalisation than do other Australians (ABS 2006c; ABS & AIHW 2005). In the 2006 Census of Population and Housing, a total of 19,600 Indigenous people (4%) were identified as needing assistance with core activities (self-care, mobility or communication) some or all of the time. After taking account of age differences between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, the level of need for assistance among Indigenous people overall was almost twice as high as that among non-Indigenous people.
These Census-based indicators of disability in the Indigenous population are consistent with the relatively high disability rates among Indigenous people aged 15 years and over reported in the 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS). Results from that survey revealed that among adults in non-remote areas, Indigenous Australians were twice as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to have a profound/severe core activity limitation (ABS & AIHW 2005).
The Census 'Core Activity Need for Assistance' concept was developed, recognising the need to identify Australians at the more severe end of the disability spectrum. This supports analyses by geographic area, and other shared characteristics such as Indigenous status. The Census measure of disability is relatable to the ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) and 2002 NATSISS concepts of profound/severe core activity limitation (see Glossary).
This chapter outlines some of the similarities and differences between rates of need for assistance with core activities (from the 2006 Census) and profound/severe core activity limitation (from the 2002 NATSISS) in the Indigenous population. The relationships between need for assistance and selected socioeconomic indicators such as educational attainment, labour force participation, income, language spoken at home, and social marital status are then explored using 2006 Census data, supplemented with information on social participation and support from the 2002 NATSISS.
The final section of this chapter examines some of the characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers - those who provided unpaid care, help or assistance to another person because of their disability, long-term illness or problems related to old age (see Appendix 1).