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4704.0 - The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2008  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 29/04/2008   
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Contents >> Torres Strait Islander Peoples >> SOCIOECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS

SOCIOECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS

The economic and social circumstances of Torres Strait Islander people differ substantially depending on whether they live in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region, or in other parts of Australia. While Torres Strait Islander people living outside of the Torres Strait Indigenous Region display characteristics which are generally similar to the overall Indigenous population, those living in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region tend to share the socioeconomic outcomes of Indigenous people living in very remote parts of Australia. Over a range of indicators, Torres Strait Islander people generally experience greater socioeconomic disadvantage than do non-Indigenous Australians.


Language spoken at home

The preservation of language, as a key element in the maintenance of cultural identity, contributes significantly to overall well-being and health outcomes in Indigenous communities.

According to the 2006 Census, 75% of Torres Strait Islander people in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region reported speaking an Australian Indigenous language at home. Of these, 72% spoke Torres Strait Island Creole and 17% spoke Kalaw Kawaw Ya/Kalaw Lagaw Ya.

The majority of Torres Strait Islander people living outside of the Torres Strait Indigenous Region (80%) spoke only English at home and 7% spoke an Indigenous language. Similarly, 82% of the overall Indigenous population spoke only English at home, and 11% spoke an Indigenous language.

Around four out of five Torres Strait Islander people (81%) who spoke an Indigenous language at home reported being able to speak English well or very well, which was comparable with the level of English proficiency of all Indigenous people who spoke an Indigenous language at home (79%).

In the Torres Strait Indigenous Region, 19% of Torres Strait Islander people who spoke an Indigenous language at home did not speak English well, or did not speak it at all. This was the same proportion reported for all Indigenous people. However, only 13% of Torres Strait Islander people living outside the Torres Strait Indigenous Region who spoke an Indigenous language at home did not speak English well, or at all (table 12.8).

12.8 LANGUAGE SPOKEN AT HOME AND PROFICIENCY IN ENGLISH - 2006

Torres Strait Islander(a)
Torres Strait Indigenous Region
Balance of Australia
Total
Total Indigenous
%
%
%
%

Language spoken at home
English only
12.5
80.3
70.3
81.8
Australian Indigenous language
75.2
6.8
16.9
11.4
Other language
8.1
6.1
6.4
1.6
Total(b)
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
Proficiency in English
Spoke English well or very well
80.2
83.8
81.4
78.6
Did not speak English well, or at all
18.6
13.2
16.7
19.0
Total persons who spoke an Australian Indigenous language at home(c)
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) Includes persons who were of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.
(b) Includes language spoken at home not stated.
(c) Includes proficiency in English not stated.
Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing



Highest year of school completed

The relationship between higher levels of educational attainment and improved overall health status in the Indigenous population has been discussed in Chapter 3 of this report.

In 2006, 32% of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over (excluding those still at school) had completed Year 12; an increase from 27% in 2001. While the Year 12 completion rate for all Indigenous Australians increased from 20% to 23% over the five year period, it remained lower than for Torres Strait Islander people.

Year 12 completion by Torres Strait Islander people was higher among those living in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region (39%) than for those in other parts of Australia (31%). However, levels of secondary school completion were still lower than those for the non-Indigenous population (49%) in 2006 (table 12.9).

12.9 HIGHEST YEAR OF SCHOOL COMPLETED - 2006

Torres Strait Islander(a)
Torres Strait Indigenous Region
Balance of Australia
Total
Total Indigenous
Non-Indigenous

Year 12 %
38.5
31.0
32.2
23.0
49.1
Year 10 or 11 %
35.7
42.9
41.7
43.2
35.2
Year 9 or below(b) %
25.8
26.1
26.1
33.9
15.8
Total %
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
Persons aged 15 years and over(c) no.
3 880
19 664
23 544
232 870
13 346 618
Highest year of school completed not stated no.
132
3 709
3 841
32 951
730 000

(a) Includes persons who were of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.
(b) Includes persons who never attended school.
(c) Excludes persons whose highest year of school completed was not stated.
Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing



Highest non-school qualification

In 2006, there were around 5,000 Torres Strait Islander people aged 25-64 years with a non-school qualification (32% of the Torres Strait Islander population). The following analysis focuses on non-school qualifications of Certificate III or higher. For further explanation of the differences between certificate levels, see Chapter 3.

Just over one-quarter (27%) of Torres Strait Islander people aged 25-64 years had attained a Certificate III or higher qualification in 2006, similar to the rate in the overall Indigenous population (25%). These rates were both significantly lower than those for non-Indigenous people (50%). In 2001, 20% of Torres Strait Islander people aged 25-64 years had a Certificate III or higher qualification.

Torres Strait Islander people living in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region in 2006 were as likely as those living in other parts of Australia to have completed a non-school qualification of Certificate III or higher (28% and 27% respectively) (table 12.10).

12.10 HIGHEST NON-SCHOOL QUALIFICATION - 2006

Torres Strait Islander(a)
Torres Strait Indigenous Region
Balance of Australia
Total
Total Indigenous
Non-Indigenous

Bachelor degree or above %
4.0
6.0
5.6
6.1
22.6
Certificate or Diploma, Certificate III or above(b) %
23.9
21.0
21.5
18.8
27.5
Total with a non-school qualification, Certificate III or above %
27.8
27.0
27.1
24.9
50.1
Certificate I/II(c) %
9.1
4.4
5.2
4.1
3.4
No non-school qualification %
61.2
67.0
66.0
69.6
44.7
Total %
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
Persons aged 25-64 years(d) no.
2 452
12 925
15 377
156 391
9 324 895
Highest non-school qualification not stated no.
273
2 675
2 948
26 399
493 215

(a) Includes persons who were of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.
(b) Includes persons with a Diploma or Advanced Diploma.
(c) Includes persons with a Certificate n.f.d.
(d) Includes persons with level of education inadequately described. Excludes persons with level of education not stated.
Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing



Labour force status

Labour force data from the 2006 Census have been used in this report. For further information on the main differences between labour force data from the Census and Indigenous-specific surveys, refer to Chapter 2.

Labour force participation by Torres Strait Islander people aged 15-64 years was 59% in 2006, having changed little since 1996 when the rate was 57%. Their participation was greater than the overall Indigenous rate (54%) but lower than the participation rate for non-Indigenous people (75%). Among Torres Strait Islander people aged 15-64 years, the male labour force participation rate was 65% and the female rate was 53% (table 12.11).

Torres Strait Islander people aged 15-64 years had a lower unemployment rate (12%) than did all Indigenous people in this age group (16%) in 2006. The corresponding unemployment rate for non-Indigenous Australians was 5%. The Torres Strait Islander unemployment rate of 12% had decreased from 19% in 1996, consistent with the general decline in unemployment Australia-wide.

The unemployment rate was 5% for Torres Strait Islander people living in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region in 2006, compared with 14% for those living in other areas. While full-time employment was reported at similar rates for all Torres Strait Islander people aged 15-64 years, part-time employment was almost twice as common for those living in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region than in other parts of Australia (29% compared with 15%).

12.11 LABOUR FORCE CHARACTERISTICS - 2006

Torres Strait Islander(a)
Torres Strait Indigenous Region
Balance of Australia
Total
Total Indigenous
Non-Indigenous

Labour force status
Employed
Full-time %
31.5
28.5
28.9
24.1
45.9
Part-time %
28.5
15.1
17.1
16.6
20.5
Total(b) %
66.5
49.1
51.6
45.2
70.8
Unemployed %
3.3
7.9
7.2
8.4
3.8
Not in the labour force %
26.7
36.2
34.8
40.7
24.2
Total(c) %
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
Labour force participation rate
Males %
78.6
62.4
64.7
59.1
81.0
Females %
61.7
51.3
52.9
48.4
68.5
Persons %
69.9
57.0
58.9
53.6
74.7
Unemployment rate
Males %
4.1
13.4
11.8
15.8
5.1
Females %
5.4
14.5
12.8
15.4
5.2
Persons %
4.7
13.9
12.3
15.6
5.1
Total persons aged 15-64 years no.
3 934
22 921
26 855
268 807
12 276 785

(a) Includes persons who were of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.
(b) Includes persons who were away from work.
(c) Includes persons whose labour force status was not stated.
Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing


The comparatively low unemployment rate and greater share of part-time work among Torres Strait Islander people in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region is largely the result of higher participation in the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) programme. Results from the 2004-05 NATSIHS show that CDEP work comprised 56% of all employment for Torres Strait Islander people aged 15-64 years in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region, whereas 91% of employed Torres Strait Islander people living in other parts of Australia were in mainstream jobs. For further information on the CDEP programme, refer to the Glossary.


Income

In comparing the relative economic wellbeing of households of different size and composition, the actual incomes of households are adjusted using an equivalence scale to produce the equivalised gross weekly income of each person in that household. For further explanation of equivalised gross household income, see the Glossary.

In 2006, the median equivalised gross household income for Torres Strait Islander people was $388 per week. This was higher than that for all Indigenous people ($362 per week), and was equal to 60% of the median equivalised household income for non-Indigenous people ($642 per week).

Torres Strait Islander people who lived in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region had a lower median equivalised household income than those in other parts of Australia ($354 compared with $400). Torres Strait Islander median equivalised incomes were lower for women than for men ($379 compared with $399), and this was also reflected in both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.

Low resource households

People with equivalised gross weekly household incomes in the lowest quintile (i.e. less than $315 per week) who were living in a dwelling that was not owned (with or without a mortgage) by a household member, and in which no household member was the owner/manager of an unincorporated business, were considered to be living in low resource households. For further information on income quintiles and low resource households, refer to the Glossary.

In 2006, 32% of Torres Strait Islander people, 39% of Indigenous people overall, and 8% of non-Indigenous people were living in low resource households. Torres Strait Islander people in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region were more likely to be living in low resource households (39%) than those living in other parts of Australia (31%) (table 12.12).

12.12 EQUIVALISED GROSS WEEKLY HOUSEHOLD INCOME(a) - 2006

Torres Strait Islander(b)
Torres Strait Indigenous Region
Balance of Australia
Total
Total Indigenous
Non-Indigenous

Lowest income quintile (Less than $315)
Low resource households(c) %
38.7
31.1
32.4
38.7
8.0
Remainder of households %
2.8
7.8
6.9
6.5
11.6
Second and third income quintiles %
52.0
42.9
44.4
39.0
39.5
Fourth and fifth income quintiles %
6.5
18.2
16.2
15.8
40.8
Total %
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
no.
5 899
28 804
34 703
337 503
15 288 123
Income not stated(d) no.
442
7 342
7 784
73 054
1 893 333

(a) Derived from gross weekly household income in occupied private dwellings, where all incomes were reported.
(b) Includes persons who were of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.
(c) Excludes persons in dwellings that were partially or fully owned by a household member and persons in households where a household member was an owner manager of an unincorporated enterprise.
(d) Comprises Nil income, Negative income, Partial incomes stated, All incomes not stated and Not applicable.
Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing



Housing

Torres Strait Islander people were more likely to be living in a rented dwelling in 2006 than in a dwelling that was owned (with or without a mortgage) by a household member (65% compared with 28%). While the same proportion of Indigenous people overall (65%) were renting, around one-quarter of non-Indigenous people (24%) were living in rented housing.

In 2006, one in ten Torres Strait Islander people (10%) lived in a dwelling that was fully owned, and almost one in five (18%) lived in a dwelling that was being purchased. Similarly, 8% of Indigenous people lived in fully owned dwellings and 20% lived in dwellings that were being purchased. Around one-third of non-Indigenous people (30%) were living in fully owned dwellings and 42% were in dwellings that were being purchased (table 12.13).

There was no significant change in the proportion of Torres Strait Islander people living in homes which were owned (with or without a mortgage) between 1996 (29%) and 2006 (28%). Rates of housing rental among Torres Strait Islander people also changed little (from 60% to 65%) over this period.

In the Torres Strait Indigenous Region in 2006, 88% of Torres Strait Islander people were living in rented housing compared with 61% of Torres Strait Islander people living in other parts of the country. A much smaller proportion of Torres Strait Islander people in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region (7%) were living in a dwelling that was owned (with or without a mortgage), compared with 31% of Torres Strait Islander people living in other areas. Housing tenure among Torres Strait Islander people in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region mirrored that of Indigenous people in other very remote parts of Australia, where 84% lived in rented dwellings and 4% lived in a home that was owned (with or without a mortgage).

In the Torres Strait Indigenous Region, 40% of Torres Strait Islander people were living in housing provided by Indigenous Housing Organisations (IHOs), other housing co-operatives, or church or community groups, compared with 8% of Torres Strait Islander people living elsewhere in Australia.

12.13 HOUSING TENURE(a) - 2006

Torres Strait Islander(b)
Torres Strait Indigenous Region
Balance of Australia
Total
Total Indigenous
Non-Indigenous

Homeowner
Fully owned %
5.6
10.4
9.7
7.8
30.2
Being purchased %
1.2
20.8
17.8
20.5
41.6
Total owners/purchasers %
6.8
31.1
27.5
28.3
71.8
Renter
State or territory housing authority %
37.7
21.5
23.9
22.5
3.2
Indigenous housing organisation/community housing %
39.7
7.6
12.4
16.9
0.4
Private and other renter(c) %
11.0
31.5
28.5
25.3
20.8
Total renters %
88.4
60.6
64.8
64.6
24.4
Other tenure type(c) %
2.6
2.4
2.4
2.8
1.8
Tenure type not stated %
2.2
5.8
5.3
4.3
2.0
Total %
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
no.
6 341
36 146
42 487
410 557
17 181 456

(a) Data are for persons living in occupied private dwellings. Excludes visitors, Other not classifiable and Not Applicable.
(b) Includes persons who were of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.
(c) Includes landlord type not stated.
Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing


The 2006 Community Housing and Infrastructure Needs Survey collected information about the state of repair of dwellings owned or managed by IHOs. While dwellings in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region were less likely than other IHO dwellings to require major repairs (14% compared with 26%), they were equally likely to require replacement (9%).

12.14 DWELLING CONDITION, permanent dwellings owned or managed by Indigenous Housing Organisations - 2006

Dwellings in Torres Strait Indigenous Region
Dwellings in balance of Australia
Total Australia
no.
%
no.
%
no.
%

Minor or no repair required
911
77.7
9 382
64.9
10 293
65.7
Major repair required
160
13.7
3 750
25.9
3 910
25.0
Replacement required
101
8.6
1 323
9.2
1 424
9.1
Total IHO owned or managed permanent dwellings
1 172
100.0
14 455
100.0
15 627
100.0

Source: ABS 2006 CHINS



Internet access

In 2006, 35% of Torres Strait Islander people had access to an Internet connection in their home. Internet access was significantly lower in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region, where 84% of people of Torres Strait Islander origin did not have Internet access at home, compared with 54% of those living in other parts of Australia. The situation in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region was similar to very remote areas overall, in which 86% of Indigenous people did not have Internet access at home. More than half (58%) of Indigenous people and 27% of non-Indigenous people were without Internet access at home (table 12.15).

12.15 INTERNET ACCESS(a) - 2006

Torres Strait Islander(b)
Torres Strait Indigenous Region
Balance of Australia
Total
Total Indigenous
Non-Indigenous

Type of Internet connection at home
Broadband %
6.3
23.5
21.0
22.1
47.0
Dial-up %
6.2
13.6
12.5
13.1
23.1
Total(c) %
13.3
38.3
34.6
36.2
70.7
No internet connection at home %
84.1
54.0
58.5
57.9
27.0
Total(d) %
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
no.
6 341
36 146
42 487
410 557
17 181 456

(a) Information collected for occupied private dwellings.
(b) Includes persons who were of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.
(c) Includes other types of Internet connection.
(d) Includes type of Internet connection not stated.
Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing



Social and cultural participation

The 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) collected information on participation in social activities and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural activities. According to the survey, 44% of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over identified with a clan, tribal group or language group. While the proportion was higher for all Indigenous people in this age group (54%), similar proportions of Torres Strait Islander and Indigenous people overall recognised homelands or traditional country (67% and 70%) (ABS & AIHW 2005).

In 2002, almost all Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region (99%) had attended some kind of cultural event in the previous 12 months. In comparison, 67% of Torres Strait Islander people living in other parts of Australia reported having attended a cultural event in this period. The majority of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over (90%) had been involved in social activities in the previous three months, equal to the level of social participation reported by Indigenous people overall. Torres Strait Islander people were more likely than Indigenous people overall to have been involved in church or religious activities in the last three months (30% compared with 24%).

In the 12 months preceding the 2006 Census, 17% of Torres Strait Islander females aged 15 years or over and 14% of Torres Strait Islander males in this age group had undertaken voluntary work. The rates for Indigenous people overall were similar (15% for females and 12% for males). In the non-Indigenous population, corresponding rates were 21% for females and 17% for males.


Stressful life circumstances

In 2004-05, 73% of Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years or over reported that a stressful life event or circumstance had been a problem for them or someone close to them over the previous 12 months. For further information on the stressors included in the 2004-05 NATSIHS, refer to the Glossary of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey 2004-05 (ABS 2006c).

Most commonly reported stressors among Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years or over in 2004-05 were the death of a family member or friend (40%), household financial stress (39%), overcrowding at home (16%) and inability to find a job (14%). Indigenous adults had similar experiences of life stressors, however Torres Strait Islander people were less likely than Indigenous people overall to report financial stress (39% compared with 51%) and alcohol-related problems (11% compared with 20%).


Neighbourhood problems

In the 2002 NATSISS, 73% of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over reported the presence of at least one serious problem in their neighbourhood or community. This was comparable to the overall proportion of Indigenous people reporting neighbourhood problems (74%) (ABS & AIHW 2005).

The types of problems most commonly reported by Torres Strait Islander people related to theft (42%), alcohol (36%), illegal drugs (35%), vandalism and other damage to property (33%), youth-related problems (32%), and family violence (26%) (ABS & AIHW 2005).





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