There is strong evidence from Australia and other developed countries that low socioeconomic status is associated with poor health and increased exposure to health risk factors (Blakely, Hales & Woodward 2004; Turrell & Mathers 2000). Recent statistics from the 2007 Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage Report by the Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (SCRGSP) have highlighted some improvements in the lives of Indigenous Australians in the areas of employment, educational attainment and income (SCRGSP 2007a). However, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to experience relative disadvantage compared with non-Indigenous people.
This chapter provides an overview of the demographic characteristics of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. The data are primarily from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing, with supplementary information from the 2004-05 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) and the 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS). These data provide a context for the health and welfare information in later chapters, with topics including education, housing, income and labour force status. Some of the topics in this chapter are explored in more detail in later chapters within this report. For more information on the demographic characteristics of the Torres Strait Islander population, see Chapter 12.