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4700.0 - ABS Directions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics, Jun 2007  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 08/06/2007   
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APPENDIX 4 CURRENT ABS INDIGENOUS STATISTICS PROGRAM

CENSUS OF POPULATION AND HOUSING

The five-yearly Census continues to be the centrepiece of the ABS Indigenous statistics work program. It provides the basis for estimates of the Indigenous population and a wide range of socioeconomic information on housing, income, employment, education and language. Much information from the Census is available free of charge from the ABS web site and information from the 2006 Census will be available from mid 2007.

Since 1971 there has been a continual process of reviewing and improving Census enumeration procedures in an effort to raise the quality of the count of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. All Censuses from 1986 have been supported by an Indigenous Enumeration Strategy (IES) aimed at improving Census awareness, forms design and field procedures to facilitate effective and accurate enumeration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, particularly those living in remote areas. Approximately 4% of the Census field staff in 2006 were Indigenous people (1,600).

The development of the 2006 Census IES was guided by a Working Group comprising experts from Indigenous organisations, Australian and state/territory government agencies, research organisations and practitioners in Indigenous data, field procedures and protocols. The 2006 Census IES was designed to have sufficient flexibility to allow for the unique cultural aspects of Indigenous society while ensuring the quality and consistency of results overall. It included a new form layout designed to facilitate collection of information from large households, extending the Post Enumeration Survey (undertaken after each Census to assess Census undercount) to cover remote Indigenous communities, and independent observational studies of Indigenous enumeration and processing.

Indigenous specific products from the 2006 Census will generally be available free of charge via the internet from www.abs.gov.au:

  • Indigenous Quickstats for basic information on a place of interest.
  • Indigenous Census tables for more detailed information on a single topic on a place of interest.
  • Indigenous community profiles for 30 detailed tables on a place of interest, and the publications Population Distribution, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (ABS cat. no. 4705.0), and Population Characteristics, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (ABS cat. no. 4713.0). These will become available progressively from mid 2007.

In 2008 a CD-ROM release of Australian Indigenous Geographical Classification Maps and Census Profiles (cat. no. 4706.0.30.001) will be available.

ABS INDIGENOUS HOUSEHOLD SURVEYS

At the time of writing, ABS is reviewing its program of household surveys. This program currently includes two specific Indigenous surveys (NATSISS and NATSIHS), the CHINS conducted by ABS on behalf of FaCSIA and other surveys, most notably the Labour Force Survey, from which some Indigenous data are output. While the revised household surveys program has yet to be decided, there is demand to continue the current Indigenous component and to further expand it if feasible.

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS)

The NATSISS is currently planned to be run six-yearly and provides a wide range of socioeconomic information including demographic and housing details, education, labour force participation, personal income, transport and mobility, health, culture, family and community, crime and justice, physical and threatened violence, and perceived neighbourhood problems. The 2002 survey provides comparisons with results from the 1994 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey (NATSIS) and the 2002 General Social Survey (GSS).

The 2002 NATSISS was designed in collaboration with government agencies and committees, Indigenous organisations, and researchers. Development included extensive consultation with Indigenous communities and enumeration was assisted by Indigenous facilitators.

The 2002 NATSISS collected information about personal and household characteristics for people aged 15 years and over in remote and non-remote areas of all states and territories in Australia. Some 9,400 people responded to the survey (about 1 in 30 of Indigenous people aged 15 years and over). Initial results were released in June 2004 in National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (ABS cat. no. 4714.0) which is available free of charge on the ABS web site together with additional parallel state/territory tables. Key comparisons with results from the 1994 NATSIS, and with non-Indigenous results from the 2002 GSS, are included in the publication. The Confidentialised Unit Record File of the NATSISS is available for researchers wishing to undertake more detailed studies. The ABS has released a summary booklet of main findings and state and territory posters based on the results of the NATSISS as part of the survey dissemination strategy.

Preparations for the 2008 NATSISS commenced in 2006 with the circulation of a consultation paper among AGATSIS members and other stakeholders. ABS aims to design the 2008 NATSISS so that it is both relevant to emerging policy directions and continues to collect standard indicators for analysing change over time. Following an initial assessment of user views and some initial testing of possible new data items, a workshop involving key stakeholders will be held in mid 2007 to firm up survey content.

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS)

The NATSIHS is currently planned to be run six-yearly and provides information about the health of Indigenous Australians including measures of health status, health actions taken, and lifestyle factors which may influence health. The NATSIHS is designed to provide comparisons with results from the three-yearly National Health Survey (NHS).

The introduction of a more frequent NHS and the new NATSIHS following the 1998-99 review of the ABS household survey program was partially supported through funding from the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing under a partnership agreement with ABS. Prior to the 2004-05 survey, sample supplementation was used to ensure sufficient Indigenous respondents to provide measures of the health of Indigenous people from the NHS.

As with the 2002 NATSISS, the development of the 2004-05 NATSIHS was guided by a survey reference group comprising Indigenous experts and representatives from Indigenous organisations, government agencies and academia. Advice was also provided by NAGATSIHID. Similarly, this survey consulted with Indigenous community councils and health services in the communities and employed Indigenous facilitators in communities to gain support and assistance with the conduct of the survey.

The 2004-05 NATSIHS included a new module on social and emotional wellbeing (adult respondents only) and expanded content in oral health, kidney disease and discrimination. The development of the social and emotional wellbeing module for the 2004-05 NATSIHS was undertaken in partnership with both the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (NACCHO) and AIHW. This successful collaboration addressed a high priority need for information in this area of Indigenous health.

Around 10,000 respondents were interviewed in remote and non-remote areas, with information collected on individuals (adults and children) in their households. Initial results were released in April 2006 in National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (ABS cat. no. 4715.0) which is available free of charge on the ABS web site together with additional parallel state/territory tables. Key comparisons with Indigenous and non-Indigenous results from the 1995 and 2001 NHS are included in the publication. The Confidentialised Unit Record File of the NATSIHS is available for researchers wishing to undertake more detailed studies. The ABS has released a summary booklet of main findings and a set of posters as part of the survey dissemination strategy.

Community Housing and Infrastructure Needs Survey

Information covered by CHINS includes: details of current housing stock, management practices and financial arrangements of Indigenous organisations that provide housing to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples; and details of housing and related infrastructure such as water, electricity, sewerage, drainage and solid waste disposal, as well as other facilities available in discrete Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

In 1999 and 2001, the ABS conducted the CHINS covering Indigenous housing organisations and discrete Indigenous communities on behalf of the former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. The ABS was engaged by the Australian Government Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA) to conduct a 2006 CHINS. The 2006 CHINS has provided information on changes within the Indigenous community housing sector and on circumstances in discrete communities since 2001. The ABS published Housing and Infrastructure in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities, 2006 (ABS cat. no. 4710.0) in April 2007. Ongoing dissemination of results from the 1999, 2001 and 2006 CHINS is managed and undertaken by FaCSIA.

OTHER ABS HOUSEHOLD SURVEYS

Labour Force Survey

Since March 2001 the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS) has included the standard Indigenous status question to enable Indigenous results to be produced on an annual basis. Experimental estimates of the labour force characteristics of Indigenous people for 2002 to 2004 were released in January 2006 and results for 2005 and onwards have since been released on an annual basis. Results are presented for states/territories and for remoteness areas. See Labour Force Characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, Experimental Estimates from the Labour Force Survey (ABS cat. no. 6287.0).


Survey of Education and Training

The ABS Survey of Education and Training incorporates the Indigenous status question to enable some Indigenous results to be produced. This four-yearly survey has, from 1993, presented a limited range of statistics regarding Indigenous education and training participation and completion. For further information see Education and Training Experience, Australia (ABS cat. no. 6278.0).

OTHER INDIGENOUS SURVEYS

Other Indigenous survey activities of national interest in which ABS has participated include:

Western Australia Aboriginal Child Health Survey (WAACHS)

The ABS provided consultancy services and advice for the design, conduct and dissemination strategies of the Telethon Institute of Child Health Research (ICHR) Western Australia Aboriginal Child Health Survey (WAACHS). This was a survey of Indigenous children aged zero to 17 years that detailed the factors that contribute to significantly higher death rates, illness and disability in comparison with other Australians, as well as identifying resilience factors. Information was collected on more than 5,200 Aboriginal children in WA. Interviews were conducted with 11,300 family members, 2,000 families, and more than 3,000 teachers over the period May 2000 to June 2002. In June 2004, the first volume of findings The Health of Aboriginal Children and Young People was launched. Since then, further volumes of statistical analysis have been released on a range of health-related topics, including social and emotional wellbeing, education, and family and community.

2004 Survey of Indigenous Vocational Education and Training Students

The ABS assisted the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research (NCVER) with the design and methodology for the 2004 Survey of Indigenous Vocational Education and Training Students. Initial results were released in the publication 'Australian Vocational Education and Training Statistics: Indigenous Australians' training experiences 2004 - First findings' in 2005 and information is available on request from NCVER.

ADMINISTRATIVE COLLECTIONS

Administrative data collected by state and territory agencies complement and extend the information collected by the ABS and other national agencies. The cooperation and willingness of agencies to engage with the ABS is instrumental in improving the quality of Indigenous information from these collections.

The ABS uses and disseminates a range of statistics from Australian Government agencies and state and territory data sets, to supplement and improve the quality and breadth of existing surveys. For example:

  • Births, Deaths, Marriages and Divorces obtained from Registrars General in each state and territory and the Family Court of Australia;
  • Education data from state and territory education departments, DEST and the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research (NCVER);
  • Crime and justice collections from corrective services institutions, police and courts; and
  • Combining Australian Taxation Office (ATO) aggregated administrative data with FaCSIA aggregated data to develop experimental regional estimates of the sources of personal income.

There is ongoing work to develop administrative datasets in order to improve the quality and coverage of the data. Collection methods, changes in definitions or estimation methods, scope, imputation, revisions and Indigenous identification processes need to be understood and reported in any publication of data. The ABS and relevant agencies have all put considerable effort into identifying and addressing quality issues.

The ABS is developing frameworks to assess the quality of administrative datasets through all stages of the statistical process. The first of these frameworks relates to Births, Deaths, Marriages and Divorces and is initially focusing on births and deaths data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Development commenced in 2005. The ABS has been working cooperatively with the Registrars General, funeral directors and the health/hospital sectors in each jurisdiction to develop processes to improve and assess the quality of data at source, and achieve sustained improvements over time. Current work on births, deaths and marriages will produce new analytical processes to regularly monitor changes in data quality and provide an early warning system for data quality issues. Similarly, the ABS continues to work with the education and training sector to improve and support best practice in collection of enrolment data.

ABS DEMOGRAPHY AND GEOGRAPHY PROGRAMS

Population estimates and projections

Following each of the last three Population Censuses, the ABS has released experimental estimates and projections of the Indigenous population. Experimental Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 1991-2009 (ABS cat. no. 3238.0) was released in 2004. Preliminary estimates of the Indigenous population based on the 2006 Census are due for release in August 2007 with final estimates and projections planned for release in June 2009. This work is experimental due to the incompleteness of births, deaths and migration data needed in the standard projection models. The ABS has expended considerable effort to improve the quality of the Census data which forms the base for population estimates and projections, and continues to work with key partners to improve the quality of births and deaths data. Revisions to the methods used in the estimation process have also been refined in light of recent developments.

In September 2004, the ABS released Demography Working Paper 2003/4 - Calculating Experimental Life Tables for Use in Population Estimates and Projections of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (ABS cat. no. 3106.0.55.003). This working paper describes how the life expectancy estimates used in deriving the 1991-2009 population estimates and projections for the Indigenous population were developed. Estimation procedures and assumptions will continue to be refined and modified as life expectancy estimates based on the 2006 Census are developed.

Separate estimated resident population figures for the Torres Strait Islander population have not been available until recently. Due to the small size of the Torres Strait Islander population and differences in the census counts of this population between 1996 and 2001 these estimates should be considered developmental at this stage. Following the release of the 2006 Census, the ABS plans to again produce estimated resident population data for the Torres Strait Islander population.

Geography

The 'regional and remote' classification introduced to the Australian Standard Geographical Classification in 2001 is now widely used by both state/territory and Commonwealth governments. The Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA) that underpins the classification will again be used for output from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing.

A common need articulated by users is for more small area data. In response, an innovative micro-level of statistical geography, called mesh blocks, has been developed. These small units can be amalgamated into a variety of higher levels or types of geographical classification. As such they will enable the untying of dissemination and enumeration geography and will lead to more flexible definition of regions. Mesh blocks will be supported by a comprehensive geographical coding infrastructure based on G-NAF that will in turn facilitate the creation of new and more relevant regional data. Mesh blocks will first be available in the 2006 Census of Population and Housing, giving access to flexible geographic output for a limited range of data items.

DATA DISSEMINATION

Quality data collection and analysis is only as valuable as its relevance and access to users. The ABS has developed dissemination initiatives to encourage the ready use and understanding of its outputs. This involves the development of reference materials and data packages to support its tables and publications, training initiatives in data use, and increased use of web-based publications and customised services. In addition, Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs) are available to approved users and can be delivered on CD-ROM or through the Remote Access Data Laboratory (RADL) (a secure online data query service).

The ABS publishes a suite of catalogued reports from its various surveys and analytical work and these are available on the ABS web site: www.abs.gov.au.

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