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4704.0 - The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Oct 2010  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/02/2011  Final
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SOCIAL AND EMOTIONAL WELLBEING: DISCRIMINATION
This article is part of a comprehensive series released as The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.


KEY MESSAGES
  • More than one-quarter (27%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over had experienced discrimination in the last 12 months.

Evidence suggests that discrimination and racism are associated with a range of adverse health conditions among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (Endnote 1). Studies show links between race-based discrimination and depression and anxiety, as well as smoking, substance use, psychological distress and poor self-assessed health status (Endnote 2). Racism has also been associated with increased levels of marijuana use and alcohol consumption (Endnote 3).

This topic presents results from the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), which provides the most recent data for discrimination among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In this context, the term 'discrimination' refers to self-reported situations/places in which the respondent received unfair treatment as a result of being Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

In 2008, 27% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over reported having experienced discrimination in the last 12 months. The most common situations or places where discrimination was experienced included the general public (11%), by police/security personnel/courts of law (11%), and at work or when applying for work (8%). This pattern was similar for people living in both non-remote and remote areas and for males and females overall, however, partly reflecting the over-representation of males in the criminal justice system, men were more likely than women to experience discrimination by police/security personnel/courts of law (14% compared with 8%).

Discrimination was more prevalent among certain groups within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. For example, people who had been removed from their natural families experienced higher rates of discrimination than those who had never been removed (45% compared with 26%). Discrimination was also more common among those who were unemployed (41% compared with 25% for employed) and who had a disability or long-term health condition (32% compared with 22% without a disability). However, as shown in table 5.1, rates of discrimination did not vary by household income, level of schooling or ability to speak and/or understand English.

5.1 DISCRIMINATION(a) BY SELECTED CHARACTERISTICS, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over—2008

Experienced discrimination
Has not experienced discrimination
Total

%
%
%
Labour force status
Employed
25.3
74.7
100.0
Unemployed
41.5
58.5
100.0
Highest year of school completed(b)
Year 12
(d)28.1
71.9
100.0
Year 9 or below(c)
(d)27.2
72.8
100.0
Equivalised gross household income
Third quintile and above
(e)26.4
73.6
100.0
First and second quintile
(e)27.9
72.1
100.0
Disability status
Has disability or long-term health condition
32.2
67.8
100.0
No disability or long-term health condition
22.5
77.5
100.0
Removal from natural family
Has been removed from natural family
44.7
55.3
100.0
Has never been removed from natural family
25.6
74.4
100.0
Language
Has difficulty understanding English/being understood
(f)29.4
70.6
100.0
Has no difficulty/speaks English well
(f)25.7
74.3
100.0
All persons
27.3
72.7
100.0

(a) Has been treated unfairly because of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin in the last 12 months.
(b) Excludes persons still attending secondary school.
(c) Includes persons who never attended school.
(d) Difference between Year 12 and Year 9 or below is not statistically significant.
(e) Difference between Third quintile and above and First and second quintile is not statistically significant.
(f) Difference between Has difficulty understanding English/being understood and Has no difficulty/speaks English well is not statistically significant.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey. These estimates are also available for download in the Social and emotional wellbeing datacube



Consistent with the broader literature, discrimination was associated with poorer health outcomes in 2008. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who had experienced discrimination were more likely than those who had not experienced discrimination to report high/very high levels of psychological distress (44% compared with 26%) and to be in fair/poor health (28% compared with 20%). They were also more likely to engage in binge drinking (42% compared with 35%) and to have recently used illicit substances (28% compared with 17%).

Discrimination was also associated with the respondent's level of trust in other people.As shown in graph 5.2, people who had experienced discrimination were less likely than those who had not experienced discrimination to trust the police, their local school, their doctor and/or hospital and other people in general.

5.2 LEVEL OF TRUST BY DISCRIMINATION, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over—2008
chart: level of trust in police, health services, schools and generally by whether experienced discrimination, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over, 2008
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey.
These estimates are also available for download in the Social and emotional wellbeing datacube


Nevertheless, the majority of those who had experienced discrimination reported strong family and social networks, which studies show may help offset the negative impact of discrimination (Endnote 2). In 2008, 86% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who had experienced discrimination said that they were able to get support from someone outside of their household and 74% were able to confide in friends and/or family. Similarly, over three-quarters (77%) identified with a clan or tribal group and 77% were involved in cultural activities in the last 12 months.


ENDNOTES

1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2009, Measuring the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Cat. no. IHW 24. Canberra: AIHW. <www.aihw.gov.au>

2. Paradies, Y., Harris, R. and Anderson, I. 2008, The Impact of Racism on Indigenous Health in Australia and Aotearoa: Towards a Research Agenda, Discussion Paper No. 4, Cooperative Research Centre for Aboriginal Health, Darwin. <www.crcah.org.au>

3. Zubrick, R., Silburn, R., Lawrence, M., Mitrou, G., Dalby, B., Blair, M., Griffin, J., Milroy, H., De Maio, A., Cox, A., and Li, J. 2005, The Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey: The Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Aboriginal Children and Young People, Perth, Curtin University of Technology and Telethon Institute for Child Health Research.



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