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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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Contents >> Disability >> Measuring disability

This article is part of a comprehensive series released as The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

The 2008 NATSISS asked a number of questions to establish disability status and disability type for persons aged 15 years and over. A person was regarded as having a disability or long-term health condition if they had one or more conditions which had lasted, or were likely to last, for six months or more, and that restricted every day activities. People were identified as having a profound or severe core-activity limitation if they required help or supervision for one or more core activities, such as self-care, mobility or communication. For more information on the NATSISS Disability module, see the NATSISS Users' Guide.

There were important differences in the way disability status was collected between remote and non-remote areas; between the 2002 and 2008 NATSISS surveys; and between NATSISS and non-Indigenous data. These differences are described in more detail below and summarised in Table 1.1.


In order to take account of language differences and life circumstances, there were differences in the criteria used to identify people with a disability between remote and non-remote areas. A slightly larger set of criteria were used to identify people with disability in non-remote areas (called the 'broader' criteria) than were used in remote areas (called the 'common' criteria). Therefore, the estimates for disability status using the broader criteria are not directly comparable with those estimates using the common criteria.

The broader criteria involved one additional question being asked in non-remote areas to help identify people with a psychological disability (respondents in non-remote areas were asked about 'mental illness for which help or supervision is required'). The exclusion of this question in the common criteria may have resulted in a slight underestimate of the prevalence of psychological disability in remote areas.

In order to include all respondents from the 2008 NATSISS (from remote and non-remote areas), the majority of the analysis in this topic is based on the disability population identified using the common criteria.


Between 2002 and 2008, there were some changes to the way disability status was collected using the common criteria. In order to improve comparability with the broader criteria (and the criteria used in other ABS household surveys), additional criteria were used to determine disability status in remote areas in 2008. These were:
    • any condition, such as back problems or bad headaches, that stop or reduce a person's ability to do physical activity or work;
    • scars, loss of limbs or other conditions affecting appearance; fears or any emotional problems such as depression that make it hard to do things;
    • and a long term condition such as arthritis, asthma, heart disease, diabetes/sugar problems, and kidney problems.

This means that the common criteria are not strictly comparable between the 2002 and the 2008 surveys. Therefore, analysis of comparisons over time in this article have been been restricted to persons living in non-remote areas only (using the broader criteria).


The most recent disability data for the non-Indigenous population is available from the 2007–08 National Health Survey (NHS). The NHS disability module is based on the same broader (non-remote) criteria that was used in the NATSISS, so the two can be directly compared. However, there are no non-Indigenous equivalent for the common criteria.


Broader (non-remote only) criteria
Common (remote + non-remote) criteria
Provides national-level data (including for remote areas)
Comparable with 2002 NATSISS
Comparable with the non-Indigenous population

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