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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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DEMOGRAPHIC, SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS: FAMILY AND COMMUNITY
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

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households tend to be larger than other Australian households:
  • In 2008, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households were on average larger than non-Indigenous households (on average 3.4 people and 2.6 people per household respectively).
  • Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous households were single family households (77% and 70% respectively) in 2008. However, a larger proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households were multiple-family households (7% compared with 1%).

In 2008, 8% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over reported that they had been removed from their natural family.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are strong and supportive, however, there are areas of social concern:
  • In 2008, the majority of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (89%) and non-Indigenous (93%) adults aged 18 years or over were able to get support in times of crisis from someone living outside the household.
  • In the 12 months leading up to the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), the majority (92%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over had participated in some type of sporting, social or community activity.
  • In major cities and regional areas, the most commonly reported community problems were dangerous or noisy driving, and theft, while in remote areas alcohol and illegal drugs were also reported.
  • Around one-quarter (23%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over had been a victim of physical or threatened violence in the 12 months prior to the 2008 NATSISS survey, similar to the rate reported in 2002 (24%) .

This article provides an overview of the family and community characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Data presented are predominantly drawn from the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) and topics presented include:

FAMILY AND HOUSEHOLD COMPOSITION

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households are different from non-Indigenous households in that they tend to be larger, more complex, non-nuclear and more fluid in composition (Endnote 1).

In 2008, most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous households were single family households (77% and 70% respectively). However, a larger proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households were multiple-family households (7% compared with 1% for non-Indigenous) and a smaller proportion were lone person households (13% compared with 25% for non-Indigenous). While there were on average 2.6 people per household across non-Indigenous households in 2007–08, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households tended to be larger comprising on average 3.4 people nationally in 2008 (3.3 and 4.1 people per household in non-remote and remote areas respectively) (Endnote 2).

The larger size of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in remote areas in part reflects the higher prevalence of multiple-family households in these areas (16% compared with 5% in non-remote areas). In remote areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander multiple-family households comprised an average of 8.1 people per household compared with 3.9 people in single family households.

Half (50%) of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households were comprised of single families with children, with one in five (22%) having two or three children aged 0–14 years in 2008. In remote areas, larger families were more common with 7% of households comprising single families with four or more children aged 0–14 years (5% in non-remote areas).

3.1 FAMILY COMPOSITION OF HOUSEHOLD, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous households—2008

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Non-Indigenous
Non-remote
Remote
Total

One family households
Couple family with dependent children%
(a)30.9
(a)27.3
30.3
26.2
One parent family with dependent children%
(a)19.7
(a)16.9
19.2
5.9
Couple only%
15.3
11.1
14.6
26.8
Other one family households%
(a)13.1
(a)12.4
13.0
11.5
Total one family households%
79.0
67.6
77.1
70.4
Multiple family households%
4.7
16.5
6.7
1.4
Lone person%
(a)13.2
(a)14.9
13.5
24.9
Group households%
3.0
*1.1
(a)2.8
(a)3.2
Total households %
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
Total households no.
160 664
32 756
193 421
7 909 038

* Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.
(a) Difference between proportions for non-remote and remote is not statistically significant.
Source:2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey; 2007–08 Survey of Income and Housing. These estimates are also available for download in the Demographic, social and economic characteristics datacube.


Nationally, nearly two-thirds (64%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people lived in one-family households with dependent children in 2008, with nearly one quarter (23%) in one-parent families. Among children aged 0-14 years, more than half (52%) lived in couple families and one-third (34%) in one-parent families. In remote areas, nearly one-third of children aged 0-14 years (31%) lived in multiple-family households, more than four times the proportion of children who lived in multiple-family households in non-remote areas (7%) in 2008.

3.2 FAMILY COMPOSITION OF HOUSEHOLD, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people—2008

Children 0–14 years
All persons
Non-remote
Remote
Australia
Australia

One family households
Couple family with dependent children 
%
55.2
42.7
52.2
41.0
One parent family with dependent children 
%
36.6
26.1
34.1
23.2
Couple only
%
0.0
0.0
0.0
6.1
Other one family households
%
*0.8
**0.2
*0.7
9.6
Total one family households
%
92.5
69.1
87.0
79.9
Multiple family households
%
7.5
30.9
13.0
14.1
Lone person household
%
0.0
0.0
0.0
5.1
Group household
%
0.0
0.0
0.0
1.0
Total persons 
%
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
Total persons
no.
147 946
45 303
193 249
520 350

* Estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution.
** Estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey. These estimates are also available for download in the Demographic, social and economic characteristics overview datacube.

REMOVAL FROM NATURAL FAMILY

In 1997, the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission published Bringing them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families (Endnote 3). This report highlighted the effects that forced separation and institutionalisation had and continues to have on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. These range from psychological harm to loss of native title entitlements, with most removed children suffering multiple and disabling effects (Endnote 3).

In 2008, 8% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over reported that they had been removed from their natural family and 38% reported that relatives had been removed from their natural family. These values were similar to 2002 (8% and 36% respectively). The most frequently reported relatives removed were grandparents (15%), followed by aunts or uncles (12%) and parents (11%).

In 2008, 84% of those who had been removed from their family had since seen their natural relatives, with 16% using services designed to help them contact relatives.


PARTICIPATION IN COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES

In 2008, the majority (92%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over had participated in some type of sporting, social or community activity in the 12 months prior to interview. The main activities participated in were watching Indigenous TV (61%), going to a café, restaurant or bar (59%) and attending a sporting event as a spectator (45%).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children also had high levels of participation with 92% of those aged 3-14 years participating in some type of sporting, social or community activity. The main activities reported for children were taking part in sport or physical activities (60%), visiting a park, botanic gardens, zoo or theme park (55%) and going to the movies, theatre or concert (49%).


SUPPORT IN TIME OF CRISIS

The majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous adults aged 18 years or over were able to get support in times of crisis from someone living outside the household (89% for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in 2008 and 93% for non-Indigenous adults in 2006 respectively) (Endnote 4). This support may come from family members, friends, neighbours, work colleagues or various community, government or professional organisations and take the form of emotional, physical or financial help. In 2008, family members and friends were the most commonly available sources of support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across all geographic remoteness areas (graph 3.3).

3.3 SELECTED SOURCES OF SUPPORT IN TIME OF CRISIS, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years and over—2008
chart: sources of support in times of crisis by remoteness areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 18 years and over, 2008
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey
These estimates are also available for download in the Demographic, social and economic characteristics datacube.

NEIGHBOURHOOD PROBLEMS AND EXPOSURE TO VIOLENCE

In 2008, 71% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over reported the presence of neighbourhood or community problems. Those living in major cities reported more problems (76%) than those living in regional (66%) or remote areas (74%).

In major cities and regional areas, the most commonly reported problems were dangerous or noisy driving (53%) and theft (46%). In remote areas, the most commonly reported problems were alcohol (54%), dangerous or noisy driving (43%), and illegal drugs (43%).

3.4 NEIGHBOURHOOD/COMMUNITY PROBLEMS, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over—2008
chart: selected neighbourhood and community problems by remoteness areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 years and over, 2008
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey
These estimates are also available for download in the Demographic, social and economic characteristics overview datacube.


Exposure to violence is an environmental risk factor that is closely related with other health and welfare issues. In addition to direct physical injury, victims of violence are at a greater risk of a wide variety of psychological and behavioural problems. Family and community violence has now been acknowledged by all levels of government as one of the most serious issues currently facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities (Endnotes 5 and 6).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote areas were more likely than those in non-remote areas to report family violence (37% compared with 21%), assault (36% compared with 18%) and sexual assault (16% compared with 10%) as neighbourhood/community problems. In non-remote areas, the reported rates of all three violence-related problems had increased since 2002 - up from 14%, 12% and 5% respectively. There was no significant change over time for people living in remote areas.

In 2008, around one-quarter (23%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over reported being a victim of physical or threatened violence in the last 12 months, consistent with the rate reported in 2002 (24%). One in seven (15%) had experienced at least one episode of physical violence in the previous year.

Rates of victimisation were similar for people living in remote and non-remote areas (21% compared with 24%) and for men and women overall (both 23%). Younger people were more likely to have experienced physical or threatened violence in 2008, with 30% for those aged 15-24 years having been victimised compared with 8% of those aged 55 years and over. This pattern was consistent for both males and females.

The most recent information on victimisation among the non-Indigenous population is available from the 2006 General Social Survey. As shown in graph 3.5, rates of victimisation were higher amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in all broad age groups. After adjusting for differences in age structure between the two populations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years and over were nearly twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to have been a victim of physical or threatened violence (rate ratio 1.8).

3.5 VICTIMS OF PHYSICAL OR THREATENED VIOLENCE(a), by Indigenous Status
chart: victims of physical or threatened violence by age group, Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons
(a) In the 12 months prior to interview
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey; 2006 General Social Survey
These estimates are also available for download in the Demographic, social and economic characteristics datacube.

LAW AND JUSTICE

In 2008, almost half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males (48%) and 21% of females aged 15 years or over had been formally charged by police (over their life time). Just over one-in-six (15%) reported having been arrested in the last 5 years and 3% had been incarcerated in the last 5 years.

Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over, 14% reported that they, a family member or a friend had experienced trouble with the police as a stressor in the last 12 months, while 12% reported that they, a family member or a friend had spent time in jail. The proportion of children aged 4 to 14 years who experienced the stressor of a family member having been arrested or in trouble with the police in the last 12 months was 10%, while 11% had a parent or other family member who had spent time in jail.

In the 2010 National Prisoner Census, there were 7,584 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners in Australia, representing 26% of the total prisoner population. After adjusting for differences in the age structure of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous populations, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander imprisonment rate was 1,892 per 100,000 adults —14 times the non-Indigenous rate (Endnote 7).


ENDNOTES

1. Morphy, F. 2006, 'Lost in Translation? Remote Indigenous households and definitions of the family', Family Matters, no 73, pp 23–31.

2. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2009, 'Household income and Income Distribution, Australia, 2007-08', cat. no. 6523.0, ABS, Canberra, <www.abs.gov.au>.

3. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), 'Bringing them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, April 1997', HREOC, <www.hreoc.gov.au>

4. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006, 2006 General Social Survey, cat. no. 4159.0, ABS, Canberra,<www.abs.gov.au>

5. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) 2006, 'Ending Family Violence and Abuse in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities — Key Issues', Sydney, <www.hreoc.gov.au>.

6. SCRGSP (Steering Committee for the review of Government Service Provision) 2009, 'Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2009', Productivity Commission, Canberra <www.pc.gov.au>.

7. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2010, 'Prisoners in Australia, 2010', cat. no. 4517.0, ABS, Canberra , <www.abs.gov.au>.



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