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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 >> Executive Summary >> Demographic, social and economic characteristics overview: >> Demographic characteristics: Torres Strait Islander People


DEMOGRAPHIC, SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS OVERVIEW: TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLE
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
  • At June 30 2006, the estimated resident Torres Strait Islander population was 53,300 people, or 0.3% of the total Australian population.
  • Torres Strait Islander people comprised 10% of the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population nationally, and 23% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland.
  • Nationally, more Torres Strait Islander adults spoke an Australian Indigenous language than all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults (31% compared with 19%).
  • Torres Strait Islander people were more likely than all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be participating in the labour force (73% compared with 65%) and to be employed (64% compared with 54%) in 2008.
  • Many other health and welfare outcomes for Torres Strait Islander people were similar to those for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

This topic provides an overview of the demographic, social and economic characteristics of Torres Strait Islander Australians, families and their communities. Data presented are drawn from a range of sources including the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS).

Information presented in this topic includes:
This topic includes some contrasts between Torres Strait Islander people living in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region and those living elsewhere. Comparisons are also provided with the overall Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. For a more detailed discussion on demographic, social and economic characteristics for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people see the Demographic, social and economic characteristics overview topic. For information on other aspects of Torres Strait Islander peoples' health and welfare see the following topics:


TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLE AND WHERE THEY LIVE

At 30 June 2006, the final estimated resident Torres Strait Islander population was 53,300 people, or 0.3% of the total Australian population (Endnote 1). Torres Strait Islander people comprised 10% of the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population nationally, and 23% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland.

Among the Torres Strait Islander population:
  • 33,300 people (62%) were of Torres Strait Islander origin only, and
  • 20,100 people (38%) were of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin (table 4.1)

4.1 ESTIMATED RESIDENT POPULATION, by Indigenous status—30 June 2006

Torres Strait Islander
only
Both Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander
Total Torres Strait
Islander(a)
Aboriginal
only
Total Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander

no.
no.
no.
no.
no.
NSW
5 248
3 201
8 449
144 236
152 685
Vic.
2 421
918
3 339
30 178
33 517
Qld.
20 902
11 888
32 790
112 095
144 885
SA
1 121
451
1 572
26 483
28 055
WA
1 253
1 187
2 440
68 526
70 966
Tas.
1 377
688
2 065
16 350
18 415
NT
757
1 632
2 389
61 616
64 005
ACT
173
105
278
4 004
4 282
Aust.(b)
33 267
20 070
53 337
463 706
517 043

(a) Includes persons of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin.
(b) Includes other territories.
Source: ABS 2008, Experimental Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, June 2006, cat. no. 3238.0.55.001


The age distribution of the Torres Strait Islander population was similar to that of the overall Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, with 71% of both populations aged under 35 years. This is compared with 47% of non-Indigenous people in this age group. As at 30 June 2006, 10% of Torres Strait Islander people were aged 55 years and over, compared with 8% of the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and 24% of the non-Indigenous population.

In 2006, 61% of the total Torres Strait Islander population lived in Queensland and a further 16% in New South Wales. There were an estimated 7,700 Torres Strait Islander people living in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region. This represented 23% of all Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland and 14% of the total Torres Strait Islander population.

LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Clan, Tribal or Language Group


In 2008, 63% of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over (adults), and nearly half (48%) of Torres Strait Islander children (aged 3–14 years) identified with a
clan, tribal or language group. These rates were similar to those for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and children (62% and 47% respectively).

Language

In 2008, 31% of Torres Strait Islander adults spoke an Australian Indigenous language, with 17% speaking a Torres Strait Islander language as their main language at home. The proportion of Torres Strait Islander children aged 3–14 years who spoke an Indigenous language was 23%, with 14% of children speaking a Torres Strait Islander language as their main language at home.

Nationally, more Torres Strait Islander adults spoke an Australian Indigenous language than all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults (31% compared with 19%). Torres Strait Islander adults living in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region were much more likely than those living elsewhere to speak an Australian Indigenous language (88% compared with 22%).

Homelands

In 2008, 76% of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over recognised an area as their homelands or traditional country, with 17% living on their homelands or traditional country. Torres Strait Islander people in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region were more likely to recognise an area as their homelands or traditional country than those in other areas (88% compared with 73%). Over half (58%) of all Torres Strait Islander people were allowed to visit their homelands or traditional country if they were not resident there.

Cultural Activities

In 2008, 62% of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were involved in cultural events, ceremonies or organisations in the previous 12 months. Torres Strait Islander people living in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region were more likely to have been involved in these events than those living in other areas (89% compared with 58%)
.


LABOUR FORCE STATUS

In 2008, 73% of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–64 years were participating in the labour force, with participation higher among males than females (85% compared with 61%). Around two-thirds (64%) of all Torres Strait Islander people were employed, with the majority working full-time (41% compared with 23% working part-time). Around one in ten (9%) were unemployed.

Overall, Torres Strait Islander people were more likely than all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be participating in the labour force (73% compared with 65%) and to be employed (64% compared with 54%). However the proportions of those unemployed were similar for both populations (9% and 11% respectively).


FAMILY AND COMMUNITY


Participation in community activities

In 2008, nearly all (94%) Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over had participated in some type of sporting, social or community activity in the last 12 months. Participation was higher among those living in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region than in other parts of Australia (98% compared with 93%). The most common types of activities participated in were going to a café, restaurant or bar (69%), watching Indigenous TV (64%), or attending a sporting event as a spectator (49%). Torres Strait Islander people were more likely than all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have attended movies, the theatre or a concert (46% compared with 38%), to have gone out to a cafe, restaurant or bar (69% compared with 59%) or to have participated in church and religious activities (28% compared with 19%) (graph 4.2).


4.2 PARTICIPATION IN COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over—2008
Graph: participation in community activities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over—2008
(a) Difference between Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander is not statistically significant.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey. These estimates are also available for download in the Torres Strait Islander people datacube.


Neighbourhood/community problems

In 2008, 69% of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over reported experiencing neighbourhood or community problems, similar to the rate reported by all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (71%). However neighbourhood/community problems were more prevalent among Torres Strait Islander people living in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region than in other areas of Australia (96% compared with 64%). The most common types of problems experienced in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region were alcohol (84%), illegal drugs (79%) and theft (74%), whereas in other areas, it was dangerous or noisy driving (38%), alcohol (32%) and problems involving youth (31%) (graph 4.3).

4.3 NEIGHBOURHOOD/COMMUNITY PROBLEMS BY INDIGENOUS REGION, Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over—2008
Graph: Neighbourhood/community problems by Indigenous Region,  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 Torres Strait Islander people datacube.


Law and justice

In 2008, 27% of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over reported being a victim of physical or threatened violence in the last 12 months. Nearly one in five (17%) had experienced at least one episode of physical violence in the previous year. Around 14% of Torres Strait Islander people had been arrested in the last five years and 10% had been incarcerated at some point in their lifetime. These rates were similar to those reported by all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.


ENDNOTE

1. Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008, 'Experimental Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, June 2006', cat. no. 3238.0.55.001, ABS, Canberra, <www.abs.gov.au>.



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