1001.0 - Australian Bureau of Statistics -- Annual Report, Report on ABS performance in 2015-16  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 13/10/2016   
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SPECIAL ARTICLE

NATIONAL ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER SOCIAL SURVEY

There is an increasing demand for information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and people, extending across the general community, support and service organisations, and policy departments (e.g. Health, Prime Minister and Cabinet, and state and territory Indigenous Affairs). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are also calling for data about themselves, to help them in their own community planning and decision-making activities, and so their leaders have an active voice in policy development and debate.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) is part of a program of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statistics provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics to meet this information demand.

The 2014–15 NATSISS provides information on the socio-economic circumstances, experiences and outcomes of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This is the fourth in the series of social surveys. It is rich with content that allows investigation of progress over time, and to better understand the issues that contribute to population wellbeing, including cultural identity and cultural participation.


RESULTS

The 2014–15 NATSISS shows that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have high levels of cultural identity and strong cultural participation. Almost three-quarters of people 15 years and over recognised an area as their homelands or traditional country, and almost two-thirds had been involved in selected cultural events, ceremonies or organisations in the last year. More than a quarter of children (aged 4–14 years) spent time with a leader or elder each week.

National results showed some positive trends since the last NATSISS in 2008, including decreases in smoking and risky drinking, less household overcrowding, better maternal health and preventative actions such as increased folate use, and gains in children’s tooth and gum health.

Since 2002, there have also been significant gains in the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have non-school qualifications (such as a Certificate or Diploma), up from 26% to 47%. The improvement was seen in both non-remote (up 21 percentage points) and remote (up 17 percentage points) regions. But this success is yet to translate into improved employment, with results showing employment outcomes at about the same level as in 2008.

The progress measured in NATSISS was not equally shared and some parts of the population are still experiencing significant disadvantage. The population continues to be over-represented with respect to contact with police and the criminal justice system, in their experience of violence (including domestic violence) and in their levels of disability and long-term health conditions.

For the first time, NATSISS 2014–15 has collected information on: past experiences of homelessness; perceptions of community leadership and improved community functioning in remote areas; perceptions of overall life satisfaction; adult participation in organised sport; and patient experiences with their general practitioner or local clinic. The relative outcomes of people suffering mental ill health have also been investigated and released as a feature article.


COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Providing quality information about and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities requires a high level of support. The development of NATSISS involved a number of important innovations that improved community support and led to strong response rates.

First, a number of high profile Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders volunteered their time to act as ambassadors for the survey. Ambassadors lent their support to the initiative within the community. These ambassadors were:

  • Adam Goodes, Australian Rules Football player and Australian of the Year 2014
  • Xavier Clarke, NT Thunder Coach and former St Kilda Football Club player
  • Dr Tom Calma AO, Chancellor of the University of Canberra and former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner and Race Discrimination Commissioner
  • Pat Brahim, CEO Julalikari Council Aboriginal Corporation.

Second, the ABS produced a video, explaining the purpose and value of the survey and encouraging respondents to assist the ABS to capture their stories. In developing this video and the survey, the ABS worked closely with its Aboriginal Round Table Advisory Group, a wide range of organisations and individuals and a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to ensure that the data were collected in a culturally sensitive manner. The ABS also took advice on how the information needs of these groups could best be met.


MAKING INFORMATION ACCESSIBLE

The ABS has showcased NATSISS results through a wide range of channels (e.g. social media, web sites, presentations, data tables and microdata) and at different levels of detail to meet the audience needs. This included a highly successful launch on 27 April 2016 at the National Museum of Australia. The launch presented stories about the data, a video infographic, a panel of experts reflecting on the key findings, social media stories, and a website release of feature articles and data tables. Indigenous Engagement managers have now commenced their work in connecting to communities to share information from the survey while also engaging around the 2016 Census.

The impact of this rich information source will take some time to become clear; however there has already been strong take-up by the media, and on social media. It has also been used for formal program performance reporting, for NAIDOC celebrations and for cultural awareness programs. Importantly, the key stakeholders in the government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sectors have been made aware of the NATSISS and are actively engaged in using the data.

The ABS thanks all those who participated in shaping the survey, acting as advocates and responding to the survey. We look forward to working with many of the same stakeholders again as we plan for the 2018–19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey.