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4704.0 - The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, Oct 2010  
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Contents >> Executive Summary >> Demographic, social and economic characteristics overview: >> language, culture and socioeconomic outcomes


DEMOGRAPHIC, SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC CHARACTERISTICS: LANGUAGE, CULTURE AND SOCIOECONOMIC OUTCOMES
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 language and culture is being maintained:
  • In 2008, 19% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over and 13% of children (3–14 years) spoke an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language.
  • More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are identifying with a clan, tribal or language group, increased from 54% in 2002 to 62% in 2008.
  • In 2008, 72% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over reported that they recognised an area as their homelands or traditional country.
  • 70% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (3–14 years) and 63% of people aged 15 years or over were involved in cultural events, ceremonies or organisations in 2008.
  • In 2008, almost one-third (31%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 3–14 years spent at least one day a week with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leader or elder.

Socioeconomic outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians continue to improve, but remain below those for non-Indigenous Australians:
  • More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people completed Year 12 - 22% (of people aged 15 years and over) in 2008, up from 18% in 2002.
  • More Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people completed non-school qualifications - 40% (of people aged 25–64 years) in 2008, up from 32% in 2002
  • 54% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–64 years were employed in 2008, an increase from 48% in 2002.
  • The unemployment rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians fell from 23% in 2002 to 17% in 2008, but remained more than three times higher than the rate for non-Indigenous Australians (5% in 2008).
  • The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who lived in households that had run out of money for basic living expenses in the previous 12 months decreased from 44% in 2002, to 28% in 2008.
  • Nearly one-third (31%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years lived in dwellings that required at least one extra bedroom in 2008. Rates were higher in remote areas (57%) and lower in regional areas (26%) and major cities (19%).

This topic provides an overview of the population characteristics of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. Data presented are predominately drawn from the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS).

Information presented in this topic includes:

CULTURE AND LANGUAGE

Clan, Tribal or Language Group

In 2008, 62% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over identified with a clan, tribal or language group, an increase from 54% in 2002. Just under half (47%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 3–14 years were reported as identifying with a clan, tribal or language group. The rate of identification for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over was higher in remote areas (80%), compared with regional areas (55%) and major cities (57%).

Language

In 2008, 19% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over spoke an Australian Indigenous language, with 11% of people speaking an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language as their main language at home. The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 3–14 years who spoke an Indigenous language was 13%, with 8% of children speaking an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language as their main language at home.

Speaking an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language was more common among people living in remote areas, with 42% of people aged 15 years and over speaking an Indigenous language as their main language at home, compared with just 1% of people in non-remote areas.

In 2008, 63% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in the Northern Territory spoke an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language. This was lower than in 2002 (77%), however the high level of speakers continues to be a reflection of the high proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote areas in the Northern Territory.

Homelands

In 2008, 72% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over recognised an area as their homelands or traditional country, with one-quarter (25%) living in their homelands or traditional country. Almost half (45%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were allowed to visit their homelands, or traditional country.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote areas were more likely to recognise an area as their homelands or traditional country (86%) than those living in non-remote areas (67%).

Cultural Activities

In the 12 months prior to the 2008 NATSISS, 63% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over were involved in cultural events, ceremonies or organisations. The proportion of children aged 3–14 yearsinvolved in these events was 70%. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote areas were more likely to have been involved (80%) than those in non-remote areas (57%).

In 2008, 68% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (aged 15 years or over) reported attendance at selected cultural events as being important or very important. Nearly one-third (30%) reported that they were unable to attend cultural events as often as they would like.

2.1 SELECTED INDICATORS OF CULTURAL ATTACHMENT, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over—2008
chart: Selected indicators of cultural attachment by remoteness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over
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.


Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture at school

Almost two-thirds (65%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5–14 years were taught about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture at school. Types of learning activities included: field trips, excursions, guest speakers and school curriculum relating to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander history, lifestyle, language, music, rituals, stories, weapons, clothing or food.

Across Australia, there were differences in the proportions of children being taught Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture at school, ranging from 54% in Victoria to 76% in South Australia.


Time with Elders

Elders are important members of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and are often knowledge keepers of their people's history, stories, culture and language. In 2008, almost one-third (31%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 3–14 years spent at least one day a week with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leader or elder.

Children living in remote areas were more likely to spend time with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leader or elder, with close to half (49%) spending at least one day a week in their company. In comparison, 22% of children living in major cities and 28% of those living in regional areas spent at least one day a week with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leader or elder. Two-thirds (67%) of children living in major cities spent no time with, or did not have available, an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leader or elder.

2.2 TIME SPENT WITH LEADER OR ELDER(a), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 3–14 years—2008
graph: time spent with leaders and elders by remoteness, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 3–14 years, 2008
(a) Number of days spent with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leader or elder each week.
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.


SOCIOECONOMIC OUTCOMES

Education

In 2008, 22% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over (excluding those still in secondary school) had completed Year 12, up from 18% in 2002. There was a corresponding decrease in the proportion of people who had completed Year 9 or below, 34% in 2008 down from 41% in 2002, indicating a higher proportion of young people are continuing with their studies. Younger people were more likely than older people to have completed Year 12, with 30% of those aged 25–34 years having completed Year 12, compared with 8% of those aged 55–64 years.

At the time of survey, two in five (41%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–24 years were currently studying, with 26% at a secondary school and 15% at a non-school educational institution. Only 1% (3,600) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over had never attended school, with 70% of this group aged 55 years or older.

2.3 HIGHEST YEAR OF SCHOOL COMPLETED(a), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over—2002 and 2008
chart: highest year of school completed, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 15 years and over, 2002 and 2008
(a) Excludes persons still attending secondary school.
(b) Includes persons who never attended school.
Source: 2002 and 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey
These estimates are also available for download in the Demographic, social and economic characteristics datacube.


2.4 COMPLETED YEAR 12(a), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people—2008
chart: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who had completed Year 12 by age, 2008
(a) Excludes persons still attending secondary school.
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.


In 2008, 40% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 25–64 years had attained a non-school qualification (vocational education and training and/or higher education at universities), up from 32% in 2002. Across remoteness areas, 26% of people (aged 25–64 years) in remote areas held a non-school qualification, compared with 41% in regional areas and 50% in major cities.


Labour force status

In 2008, 65% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–64 years were participating in the labour force, similar to the participation rate in 2002 (63%). Males were more likely than females to be in the labour force (75% compared with 55%). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians aged 15–64 years were less likely to participate in the labour force than non-Indigenous Australians (65% compared with 79%) (Endnote 1).

2.5 LABOUR FORCE STATUS, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–64 years—2008
chart: labour force status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–64 years, 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.



Labour force status - Employed

In 2008, just over half (54%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–64 years were employed, an increase from 48% in 2002. Of those who were employed, 61% were in full-time employment, compared with 71% of non-Indigenous people. Part-time employment accounted for a greater share of total employment among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (39%) than non-Indigenous people (29%).

Employment is strongly associated with educational attainment. In 2008, 75% of those aged 15–64 years who had completed Year 12 were employed, compared with 59% of those who had completed Year 10 or Year 11. Only 38% of those with lower levels of schooling were employed.

Community Development Employment Projects

The Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) program was established in recognition of the limited employment opportunities in remote and regional areas. This program provides Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community organisations with funds to pay participants working on community projects, creating opportunities for jobs and training. CDEP employment is usually part-time work and income is received in place of income support payment. On 19 December 2008, the Australian Government announced reforms to the CDEP program, including its removal from non-remote locations (Endnote 2).

In 2008, 6% (17,600) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–64 years were employed in the CDEP program, less than half the rate in 2002 (13%, 34,200). Of those employed in the CDEP program, 84% were located in remote areas.


Labour force status - Unemployed

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians aged 15-64 years who were unemployed fell from 14% in 2002 to 11% in 2008. This translates to a decline in the unemployment rate from 23% in 2002 to 17% in 2008. The unemployment rate for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was more than three times that of the non-Indigenous population (17% and 5% respectively) in 2008 (Endnote 3).

As CDEP is considered a form of employment, those people who reported being employed under the CDEP program are excluded from unemployment figures. The higher levels of CDEP participation in remote areas mean that this form of employment has a greater effect on remote unemployment rates than non-remote unemployment rates.

Long-term unemployment among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was similar in 2008 (3%) to the rate reported in 2002 (4%).

Financial stress

In 2008, just under half (47%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were living in households where members were unable to raise $2,000 within a week in an emergency — down from 54% in 2002. The proportion of people who lived in households that had run out of money for basic living expenses in the previous 12 months also decreased from 44% in 2002 to 28% in 2008 (Endnote 4).

Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years, 51% were living in households that were unable to raise $2,000 in an emergency and 31% living in households that had run out of money for basic living expenses in the previous year.

The most recent information on financial stress for the non-Indigenous population (aged 18 years and over) is available from the 2006 General Social Survey. The results show that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years and over were almost four times more likely than non-Indigenous people to live in households that were unable to raise $2,000 in an emergency (47% in 2008 compared with 13% in 2006). This gap has remained unchanged since 2002.


Housing

Tenure type

In 2008, 29% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were living in dwellings that were either owned outright or owned with a mortgage and more than two-thirds (69%) were living in a rented property. Between 2002 and 2008, rates of outright ownership and renting remained stable, however, there was a small increase in the proportion of people who lived in a mortgaged property (17% in 2002 to 20% in 2008).

As shown in table 2.6, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in major cities were more than five times as likely as those in remote areas to live in a dwelling with a mortgage (27% compared with 5%) and were twice as likely to be living in a dwelling that was owned outright (10% compared with 5%). Conversely, those in remote areas were more likely to be renting, with 85% living in a rented property compared with 60% in major cities.

The most recent information on tenure type for the non-Indigenous population is available from the 2007–08 Survey of Income and Housing. In 2008, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were around half as likely as non-Indigenous people to live in a property that was owned outright or being purchased and were two and a half times as likely to live in a rented dwelling (table 2.6).

2.6 HOUSEHOLD TENURE TYPE, persons aged 15 years and over

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Non-Indigenous
2002
2008(a)
2007-08
Total
Major Cities
Regional
Remote
Total
Total

Owners
Owner without a mortgage
%
9.7
10.3
8.9
5.4
8.5
33.4
Owner with a mortgage
%
(e)16.8
27.4
23.5
4.8
(e)20.1
39.0
Total owners(b)
%
27.4
38.6
33.3
10.6
29.4
72.3
Renters
State or Territory housing authority
%
22.1
23.0
23.0
24.0
23.3
3.2
Indigenous Housing Organisation / Community housing
%
(e)23.5
3.1
8.0
43.8
(e)15.3
. .
Private and other renter
%
(e)23.3
33.8
33.9
17.4
(e)29.8
23.0
Total renters(c)
%
69.7
60.1
65.0
85.4
68.5
26.1
Total(d)
%
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
Total persons(d)
no.
282 205
105 217
140 383
81 501
327 101
16 373 300

(a) 2008 NATSISS landlord type data should be used with caution, see Endnote 5 for more detail.
(b) Includes participants of rent/buy schemes.
(c) Includes landlord type not known.
(d) Includes persons in households of other tenure types.
(e) Difference between 2002 and 2008 is statistically significant.
Source: 2002 and 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.


Overcrowding

The Canadian National Occupancy Standard for housing appropriateness is an internationally accepted measure of housing utilisation that is sensitive to both household size and composition. Using this measure, households that require at least one additional bedroom are considered to experience some degree of overcrowding.

In 2008, one-quarter (25%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were living in a dwelling where one or more additional bedrooms was required, similar to the rate reported in 2002 (26%). Nearly half (48%) of those in remote areas were living in overcrowded conditions compared with 20% in regional areas and 13% in major cities.

Nearly one-third (31%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years lived in dwellings that required at least one extra bedroom in 2008. Rates were higher in remote areas (57%) and lower in regional areas (26%) and major cities (19%).

The most recent information on overcrowding for the non-Indigenous population is available from the 2007–08 Survey of Income and Housing. The results show that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over were 6 times as likely as non-Indigenous people to live in dwellings that required additional bedrooms (25% compared with 4%).

ENDNOTES

1. Estimates for non-Indigenous persons from the Survey of Education and Work were averaged across the 2008 and 2009 surveys.

2. Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP), Centrelink 2010, Australian Government Department of Human Services, <www.centrelink.gov.au>

3. Estimates for non-Indigenous persons from the Survey of Education and Work were averaged across the 2008 and 2009 surveys.

4. Basic living expenses include food, clothing, medical bills and housing costs.

5. Due to changes in collection methodology across NATSISS surveys, NATSISS 2008 landlord type estimates (for renters) may overestimate 'Private and other renters' and underestimate 'State and Territory housing authority' and 'Indigenous Housing Organisation/Community housing'. Estimates should be used with caution, particularly when examining changes over time.


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