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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 >> Access to health and community services >> Access to health and community services: Torres Strait Islander people


ACCESS TO HEALTH AND COMMUNITY SERVICES: 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

The majority of Torres Strait Islander households could locally access a range of medical and hospital services when needed. Nationally, in 2008:
  • 62% of households could access Aboriginal health care services
  • 69% could access hospitals
  • 83% could access health/medical clinics
  • 82% could access pharmacies/chemists.
Nearly one-quarter (23%) of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over (adults) reported problems accessing one or more health services.

Lack of public transport and poor access to telecommunications are both barriers which may hinder access to health services:
  • 61% of Torres Strait Islander adults living in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region had no public transport in their local area (24% in other areas).
  • 19% of Torres Strait islander households in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region had a computer connected to the internet (45% of all households). The majority (99%) of households nationally had telephone access.

This topic provides information on access and barriers to health services for Torres Strait Islander people, drawing on data from the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS). Information presented includes:

The analysis 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 access to health and community services for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, see the Access to health and community services topic. For information on other aspects of Torres Strait Islander peoples' health and welfare see the Torres Strait Islander people topic.


ACCESS TO COMMUNITY FACILITIES AND SERVICES

Nationally, the majority of Torres Strait Islander households could locally access a range of medical and hospital services when needed, including hospitals (69%) and Aboriginal health care services (62%). Access to medical services as well as to a range of other community facilities and services were comparable with those for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households overall.


PROBLEMS ACCESSING HEALTH SERVICES

In 2008, 23% of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over (adults) reported problems accessing one or more health services. People were most likely to experience problems accessing dental services, with nearly one in five adults reporting problems (18%).

The most common types of problems encountered when accessing health services were lack of services/insufficient services (by 15% of adults), long waiting times or unavailability of appointment (13%), and cost of services (11%).

Trust can also be a factor influencing use of health services. Nationally, 79% of Torres Strait Islander adults agreed/strongly agreed that their local doctors could be trusted and 61% agreed/strongly agreed that hospitals could be trusted.


OTHER FACTORS AFFECTING ACCESS

Transport

Lack of transport (both public and private) can be a barrier to service use. In 2008, 29% of Torres Strait Islander adults had no public transport available in their local area, with rates higher among those living in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region compared to those living in other areas (61% compared with 24%).

Nationally, the majority (66%) of Torres Strait Islander adults could access motor vehicles whenever needed and a further 9% only in emergencies. The majority (93%) who could access a vehicle when needed were able to access their own vehicle or a vehicle owned by another member of their household. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of adults had no access to motor vehicles nationally, with rates higher among people living in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region (38%).

Rates of access to both public transport and motor vehicles were similar to those for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population overall.

Telecommunications

Lack of access to telecommunications can also be a barrier to accessing health and other services. In 2008, nearly all people (99%) living in Torres Strait Islander households had used telephones in the month prior to interview, with prepaid mobiles and home landlines the most commonly used. In the Torres Strait Indigenous Region, prepaid mobiles were used by people living in 83% of households, while landlines were used by people living in 49% of households. In other areas of Australia, use of prepaid mobiles and landlines was similar (70% and 69% respectively).

Two thirds (66%) of all Torres Strait Islander adults had accessed the internet in the 12 months prior to interview, but rates were lower among adults living in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region (49%). Nationally, the most common place to access the internet was at home (42% of Torres Strait Islander adults), followed by work (27%), a neighbour's/friend's/relative's house (17%), or a public library (9%).

Nationally in 2008, 45% of Torres Strait Islander households had a computer at home connected to the internet, compared with 18% of households in the Torres Strait Indigenous Region. The most common reason for not having an internet connection at home was the high cost of subscribing to an internet service (53% of households without a connection).

Rates and patterns of both telephone use and internet access and use were similar to those for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population overall.




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