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4725.0 - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing: A focus on children and youth, Apr 2011  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 23/05/2012  Reissue
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Contents >> Family and Community >> Family structure


FAMILY AND COMMUNITY: FAMILY STRUCTURE

This article is part of a comprehensive series released as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing: A focus on children and youth.

Note: In this section, the term 'children' refers to people aged 0–14 years. The terms 'youth' and 'young people' refer to people aged 15–24 years. Data presented are from the ABS National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2008 (cat. no. 4714.0) and the National Health Survey, 2007–08 (cat. no. 4364.0).

KEY MESSAGES

In 2008:
  • 52% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years lived in couple families and just over one-third (34%) lived in single parent families
  • most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people were living with either a parent or a guardian (55%) or a partner (20%)
  • 30% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth reported having relatives who had been removed from their natural family.

Family is the basic social unit which can play an important role in the wellbeing of its members by providing them with care and support. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family relationships tend to have more diverse systems of descent, marriage, kin affiliation, and historical association than those found in non-Indigenous families (Endnotes 1, 2). Although the ABS does not capture all of this information, the ABS does collect information about households and family structures within those households.

LIVING ARRANGEMENTS OF CHILDREN

In 2008, just over half (52%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years lived in couple families and just over one-third (34%) lived in single parent families. A further 13% lived in multiple family households, with children in remote areas being four times as likely as those in non–remote areas to be living in a household with more than one family (31% compared with 7%).

1.1 LIVING ARRANGEMENTS BY REMOTENESS, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years—2008
Graph: Living arrangements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0 - 14 years old, by remoteness, 2008
(a) Difference between non-remote and remote areas is statistically significant.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey

Nearly one-third (31%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children lived in a family with four or more children (aged 0—14 years), compared with only 10% of non-Indigenous children. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in remote areas were more likely than those in non-remote areas to be living in families with four or more children (44% compared with 26%).

LIVING ARRANGEMENTS OF YOUTH

The living arrangements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth were more varied than those of children. In 2008, the majority (55%) of youth lived at home with one or both of their parents/guardians and around 12% were living with relatives other than their parents.

One in five youth (21%) were parents themselves (including 9% who were single parents) and 8% were living with their partner, but no children. Only 5% lived separately from their families in either a group household or on their own. This was much lower than the rate for non-Indigenous youth (14%).

1.2 LIVING ARRANGEMENTS, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged 15–24 years—2008
Graph: Living arrangements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, aged 15–24 years, 2008
(a) Youth who were single parents or in a couple relationship.
(b) Youth living alone, in a group household or with a family they were not related to.
Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey


REMOVAL OF RELATIVES FROM NATURAL FAMILY

The forcible removal of children from their natural family has had serious and long-term effects on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and on the stability of their families and communities. Removal has been linked to a wide range of negative wellbeing indicators and historic removal can affect later generations in the same family (Endnote 3, 4).

In 2008, almost one-third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth (30%) reported having relatives who had been removed from their natural family. Grandparents and great-grandparents were the relatives most frequently reported as having been removed (14%), followed by aunts and/or uncles (9%) and parents (7%).

Young people with relatives who had been removed were more likely than those who had not to:
  • have experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress (36% compared with 26%)
  • have felt discriminated against for being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin (39% compared with 19%)
  • have been arrested in the last five years (23% compared with 14%)
  • have used illicit substances in the previous year (30% compared with 22%).

Youth who had relatives removed from their natural family also reported maintaining cultural connections. They were more likely than those who did not have relatives removed to identify with a cultural group such as a clan, tribal or language group (63% compared with 46%) and to recognise an area as their homelands or traditional country (74% compared with 56%).

For more information on the effects of forcible removal, see Removal from natural family, The Health and Welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2010 (cat. no. 4704.0).

ENDNOTES

1. Daly, A. E. and Smith, D.E. (1999) ‘Indigenous household demography and socioeconomic status: The policy implications of 1996 Census data’, CAEPR Discussion Paper No. 181, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, Canberra. <www.caepr.anu.edu.au>

2. Morphy, F. (2004) 'Indigenous household structures and ABS definitions of the family: What happens when systems collide, and does it matter?' CAEPR Working Paper No. 26/2004, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, Australian National University, Canberra <www.caepr.anu.edu.au>

3. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), Chapter 11 in 'Bringing them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families, April 1997', HREOC <http://www.humanrights.gov.au>

4. Silburn,S., Zubrick,S., Lawrence,D., Mitrou,F., DeMaio,J., Blair,E., Cox,A., Dalby,R., Griffin,J., Pearson,G., & Hayward,C. (2006) 'The intergenerational effects of forced separation on the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal children and young people' Family Matters no.75, 2006, Australian Institute of Family Studies <http://www.aifs.gov.au>



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