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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

CULTURE, HERITAGE AND LEISURE

CONNECTIONS WITH CULTURAL GROUPS AND THE LAND

Identification with culture can form an important part of a person's identity, and may contribute to high self-esteem and feelings of wellbeing. According to the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), just over half (57%) of the 480,500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged three years and over identified with a cultural group (meaning a tribal or language group, a clan, a mission or a regional group). Identification with a cultural group was more common in remote areas than in non-remote areas (77% compared with 51%), and among people aged 25 years and over (67%) than among those aged 3–24 years (49%).

Nationally, one-third (33%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people identified with a tribal group, and almost one-quarter (22%) identified with a regional group. A further one in six people identified with a language group (17%) or clan (16%), and 9% associated themselves with a mission. Similar proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in non-remote and remote areas identified with a mission or regional group. However associations with a tribal group, language group or clan were more common in remote areas than in non-remote areas (63% compared with 37%) (graph 3.3).

3.3 TYPE OF CULTURAL GROUP IDENTIFIES WITH, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 3 years and over



Connection to land and sea is a vital part of the culture and heritage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. In 2008, almost two-thirds (64%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged three years and over recognised an area as their homelands or traditional country (i.e. an area of land with which they have ancestral and/or cultural links). Recognition of homelands was more common in remote areas than in non-remote areas, and among older people than younger people.

Of the 234,400 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over who recognised an area as their homelands, just over one-third (35% or 82,600) were living in their homelands, an increase from 2002 (31% or 61,700). A higher proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote areas than in non-remote areas were living in their homelands in 2008 (52% compared with 28%). An estimated 151,800 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people recognised their homelands, but did not live there. A small proportion (5%) of people who recognised homelands visited them at least once a month, 15% said they visited them several times a year, and 11% said they visited them once a year. Almost one-third (30%) said they visited their homelands less frequently than once a year.


ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER LANGUAGE SPEAKERS

Language is not only a form of communication, it is also a way of expressing and maintaining culture, knowledge and identity. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages convey unique meanings and are central to the survival of cultural knowledge (Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, National Indigenous Languages Survey Report 2005).

In 2008, one in ten (10% or 50,100) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged three years and over spoke an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language as their main language at home. A further 7% could speak at least one Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language, but did not report it as being the main language used at home (table 3.4). A further 21% of people spoke some words of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language and 62% did not report speaking an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language. Around one in five Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (19%) said that they could understand an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language, including 17% who were language speakers. A further 32% said that they understood some Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander words, including 21% who reported being able to speak a few words.

People living in remote areas were far more likely than those living in non-remote areas to speak an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language (49% compared with 7%) and to understand an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language (51% compared with 8%). Children and youth were less likely than people aged 25 years and over to speak an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language (13% compared with 22%) and to understand an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander language (14% compared with 24%).

3.4 LANGUAGE SKILLS, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 3 years and over—2008

Non-remote areas
Remote areas
Australia
%
%
%

Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander language is main language spoken at home
1.2
38.8
10.4
English/other language is main language spoken at home
Speaks an Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander language
5.5
10.5
6.7
Speaks only some Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander words(a)
21.3
20.0
21.0
Does not speak an Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander language
71.8
30.7
61.7
Total for whom English/other language is main language spoken at home
98.7
61.2
89.5
Understands an Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander language
8.3
51.3
18.9
Understands only some Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander words
33.0
27.5
31.7
no.
no.
no.
All persons aged 3 years and over(b)
362 500
117 900
480 500

(a) Difference between non-remote and remote rate is not statistically significant.
(b) Includes children aged 3–5 years who were not speaking yet.

Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey.


Of the 37,600 people aged 15 years and over who spoke an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language as their main language at home, 69% (26,000) had no difficulty communicating with English speakers.


LEARNING AN ABORIGINAL OR TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER LANGUAGE

In 2008, an estimated 29,400 (21%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 3–14 years who did not already speak an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language as their main language at home, were learning to speak one. A considerable proportion of these children had the opportunity to learn an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language at school (41%) and/or were being taught by a parent (40%) or other relative (including siblings) (36%). Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over, both the proportion and number of people who were learning an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language were lower (7% or 21,500). For this group, the most common teachers of language were a relative other than a parent (40%), a parent (24%) and/or a community elder (19%).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over in remote areas were more than twice as likely as those in non-remote areas to be learning an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language (13% compared with 6%), with the same pattern evident for children aged 3–14 years (41% compared with 17%).


TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE AND CULTURAL EDUCATION

Cultural education occurs in a number of ways, such as elders passing down traditional knowledge to younger generations and through school-based cultural education.

Spending time with elders

In 2008, an estimated 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 3–14 years (42%) were spending some time with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander leader or elder – 31% at least one day a week and a further 12% less frequently. Children living in remote areas were much more likely than those in non-remote areas to have been spending time with an elder at least one day a week (49% compared with 25%).

Children who were spending some time with an elder were more likely to identify with a cultural group such as a clan, tribal or language group than children who were not spending any time with an elder (66% compared with 33%) (graph 3.5). Contact with an elder also increased the likelihood of children speaking an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language (21% compared with 7% who had not spent time with an elder).

3.5 IDENTIFIES WITH A CULTURAL GROUP(a), By whether spends time with an elder Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 3-14 years



Learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures at school

In 2008, there were an estimated 124,500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 5–14 years attending school. Just over two-thirds (67%) of these children were being taught about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures at school. These children were more likely to identify with a cultural group (54% compared with 42% who were not being taught about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures at school). This was the case in both remote and non-remote areas.

A smaller proportion of people aged 15 years and over (45%) reported that they had been taught about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture at school or as part of further studies. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth aged 15–24 years were more likely than those aged 25 years and over to report having been taught about this at school or during further studies (64% compared with 37%). In 2008, almost three-quarters (74% or 48,800) of youth who had received Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural education learned about it in secondary school, and 62% in primary school. Among people aged 25 years and over, almost half had learned about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures in primary school (49% or 40,500) and 48% in secondary school. One in six (17%) people aged 25 years and over learned about it during their university or other higher education, and one in seven (14%), at TAFE.


INVOLVEMENT IN CULTURAL EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES

Involvement in cultural events and activities is a way of celebrating, maintaining and building on cultural heritage. In 2008, almost two-thirds (65%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged three years and over had been involved in one or more cultural events, ceremonies or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations in the 12 months before the survey, with higher overall participation rates in remote areas than in non-remote areas (81% compared with 60%).

The types of cultural events and activities that people participated in varied according to remoteness. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote areas were more likely than those in non-remote areas to have been involved in a ceremony (including funerals/sorry business) (61% compared with 31%), to have attended a sports carnival (46% compared with 22%), and/or an arts, craft or music ceremony or festival (33% compared with 24%). In contrast, a higher proportion of people living in non-remote areas than in remote areas had been involved with NAIDOC week activities (43% compared with 37%) and/or an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation (16% compared with 12%) in the 12 months before the survey.

Almost all (99%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over said that they would like to participate in cultural events and do other cultural activities such as fishing, hunting and performing Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander music and dance. Of those who wanted to participate in cultural events and activities (322,300 people), 23% did so at least once a month, while 30% did so several times a year and 15% once a year. A further 16% participated less frequently than once a year, and 16% said they never attend. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote areas were more than twice as likely as people in non-remote areas to have participated in cultural events and activities at least once a month (40% compared with 18%) (graph 3.6).

3.6 HOW OFTEN ATTENDS CULTURAL EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES, By Remoteness - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over



Just over two-thirds (69%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over said that they were able to participate in cultural events and activities as often as they would like (79% in remote areas and 66% in non-remote areas). An estimated 99,600 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (31%) were unable to participate in cultural events and activities as often as they would like. Just over one-quarter of them (29%) said that it was because the events or activities were too far away, 18% cited their caring commitments, and 16% said that they could not afford to attend. People living in remote areas were more likely than those living in non-remote areas to have reported that cultural events or activities were too far away (38% compared with 27%).


TEACHERS OF CULTURAL ACTIVITIES

In 2008, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 3–14 years most commonly had parents teaching them cultural activities such as fishing, hunting and performing Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander music and dance (60%), followed by other relatives (including siblings) (41%) and teachers at school (33%).

A higher proportion of children in remote areas, than in non-remote areas, were being taught about cultural activities by other relatives (61% compared with 33%) (graph 3.7). In contrast, children in non-remote areas were more likely than those in remote areas to have been doing cultural activities with teachers at school (37% compared with 22%).

3.7 TEACHERS OF CULTURAL ACTIVITIES(a), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children aged 3-14 years



PARTICIPATION IN SPORTING, SOCIAL AND COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES

In 2008, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 3–14 years were highly likely to have participated in at least one sporting, social or community activity in the 12 months before the survey (92%) (table 3.8). Most children (84%) had undertaken one or more social activities, 72% had participated in at least one sporting activity, and just under half (45%) had been involved in one or more community/interest group activities. The most commonly reported activities for children were sport or physical activities (60%), visiting a park, botanic gardens, zoo or theme park (55%) and going to the movies, theatre or a concert (49%).

Similarly, the majority (92%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over had participated in at least one sporting, social or community activity in the 12 months before the survey. More than half had participated in one or more sporting or community/interest group activities (both 57%). Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (85%) had participated in at least one social activity. Nationally, the most commonly reported activities were watching Indigenous TV (61%), going to a café, bar or restaurant (59%), attending a sporting event as a spectator (45%) and attending Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ceremonies or festivals (including funerals/sorry business) (44%). Participation rates for children aged 3–14 years and people aged 15 years and over were significantly different for most of the selected activities.


3.8 PARTICIPATION IN SPORTING, SOCIAL AND COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES(a) IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people—2008

3–14 years
15 years and over
3 years and over
%
%
%

Sporting activities
Took part in sport or physical activities
59.6
30.1
39.6
Attended a sporting event as a spectator(b)
46.4
45.4
45.7
Coach, instructor or teacher
1.7
10.9
7.9
Referee, umpire or official
*1.1
6.3
4.6
Committee member or administrator
*0.5
8.5
5.9
Other sporting activity n.f.d.
19.1
13.9
15.5
One or more sporting activities
71.6
57.4
62.0
Social activities
Went out to a cafe, bar or restaurant
48.4
58.9
55.6
Visited a park, botanic gardens, zoo or theme park
55.2
36.9
42.7
Visited a library, museum or art gallery
41.4
30.9
34.3
Attended movies, theatre or concert
49.0
38.2
41.6
Watched Indigenous TV
44.8
60.5
55.5
Listened to Indigenous radio
14.8
30.3
25.4
One or more social activities(b)
84.2
85.1
84.8
Community or interest groups
Church or religious activities
23.2
18.6
20.1
Recreational or cultural group
14.5
18.9
17.5
Community or special interest group activities
8.9
17.4
14.7
Attended a native title meeting
1.1
7.5
5.4
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander festivals or ceremonies(c)
22.9
43.9
37.2
One or more community or interest group activities
45.0
57.1
53.2
Total who participated in one or more of these activities(b)
92.1
92.5
92.4
no.
no.
no.
All persons
153 400
327 100
480 500

* estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
(a) Respondents could report more than one activity.
(b) Difference between 3–14 years and 15 years and over rate is not statistically significant.
(c) Includes funerals/sorry business.

Source: 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey.

 

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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.

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