4714.0 - National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014-15  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 28/04/2016   
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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities maintain their cultural heritage by passing on their knowledge, arts, rituals and performances from one generation to another, speaking and teaching languages, protecting cultural materials, and protecting sacred and significant sites. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can identify themselves through land areas, their relationship to others and their language and stories, which may be expressed through ceremony, the arts, family, religion, and sport.

Speakers of an Australian Indigenous language

The retention of language is an important part of maintaining connections to culture. The 2014–15 NATSISS collected information on Australian Indigenous language speakers, and those who reported speaking some words of an Indigenous language. The data presented below are for these two groups combined.

In 2014–15, around one-third (34%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 4–14 years spoke an Australian Indigenous language (including those who spoke some words). In remote areas, two-thirds (66%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were Indigenous language speakers, compared with 26% of those in non-remote areas (Table 7). The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over who spoke an Australian Indigenous language was 38%, with higher rates in remote areas than in non-remote areas (76% compared with 28%).

In remote areas, more than 70% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over spoke an Australian Indigenous language, regardless of age. In non-remote areas, the proportion of Australian Indigenous language speakers was 21% for those aged 15-24 years and between 28% and 34% for people in older age groups (Figure 3.1 and Table 9).

Figure 3.1. Australian Indigenous language speakers(a)(b), by age and remoteness — 2014-15
Graph Image for FIGURE 3.1 SPEAKS AN AUSTRALIAN INDIGENOUS LANGUAGE(a), by age and remoteness 2014-15

Footnote(s): (a) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. (b) Includes people who only spoke some words.

Source(s): 2014–15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey



Main language spoken at home

In 2014–15, some 11% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over spoke an Australian Indigenous language as their main language at home, similar to rates in 2002 and 2008 (Table 1).

An Australian Indigenous language was the main language spoken at home for 8% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 4–14 years. In remote areas, 31% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in this age group mainly spoke an Australian Indigenous language at home (Table 7).

Cultural identification and participation

In 2014–15, around six in 10 (62%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over identified with a clan, tribal or language group (79% in remote areas compared with 58% in non-remote areas). In addition, almost three-quarters (74%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people recognised an area as homelands or traditional country (89% in remote areas compared with 70% in non-remote areas) (Table 9).

Almost two-thirds (63%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over, and 75% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 4-14 years had been involved in selected cultural events, ceremonies or organisations in the last 12 months. Participation rates were higher in remote areas than in non-remote areas for both age groups - 82% compared with 57% for people aged 15 years and over, and 80% compared with 74% for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (Table 9 and Table 7).

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over who had watched Indigenous television in the previous 12 months was 70%, while 28% listened to Indigenous radio (Table 10).

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and elders are important members of Indigenous communities and are often knowledge keepers of their people's history, stories, culture and language. In 2014–15, just over half (51%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 4–14 years in remote areas spent some time with a leader or elder each week, including 32% who spent time with a leader or elder on five or more days per week. The corresponding proportions in non-remote areas were 23% and 9%, respectively (Table 7).

Income from cultural activities

In 2014–15, around 6% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over received income from cultural activities, such as the sale of paintings, art works and craft; growing, collecting or making native plants into food or ointments; and providing or participating in cultural tourism ventures or activities. The proportion of people who received income from these types of activities was higher in remote areas than non-remote areas (11% compared with 4%) (Table 9).