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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2006  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/07/2006   
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Contents >> Health >> Disability among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Disability among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

In 2002, over one-third (36%) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, aged 15 years and over, had a disability or long-term health condition.
Health and disability can affect people in a number of life areas, including the capacity to go to school, work and earn an income. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are more likely to have a disability or long-term health condition than non-Indigenous people, and about twice as likely to have a profound or severe disability as non-Indigenous people.

The National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health 2003–2013 was endorsed by all Australian governments in July 2003. It provides a commitment to improving Indigenous health and also recognises the impact of many economic and social factors on health status. One of the goals identified is improved services and employment assistance for Indigenous people with disabilities.(EndNote 1)

PREVALENCE OF DISABILITY

The 2002 NATSISS estimated that 103,000 (36%) Indigenous people aged 15 years and over, living in remote and non-remote areas, had a disability or long-term health condition. The proportion of Indigenous people with a disability was similar for both men (37%) and women (36%) and increased with age. In the 15–24 years age group, 22% of men and 24% of women had a disability or long-term health condition, increasing to 77% of men and 69% of women aged 65 years and over.

The prevalence of disability or long-term health condition for the remote and non-remote Indigenous populations aged 15 years and over were the same (both 36%).

These estimates of disability or long-term health condition underestimate the likely prevalence of disability. They are based on a short question set to identify people with a disability that is asked in both remote and non-remote areas rather than the broader disability question set that is only asked in non-remote areas. (See box on p.82 for more information about the measures of disability.)



INDIGENOUS PERSONS(A): DISABILITY — 2002
GRAPH:INDIGENOUS PERSONS(A): DISABILITY — 2002



National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS)

This article uses data from the ABS 2002 NATSISS to examine disability among Indigenous people aged 15 years and over, in remote and non-remote areas, using a common set of disability criteria. The relationship between disability and other socioeconomic indicators is also examined.

The 2002 NATSISS used a broader criteria to measure disability in the non-remote Indigenous population than in the remote Indigenous population. The broader criteria was comparable to criteria used in the ABS 2002 General Social Survey (GSS) for the non-remote Australian population. After age standardising this data, it is possible to make comparisons between Indigenous people aged 18 years and over in non-remote areas and non-Indigenous people of the same age.(EndNote 2) Further details of the disability measures are provided in the box on page 82.

Limitations and disability

Disability or long-term health condition as defined in the 2002 NATSISS refers to a limitation, restriction, impairment, disease or disorder, which has lasted, or was likely to last for six months or more, and which restricted a person's ability to perform everyday activities.(EndNote 2))

Core activity limitation refers to a limitation in the performance of one or more core activities such as self-care (eating, washing, dressing, toileting), mobility or communication. People with a profound core activity limitation always need help or supervision with self-care, communication or mobility, or are unable to perform these tasks themselves. People with a severe core activity limitation sometimes need help with self-care, communication or mobility, have difficulty understanding or being understood by friends or family, or can communicate more easily using sign language or other non-spoken forms of communication.(EndNote 2)


INDIGENOUS PERSONS(A): DISABILITY TYPE - 2002

Age group (years)

15–44
45–64
65 and over
Total

Disability type(b)
%
%
%
%

With a disability or long-term health condition
29.0
55.7
72.4
36.5
Sight, hearing, speech
10.2
20.7
39.9
13.7
Physical
17.4
40.1
51.6
23.6
Intellectual
6.9
6.1
*11.1
7.0
Type not specified
10.3
32.7
42.0
16.3
No disability or long-term health condition
71.0
44.3
27.6
63.5
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

'000
'000
'000
'000
Total
211.6
57.7
12.9
282.2

(a) Aged 15 years and over.

(b) People may have more than one disability type.

Source: ABS 2002 NATSISS.


SEVERITY OF DISABILITY

People with a disability may be limited in their ability to perform everyday activities, sometimes needing help from others. The severity of their disability relates to how much assistance they need. People with a profound or severe limitation need assistance with at least one core activity (such as walking, toileting, dressing or communicating).

In 2002, 21,800 (8%) Indigenous people aged 15 years and over had a profound or severe core activity limitation, with little difference between the rates for men and women. There was also no significant difference in the rates of profound or severe core activity limitation between Indigenous people of this age living in remote and non-remote areas of Australia (9% in remote and 7% in non-remote areas). However, women aged 65 years and over living in remote areas had higher rates of profound or severe limitation (33%) than those in non-remote areas (17%).

Remoteness areas

The ABS Remoteness classification splits Australia into six areas according to their relative remoteness. The six Remoteness Areas are: Major Cities of Australia; Inner Regional Australia; Outer Regional Australia; Remote Australia; Very Remote Australia; and Migratory. For further information see Statistical Geography Volume 1 – Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), 2001 (ABS cat. no. 1216.0). In this article, remote areas refers to Remote Australia and Very Remote Australia and non-remote areas refers to Major Cities of Australia, Inner Regional Australia and Outer Regional Australia.

Disability types

A person could be classified to one or more of the following disability groups:

    • Sight, hearing or speech includes people with sight problems not corrected by glasses or contact lenses; hearing or speech problems
    • Physical includes people experiencing shortness of breath; blackouts, fits, loss of consciousness; chronic or recurring pain; limited use of arms, fingers, legs or feet; head injuries, stroke or brain damage
    • Intellectual includes people who have difficulty in learning or understanding things
    • Disability type not specified includes those restricted in everyday activities due to a long-term condition that requires treatment or medication; or due to any other long-term condition such as arthritis, asthma, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease, dementia etc.


INDIGENOUS PERSONS(A): PROPORTION INDICATING FAIR OR POOR SELF-ASSESSED HEALTH — 2002

Age group (years)

15–44
45–64
65 and over
Total

%
%
%
%

With a disability or long-term health condition
36.3
65.0
69.7
48.3
No disability or long-term health condition
7.7
14.7
21.4
9.0
Proportion in age group
16.0
42.7
56.4
23.3

'000
'000
'000
'000
Total in age group
211.6
57.7
12.9
282.2

(a) Aged 15 years and over.

Source: ABS 2002 NATSISS.


DISABILITY TYPES

Among Indigenous people aged 15 years and over, 24% had a physical disability, 14% had a sight, hearing or speech disability and 7% had an intellectual disability. One in six (16%) had an unspecified long-term health condition requiring treatment.

The prevalence of physical disability and sight, hearing and speech disability, increased steadily with age. Slightly more men than women reported a sight, hearing or speech disability, with differences most evident in the 65 years and over age group (46% of men compared with 35% of women). There was little difference in the proportions of men and women with physical or intellectual disabilities.

DISABILITY AND MAJOR LIFE AREAS

...HEALTH

Among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 15 years and over, those with a disability or long-term health condition were far more likely to report fair or poor health (48%) than those without a disability or long-term health condition (9%). There were higher proportions of people reporting fair or poor health in older age groups, and it was in these age groups that the difference between those with a disability or long-term health condition and those without was most pronounced. In the 45–64 years age group, 65% of Indigenous people with a disability reported having fair or poor health, compared with 15% of those without a disability. For Indigenous people aged 65 years and over, the proportions were 70% and 21% respectively.

INDIGENOUS PERSONS(A): HIGHEST LEVEL OF SCHOOL COMPLETED - 2002
GRAPH:INDIGENOUS PERSONS(A): HIGHEST LEVEL OF SCHOOL COMPLETED - 2002


...EDUCATION

The 2002 NATSISS collected school completion information for the 251,000 Indigenous people aged 18 years and over. In 2002, Indigenous adults with a disability completed fewer years of education, on average, than those without a disability. Excluding those still at school, 11% of Indigenous adults with a disability had completed Year 12, compared with 23% of those without a disability. At the other end of the scale, Indigenous adults with a disability were more likely to have left school after completing Year 9 or earlier (55%), than those without a disability (32%). However, for many of these people, their disability or long-term health condition would have commenced after their school years, and so there would be no direct link between disability and schooling completed.

...WORK

Some limitations experienced by Indigenous people with a disability may impact on the type of work they can do and the hours they are able to work. In addition, there is a strong association between employment levels for Indigenous people and educational attainment, with the proportions of people employed increasing with the level of educational achievement.(EndNote 3) In 2002, Indigenous people aged 18 years and over with a disability or long-term health condition had completed fewer years of education, on average, than those without a disability. This factor, combined with limitations arising from their disability, may have impacted on their ability to gain employment and on the hours they were able to work.

Labour force participation (working and looking for work) provides an indication of both the desire for paid work and the ability to obtain and perform such work. In 2002, Indigenous people aged 18–64 years with a disability or long-term health condition experienced lower labour force participation rates than those without a disability. The participation rate for men with a disability or long-term health condition was 60%, compared with 86% of men without a disability, while for women, the participation rates were 42% and 60% respectively.

In 2002, the proportion of Indigenous people with a disability who were employed was substantially lower than for those without disability, and lower still for those with a profound or severe core activity limitation. The largest difference in employment levels was for Indigenous men aged 18–64 years, where 30% with a profound or severe limitation were employed compared with 70% with no disability. For women aged 18–64 years, the difference was also large, with 23% of those with a profound or severe limitation employed, compared with 49% with no disability or long-term health condition.

INDIGENOUS PERSONS(A): LABOUR FORCE STATUS - 2002

Males
Females


Profound or severe core activity limitation
With a disability or long-term health condition
No disability or long-term health condition
Profound or severe core activity limitation
With a disability or long-term health condition
No disability or long-term health condition

Labour force status
%
%
%
%
%
%

Total Employed(b)
29.8
44.4
69.8
22.5
31.5
49.4
Employed full-time
*10.8
25.0
45.9
*4.2
12.6
21.9
Employed part-time
*19.0
19.3
23.8
18.2
18.8
27.5
Unemployed
*14.3
15.5
16.3
*5.5
10.2
10.4
Not in the labour force
56.0
40.1
13.9
72.0
58.3
40.2
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total
7.7
41.6
71.7
9.8
44.9
80.3

%
%
%
%
%
%
Participation rate
44.0
59.9
86.1
28.0
41.7
59.8
Unemployment rate
*32.4
25.9
18.9
*19.6
24.6
17.3

(a) Aged 18–64 years.

(b) Includes people in the Community Development Employment Projects scheme.2

Source: ABS 2002 NATSISS.

...INCOME AND FINANCIAL STRESS

Indigenous people with a disability or long-term health condition were more likely to be living in low income households than people without a disability or long-term health condition. Over half (51%) of Indigenous people aged 15 years and over with a disability were in households in the lowest income quintile, compared with two-fifths (38%) of Indigenous people without a disability. In 2002, three-quarters (76%) of Indigenous people aged 15 years and over with a profound or severe limitation and 65% of those with a disability or long-term health condition reported government pensions or allowances as their main source of income, compared with 42% of Indigenous people without a disability or long-term health condition.

In 2002, financial stress was experienced by a large proportion of Indigenous people. However, those with a disability or long-term health condition were more likely to be in households experiencing financial stress. Among Indigenous people aged 15 years and over with a disability or long-term health condition, 62% were living in households that could not raise $2000 in an emergency, and 52% were in households that had experienced days without money in the last 12 months.



INDIGENOUS PERSONS(A): HOUSEHOLD INCOME - 2002
GRAPH: INDIGENOUS PERSONS(A): HOUSEHOLD INCOME - 2002


INDIGENOUS PERSONS(A): INDICATORS OF FINANCIAL STRESS(B) - 2002

With a disability or long-term health condition
No disability or long-term health condition
Total

Living in households that:
%
%
%

Were unable to raise $2000 within a week for
something important
62.4
49.7
54.3
Had days without money in last 12 months
51.5
39.3
43.7
Had days without money in last 2 weeks
39.0
27.7
31.8

'000
'000
'000
Total
102.9
179.3
282.2

(a) Aged 15 years and over.

(b) Information provided by a household spokesperson on behalf of all household members.

Source: ABS 2002 NATSISS.


INDIGENOUS PEOPLE IN REMOTE AND NON-REMOTE AREAS

In 2002, 205,000 (73%) Indigenous people aged 15 years and over lived in non-remote areas, and 77,100 (27%) lived in remote areas of Australia. While the proportion of Indigenous people in this age group with a disability or long-term health condition in remote and non-remote areas was the same (both 36%), there were some differences in the characteristics of Indigenous people with a disability living in remote and non-remote areas.

In 2002, of the 103,000 Indigenous people aged 15 years and over with a disability or long-term health condition, a greater proportion living in non-remote areas reported their health as poor or fair (50%) compared with those living in remote areas (43%).

Looking at schooling and restricting the population to those aged 18 years and over, Indigenous adults living in non-remote areas were more likely to have completed higher levels of schooling than those living in remote areas. In non-remote areas, 12% of adults with a disability had completed school to Year 12, compared with 8% in remote areas. At the other end of the scale, 64% of Indigenous adults in remote areas with a disability did not complete school beyond Year 9, compared with 52% of their non-remote peers. Issues relating to the participation of Indigenous people with a disability in education, such as limitations on access and community expectations, are different in remote and non-remote areas and may have contributed to some of these differences.

Indigenous people aged 15 years and over with a disability living in remote areas were more likely to be living in a household which experienced financial stress than those living in non-remote areas. For example, 77% from remote areas were living in a household unable to raise $2000 within a week for something important, compared with 57% in non-remote areas.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE(A) WITH A DISABILITY OR LONG-TERM HEALTH CONDITION: SELECTED INDICATORS - 2002
GRAPH: INDIGENOUS PEOPLE(A) WITH A DISABILITY OR LONG-TERM HEALTH CONDITION: SELECTED INDICATORS - 2002


Disability measures – the common and broader criteria

In the 2002 NATSISS, the questions used to identify people with a disability in remote areas differed slightly from those used in non-remote areas in order to take account of language differences and life circumstances.(EndNote 2) The questions used in both non-remote and remote areas are called the 'common criteria'. In this article, the common criteria have been used to describe disability among Indigenous people.

Indigenous people in non-remote areas were also asked some additional questions about disability and long-term health conditions. This slightly larger set of questions is called the 'broader criteria'. The additional questions in the broader criteria asked about conditions that would restrict physical activity or work, disfigurement or deformity, mental illness or restrictions due to nervous or emotional conditions. In this article, the broader criteria has been used for comparisons between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people (using data from the 2002 General Social Survey). This broader criteria is relatable to that used in the main ABS survey on disability: the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC), although SDAC uses different collection methods which result in some differences in the populations identified. For more information on the questions asked see The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2005 (ABS cat.no. 4704.0).

Using a smaller set of disability questions in remote areas may have resulted in an underestimate of Indigenous people with a physical and/or psychological disability. An additional 21,300 Indigenous people aged 15 years and over in non-remote areas were identified using the broader criteria – an increase of 10 percentage points (from 37% to 47%) compared with the common criteria. However, the proportions having a profound or severe limitation were very similar – 8% using the broader criteria and 7% with the common criteria.


INDIGENOUS PERSONS(A): DISABILITY STATUS IDENTIFIED THROUGH THE COMMON AND BROADER CRITERIA — 2002

Common
Broader

%
%

With a disability or long-term health condition
36.9
47.2
No disability or long-term health condition
63.1
52.8
Total
100.0
100.0

'000
'000
Total
205.1
205.1

(a) Indigenous persons aged 15 years and over in non-remote areas.

Source: ABS 2002 NATSISS.


PERSONS IN NON-REMOTE AREAS(A): RATIO OF INDIGENOUS TO NON-INDIGENOUS DISABILITY(B)(C) — 2002

Profound or severe core activity limitation
With a disability or long-term health condition

Age group (years)
18–24
*2.0
1.5
25–34
3.1
1.6
35–44
1.9
1.7
45–54
3.5
1.5
55–64
1.9
1.4
65 and over
1.6
1.1
Sex(d)
Males
2.5
1.4
Females
1.8
1.4
Persons(d)
2.1
1.4

(a) Aged 18 years and over.
(b) Disability measure based on broader disability criteria.
(c) Indigenous disability rate divided by the non-Indigenous disability rate.
(d) Based on aged-standardised data.
Source: ABS 2002 NATSISS and ABS 2002 GSS.

COMPARISONS WITH THE NON-INDIGENOUS POPULATION

Comparisons can be drawn between the Indigenous non-remote population using the 2002 NATSISS and the non-Indigenous population using the 2002 GSS. The Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations have different age structures. This is reflected in both the differences in median age and proportions of Indigenous people aged 65 years and over. In 2001, the median age was 21 years for the Indigenous population and 36 years for the non-Indigenous population. In the same year, the proportion of Indigenous people aged 65 years and over was 3% compared with 13% of the non-Indigenous population.(EndNote 2) For this reason, data has been age standardised for the two populations.

In 2002, Indigenous adults in non-remote areas were 1.4 times more likely to have a disability or long-term health condition than non-Indigenous adults and at least twice as likely to have a profound or severe core activity limitation. The difference in disability rates between these two groups peaked in the 35–44 years age group with Indigenous people in non-remote areas 1.7 times more likely to have a disability than non-Indigenous people. However, in the 65 years and over age group the proportions of people with a disability were very similar.

Rates of profound and severe core activity limitation were much higher among Indigenous adults in non-remote areas in all age groups. Indigenous people in the 45–54 years age group were three and a half times more likely to have a profound or severe core activity limitation than non-Indigenous people of the same age, with the rate for Indigenous people aged 45–54 years as high as that among non-Indigenous people aged 65 years and over. This suggests that Indigenous people with a disability have a relatively higher need for assistance and disability-related services at younger ages than is the case for non-Indigenous people.(EndNote 2)

Indigenous people had higher disability rates for all disability types than non-Indigenous people. The difference was greatest for intellectual disability, with Indigenous people nearly four times more likely to be limited by an intellectual disability than non-Indigenous people.



PERSONS IN NON-REMOTE AREAS(A): RATIO OF INDIGENOUS TO NON-INDIGENOUS DISABILITY BY TYPE(B)(C) — 2002
GRAPH: PERSONS IN NON-REMOTE AREAS(A): RATIO OF INDIGENOUS TO NON-INDIGENOUS DISABILITY BY TYPE(B)(C) — 2002



ENDNOTES
    1. Department of Health and Ageing, National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health 20032013: Australian Government Implementation Plan 20032008, DoHA, Canberra.
    2. Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
    2005,
    The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, (ABS cat. no. 4704.0), ABS, Canberra.
    3. Senate Employment, Workplace Relations, Small Business and Education committee (SEWRSBEC) 2000, KatuKalpa — Report on the Inquiry into the effectiveness of education and training programs for Indigenous Australians, Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia.

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