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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2006  
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Contents >> Population >> Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

In 2002, nearly half (47%) of all Indigenous young people aged 15–24 years were participating in full-time education, full-time work or in a combination of part-time education and part-time work.

While Australia as a whole faces an ageing population, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is younger and growing at a faster rate. Young people aged between 15–24 years comprised 18% of the Indigenous population in 2001, compared with 14% of the non-Indigenous population.(EndNote 1)

Successful transition in youth from school to work and/or further study enables young people to gain the necessary skills and experience to participate in long-term employment.(EndNote 2) Both education and employment outcomes for Indigenous youth have improved over the past 10 years, with more Indigenous young people continuing their education beyond Year 10, and higher proportions participating in the labour force. However, young Indigenous Australians remain disadvantaged across a range of areas of social concern when compared with non-Indigenous youth.


National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS)

This article uses data from the ABS 2002 NATSISS together with data from other collections, such as the ABS 2004–05 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS), to examine the socioeconomic circumstances and the health and welfare issues faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth. In most cases, the population of interest is Indigenous young people aged 15–24 years. However, in some places the population has been restricted to 18–24 years for relevance, while in others the 18–24 years age group is used in order to make comparisons with the non-Indigenous population using data from the ABS 2002 General Social Survey (GSS), or the ABS 2004–05 National Health Survey.

Unless otherwise stated, young people in this article refers to those aged 15–24 years.

Remoteness areas

The ABS remoteness classification is based on road distance to different sized population centres, where the population is considered to govern the range and type of services available.

In this article, remote areas include the Remoteness categories Remote Australia and Very Remote Australia, while non-remote areas include Major Cities of Australia, Inner Regional Australia and Outer Regional Australia. For further information see Statistical Geography: Volume 1 - Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASCG) 2001 (ABS cat. no. 1216.0).


THE YOUNG INDIGENOUS POPULATION

At 30 June 2001, there were an estimated 84,000 young Indigenous people living in Australia. This population is projected to grow to between 102,000 and 110,000 by mid 2006.(EndNote 1))

In 2001, almost one-third (32%) of young Indigenous people were living in major cities, with 42% in regional areas and 26% in remote areas. In contrast, over two-thirds (70%) of non-Indigenous young people lived in major cities, while only 2% lived in remote areas. Consequently, the proportion of young Australians who were Indigenous varied from 1% in major cities to 50% in very remote areas. This geographic distribution reflects that of the total Indigenous population.

AUSTRALIA'S YOUNG PEOPLE(a): POPULATION BY REMOTENESS AREA — 2001
GRAPH:AUSTRALIA'S YOUNG PEOPLE(a): POPULATION BY REMOTENESS AREA — 2001



EDUCATION

A major focus of Indigenous education initiatives has been to encourage young people to continue their education beyond Year 10 in order to increase their future employment prospects and opportunities for post-school education.(EndNote 3) The ABS National Schools Statistics Collection shows that Indigenous retention beyond Year 10 steadily increased between 1996 and 2004, with the Year 11 rate rising from 47% to 61% and the Year 12 rate rising from 29% to 40%. The
gaps in retention rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students are also slowly closing. Nevertheless, Indigenous retention rates remain substantially lower than those for non-Indigenous students.


Successful completion of Year 12 has long been considered a key component to improving the economic and social status of Indigenous people.(EndNote 4) The 2002 NATSISS showed that 28% of Indigenous young people aged 18–24 years reported having completed Year 12. A further 45% had completed Year 10 or 11. Indigenous young people who had completed Year 12 reported higher levels of mainstream employment, lower levels of financial stress and were more likely to be studying or working full-time than those who had not completed school to this level.

YOUNG PEOPLE(a)(b): HIGHEST YEAR OF SCHOOL COMPLETED

Indigenous
Non-Indigenous


1994
2002
2002



Total
Non-remote
Remote
Total
Total
%
%
%
%
%

Year 12
(e)23.3
31.6
19.9
(e)28.3
71.1
Year 10/11
(e)43.7
45.3
45.3
(e)45.3
24.2
Year 9 or below(c)
(e)32.5
23.2
34.9
(e)26.5
4.7
Total(d)
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
Persons aged 18–24 years(b)
46.8
36.3
14.3
50.6
1 811.9

(a) Persons aged 18–24 years.
(b) Excludes persons still attending secondary school.
(c) Includes persons who never attended school.
(d) 1994 total includes persons who did not state their highest year of school completed.
(e) Difference between 1994 and 2002 data is not statistically significant.

Source: ABS 1994 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey and 2002 General Social Survey.

YOUNG PEOPLE FULLY ENGAGED(a), States and territories — 2002
GRAPH:YOUNG PEOPLE FULLY ENGAGED(a), States and territories — 2002



...TRANSITION FROM SCHOOL TO WORK

The transition from school to further study or full-time employment can have long-term implications for Australia's young people. Those who are not fully engaged in either education and/or work (i.e. not in full-time work, full-time study or in a combination of both part-time work and part-time study) during this period may be at risk of becoming long-term unemployed, underemployed, or only marginally attached to the labour force (see Australian Social Trends 2005, Young people at risk in the transition from education to work).

Among those aged 18–24 years, Indigenous people were half as likely as non-Indigenous people to be fully engaged in education and/or work in 2002 (35% compared with 76%). Across the states and territories, there was relatively wide variation in the proportion of Indigenous young people fully engaged compared with non-Indigenous young people. The ACT had the highest proportion of Indigenous young people who were fully participating in education or work, followed by Victoria and Tasmania.

In 2002, 57% of Indigenous teenagers (aged 15–19 years) and 34% of Indigenous young adults (aged 20–24 years) were fully engaged in education and/or work. In both age groups, young males were more likely than young females to be fully engaged.

WORK

Between 1994 and 2002, the proportion of Indigenous young people aged 18–24 years who were employed rose from 38% to 48%. In 2002, 30% of Indigenous young people were in mainstream employment and an additional 18% were participants in the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme. Mainstream employment was more common among Indigenous young people in non-remote areas, whereas most CDEP participation was located in remote regions.

There was a strong relationship between educational attainment and employment for Indigenous young people in 2002, with those in full-time employment being more than twice as likely as those who were unemployed to have completed Year 12 (49% compared with 21%).

Indigenous young people continue to experience lower levels of employment and higher levels of unemployment than non-Indigenous young people. In 2002, Indigenous young people aged 18–24 years were only about two-thirds as likely as non-Indigenous young people to be employed (48% Indigenous compared with 72% non-Indigenous), and twice as likely to be unemployed (20% and 10% respectively).

YOUNG PEOPLE(a): LABOUR FORCE STATUS

Indigenous
Non-Indigenous


1994
2002
2002
%
%
%

Employed(b)
38.2
47.7
72.0
Full-time
(c)22.8
(c)20.9
41.2
Part-time
14.9
26.6
30.7
Unemployed
(c)25.3
(c)20.3
10.3
Not in the labour force
(c)36.4
(c)32.0
17.7
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0

'000
'000
'000
Persons aged 18–24 years
47.3
51.9
1 869.2

(a) Persons aged 18–24 years.
(b) Includes persons whose full-time/part-time status was not stated. Includes persons who were employed in CDEP.
(c) Difference between 1994 and 2002 data is not statistically significant.

Source: ABS 1994 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey and 2002 General Social Survey.

Labour force concepts

Employed persons are those who, during the week prior to interview, worked for one hour or more for pay, profit, commission or payment in kind, in a job or business or on a farm; or worked without pay in a family business; or had a job but were not at work.

Persons employed full-time are those who usually work 35 hours or more per week.

Persons employed part-time are those who usually work at least one hour, but less than 35 hours, per week.

Persons fully engaged are those who were in either full-time work, full-time study or in both part-time work and part-time study.


SOCIAL PARTICIPATION

Social activities, including involvement in sport and exercise, can be more than just a source of enjoyment for young people. Taking part in social activities may promote positive social behaviour as well as build stronger communities and enhance cultural identity (See Australian Social Trends 2005, Social and sporting activities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples).

In 2002, the vast majority of Indigenous young people aged 15–24 years (94%) had been involved in social activities in the three months prior to interview, and two-thirds (67%) had participated in sport or physical recreation activities in the 12 months prior to interview.

In remote areas, attending a sporting event as a spectator and involvement in sport or physical recreational activities were the most commonly reported social or sporting activities undertaken in the last 3 months. In non-remote areas, the most common social activities for Indigenous young people were going out to a cafe, restaurant or bar, or to the movies, a theatre or a concert.

YOUNG PEOPLE(a): SOCIAL AND CULTURAL PARTICIPATION — 2002
GRAPH:YOUNG PEOPLE(a): SOCIAL AND CULTURAL PARTICIPATION — 2002



CULTURE AND LANGUAGE

A young person's identification with a particular culture is a major protective factor in promoting their overall wellbeing. For example, the findings from the Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey suggest that growing up in areas of extreme isolation, where adherence to traditional culture and ways of life is strongest, may be protective against emotional and behavioural difficulties in Aboriginal children.(EndNote 5) The sense of belonging and support that young people gain from their culture helps build resilience, self-esteem and a strong personal identity. (EndNote 6)

In 2002, 62% of Indigenous young people recognised their homelands/traditional country; 47% reported that they identified with a clan, tribal or language group; and 66% had attended a cultural event in the last 12 months. For each of these measures of cultural attachment, higher rates were reported in remote areas.

Similarly, Indigenous languages were more commonly used in remote areas. Overall, one-half (50%) of Indigenous young people in remote areas spoke an Indigenous language, compared with 6% in non-remote areas. The proportions for whom an Indigenous language was the main language spoken at home was 37% in remote and 2% in non-remote regions.

HEALTH

Young people generally enjoy good physical health. The 2004–05 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) showed that 59% of young Indigenous people aged 15–24 years reported being in excellent or very good health, 32% were in good health and only 9% reported being in fair or poor health.

However, youth is a time of heightened risk behaviour, and young people are at a greater risk of illness and injury from motor vehicle accidents, violence, substance use and unsafe sexual behaviour. (EndNote 7)

...SMOKING

In 2004–05, half (50%) of all Indigenous young people aged 18–24 years were current daily (or regular) smokers, similar to the rate reported in 2001 (53%). Indigenous young people were nearly twice as likely as non-Indigenous young people to smoke on a daily basis (50% compared with 26%). Indigenous young people smoked at the same rate as the adult Indigenous population. Young Indigenous smokers reported higher rates of other substance use in 2004–05. The NATSIHS showed that in non-remote areas, young regular smokers were twice as likely as non-smokers to have recently used illicit substances (42% compared with 20%).

...BINGE DRINKING

The 2002 NATSISS showed that around one-third (35%) of Indigenous young people aged 15–24 years reported consuming risky or high risk amounts of alcohol on a single day during the fortnight prior to interview. Young males were more likely than young females to binge drink at risky/high risk levels, and risky/high risk drinking was more common among youth living in non-remote areas.

While there is no comparable data on binge drinking available for non-Indigenous young people for 2002, the 2004–05 NATISHS contains information on long-term risk from average daily consumption of alcohol for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. The results show that while Indigenous young people aged 18–24 years were less likely than their non-Indigenous peers to drink alcohol, the rates of risky/high risk drinking from average daily consumption were similar for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people (16% compared with 14%).

Alcohol consumption

The 2002 NATSISS included a measure of alcohol consumption risk level that was designed to measure short-term risk, or binge drinking. This was based on the largest quantity of alcohol consumed in a single day during the fortnight prior to interview. Alcohol consumption risk levels were based on the 1992 National Health and Medical Research Council's (NHMRC) guidelines for short-term patterns of drinking.

The 2004–05 NATSIHS collected information on usual patterns of alcohol consumption. Risk levels were derived from the average daily consumption of alcohol in the seven days prior to interview, and were based on the 2001 NHMRC guidelines for long-term patterns of drinking.

Illicit substance use

The term 'illicit substances' refers to a variety of substances that are either illegal to possess (e.g. heroin) or legally available, but used inappropriately (e.g. misuse of prescription medication, inhalation of petrol).(EndNote 8)

The 2004–05 NATSIHS provides the most recent information on illicit substance use within the Indigenous population. Data is only available for Indigenous people living in non-remote areas.

INDIGENOUS YOUNG PEOPLE(a): ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION(b) — 2002

Remoteness area
Sex


Non-remote
Remote
Males
Females
Total
%
%
%
%
%

Consumed alcohol(c)
46.5
30.3
48.3
36.1
42.1
Low risk
8.1
*3.4
6.4
7.3
6.8
Risky/high risk
37.5
26.4
41.1
28.1
34.5
Did not consume alcohol
53.5
69.7
51.7
63.9
57.9
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) Persons aged 15–24 years.
(b) Alcohol consumption in the last 2 weeks.
(c) Includes persons whose risk level was not stated.

Source: ABS 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey.


...ILLICIT SUBSTANCE USE

In 2004–05, over one-third (36%) of Indigenous young people aged 15–24 years living in non-remote areas reported having recently used an illicit substance (i.e. in the 12 months prior to interview). Half (50%) had reported having tried at least one illicit substance in their lifetime, with half (50%) having never tried illicit substances.

Marijuana was the most commonly reported illicit substance used by this group in 2004–05. Nearly half (46%) reported having tried marijuana and 31% had used it in the last 12 months. Amphetamines/speed was the next most frequently reported substance ever used (15%) or recently used (9%) by Indigenous young people living in non-remote areas.

LAW AND JUSTICE

Crime and its consequences can have serious and long-term implications for both offenders and victims. Young offenders who come in contact with the criminal justice system typically experience lower levels of educational attainment and are at greater risk of long-term unemployment than other young people. Similarly, young victims of violent crime can suffer both physically and emotionally, and are at greater risk of suicide (See Australian Social Trends 2005, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: Contact with the law).

LAW AND JUSTICE(a) — 2002
GRAPH:LAW AND JUSTICE(a) - 2002



...VICTIMISATION

In 2002, one-third (33%) of young Indigenous people aged 18–24 years reported being a victim of physical or threatened violence in the last 12 months. This was twice the rate reported for non-Indigenous young people (15%). The disparity was greatest among young females, with Indigenous females being three times as likely as non-Indigenous females to report having been victimised (31% compared with 10%).

...ARREST AND INCARCERATION

In 2002, one in five (21%) young Indigenous people aged 15–24 years reported that they had been arrested by police in the last five years and 8% reported having been incarcerated in the last five years. Rates of arrest and incarceration for young males were more than twice as high as those for young females.

Indigenous young people continue to be over represented in the Australian prison system. In 2005, Indigenous young people aged 18–24 years were 13 times more likely than non-Indigenous young people to be in prison. (EndNote 9)

In 2002, contact with the criminal justice system was associated with poorer health and socioeconomic outcomes for young Indigenous Australians. Those aged 15–24 years who had been arrested or incarcerated in the last five years were more likely than those who had not been arrested and/or incarcerated to be: unemployed, to have left school before Year 10, to have relatives who were removed from their natural families and to have been a victim of physical or threatened violence.

INDIGENOUS YOUTH(a): PROPORTION WITH SELECTED CHARACTERISTICS BY WHETHER ARRESTED OR INCARCERATED — 2002

Whether arrested(b)
Whether incarcerated(b)


Arrested
Not arrested
Incarcerated
Not incarcerated
Total(c)
Selected characteristics
%
%
%
%
%

Unemployed
37.8
17.9
*34.0
21.1
22.1
Highest year of school completed Year 9 or below(d)
51.9
23.0
67.2
26.4
30.6
Fair/poor self-assessed health
*11.5
7.1
*14.9
7.5
8.1
Has a disability or long-term health condition
31.6
20.3
30.4
22.1
22.7
Has used substances in last 12 months(e)
57.1
22.3
65.5
26.8
30.2
Relatives removed from natural family
46.2
27.8
54.9
29.7
31.7
First formal charge at 15 years or below
36.6
5.0
49.0
8.4
11.7
Arrested more than once in last 5 years
62.0
..
72.2
7.9
13.1
Victim of physical or threatened violence(f)
54.5
27.4
50.0
31.7
33.1

'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
Indigenous persons aged 15–24 years
17.5
65.2
6.7
76.0
82.7

(a) Aged 15–24 years.
(b) In the last 5 years.
(c) Total includes persons who did not state whether they were arrested or incarcerated in the last 5 years.
(d) Excludes persons still attending secondary school. Includes persons who never attended school.
(e) For persons living in non-remote areas only.
(f) In the last 12 months.

Source: ABS 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey


ENDNOTES
1 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2004, Experimental Population Estimates and Projections, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, cat. no. 3238.0, ABS, Canberra.
2 Dusseldorp Skills Forum, 2005, How Young People are Faring, Key Indicators 2005, DSF, Sydney.
3 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, cat. no 4704.0, ABS, Canberra.
4 Technology 2000, National Indigenous English Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, DEST, viewed 17 February 2005. <http://www.dest.gov.au/schools/ indigenous/publications/ nielnsreport. htm>.
5 Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision 2005, Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2005, Productivity Commission, Canberra.
6 Zubrick, SR, Silburn, SR, Lawrence, DM, Mitrou, FG, Dalby, RB, Blair, EM, Griffin, J, Milroy, H, de Maio, JA, Cox, A, Li, J 2005, The Western Australian Aboriginal Child Health Survey: The Social and Emotional Wellbeing of Aboriginal Children and Young people, Curtin University of Technology and Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Perth.
7 Kang, M & Chown, P 2004, Adolescent Health: Enhancing the skills of General Practitioners in caring for young people from culturally diverse backgrounds, TMHC and CAAH, viewed 5th January 2006, <http://www.caah.chw.edu.au/resources/gp-section1.pdf>.
8 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2004, Australia's Health 2004, (AIHW Cat. No. AUS 44), AIHW, Canberra.
9 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2004, Australia's Health 2004, (AIHW Cat. No. Aus 44), AIHW, Canberra.


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