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4720.0 - National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey: Users' Guide, 2008  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/02/2010   
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The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) was conducted from August 2008 to April 2009 with a sample of approximately 13,300 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in private dwellings across Australia. The 2008 NATSISS is a multi-faceted social survey which provides broad information across key areas of social concern for Indigenous Australians, nationally, by state and territory and remoteness area. Information from the NATSISS contributes to existing data on Indigenous people and the formulation of government policies and legislation.

This publication provides information on the survey design, content and the interpretation of results. A summary of the findings from the survey are presented in the publication, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2008 (cat. no. 4714.0). For people who wish to undertake more detailed analysis of the survey data, special tabulations are available on request and two Expanded Confidentialised Unit Record Files (CURFs) are being released on the ABS website. More information on access to and use of the CURFs is provided in the Using the CURFs chapter. The Survey products chapter also provides information on products released from this survey.

Survey content

Detailed information on the survey content is provided in a series of topic-based chapters, which include:

These chapters provide information on the survey data items and the availability of data, which is generally based on the following Indigenous populations:
  • persons aged 15 years and over;
  • children aged 4-14 years; and
  • infants aged 0-3 years.


The 2008 NATSISS is the third national social survey of Indigenous Australians conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Building on the 2002 NATSISS and the 1994 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey (NATSIS), the 2008 survey includes data on Indigenous children (aged 0-14 years). Data for children aged 0-3 years focus on infant and maternal health topics, including birthweight, breastfeeding and issues that may have been experienced by a child's mother during pregnancy (eg high blood pressure). Data for children aged 4-14 years includes key health topics (eg dental, sight or hearing problems), as well as extensive data on language and culture similar to the data collected for persons aged 15 years and over.

More information on the comparability of the 2008 and 2002 surveys is provided in the Interpretation of results chapter. Comparisons between the 2002 NATSISS and the 1994 NATSIS are provided in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey: Expanded Confidentialised Unit Record File, Technical Paper, 2002 (cat. no. 4720.0).

Survey development

Experts and key stakeholders assisted the ABS with advice on survey content, including the most appropriate topics for collection, associated concepts and definitions. Advice was sought from a range of people and groups, including representatives from Indigenous peak bodies; government departments with Indigenous responsibilities; universities with a background in relevant academic research; and the ABS Advisory Group for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics.

A substantial contribution towards the funding of this survey was provided by the Council of Australian Governments (CoAG), as agreed through the Working Group on Indigenous Reform, and the Victorian Government Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD).


Undercoverage is one potential source of non-sampling error and is the shortfall between the population represented by the achieved sample and the in-scope population. There was a relatively large level of undercoverage in the 2008 NATSISS when compared to other ABS surveys. Therefore, the analysis undertaken to ensure that results from the survey were consistent with other data sources was more extensive than usual. Potential bias due to undercoverage was addressed through the application of a number of adjustments to the initial weights and an adjustment to geographical areas based on the density of the Indigenous population. As undercoverage can result in variances across population characteristics, as well as across data items, caution should be exercised when interpreting the survey results. More information on undercoverage is provided in the Interpretation of results chapter.


In 2002, the ABS conducted the second National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS). The survey provided broad information across key areas of social concern for Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over. The survey provided information not previously available at national, state/territory and broad regional levels. It also enabled comparisons with non-Indigenous data from the 2002 General Social Survey.

The scope of the 2008 NATSISS was expanded to include Indigenous children aged 0-14 years. While this change does not specifically impact on the comparability of data for Indigenous persons aged 15 years and over, some survey modules and questions were redeveloped and/or expanded to include Indigenous children.

Many key data items in the 2008 survey are the same or similar to those in the 2002 survey. However, there are differences in the sample design and coverage, survey methodology and content, definitions, and classifications, all of which may impact on comparability. A summary of the broad differences between the 2008 and 2002 surveys is provided in the Interpretation of results chapter. Detailed information on comparability is provided in each topic-based chapter and differences in survey design and methodology are outlined in the Survey design chapter.

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