4733.0 - Information Paper: Review of the Indigenous Status Standard, 2014  
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INTRODUCTION

The ABS Indigenous Status Standard, which includes the Standard Indigenous Question (SIQ), is used by the ABS and many government organisations, as well as some non-government organisations. It provides the basis for the ABS to collect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statistics. During 2013, the ABS undertook a Review of the Indigenous Standard to ensure it continues to meet the needs of the ABS, other data collectors, and data users, both in government and in the wider community.

Direct consultation with organisations representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was of critical importance to the Review, as was consultation with government agencies and the research community who use statistical and administrative data collections. Stakeholders were asked to provide feedback on the usefulness and relevance of the existing Standard and SIQ, as well as consider options for changes to the Standard.

THE INDIGENOUS STATUS STANDARD

The ABS Indigenous Status Standard enables the provision of consistent information from both statistical and administrative sources about people who identify as being of Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. The Standard is supported by the Council of Australian Governments in schedule F of the National Indigenous Reform Agreement which states that 'all jurisdictions will adopt the standard ABS SIQ and recording categories on data collection forms and information systems for key data sets' (Endnote 1).

The statistical purpose of the SIQ is to provide data that:
i. tells the ongoing statistical story about, and for, Aboriginal and Torres Islander peoples, and
ii. provides a basis for the allocation of government funding for general and specifically targeted services and programs.

The Standard consists of:

  • Concepts - consisting of the name of the variable and nominal and operational definitions of the variable
  • Classification and coding information - providing criteria for classifying responses as well as coding procedures
  • Collection methods - including the SIQ
  • Measurement issues - introducing data quality matters and terminology guidelines.

The Standard Indigenous Question (SIQ)

[Are you] [Is the person] [Is (name)] of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin?

No
Yes, Aboriginal
Yes, Torres Strait Islander

For persons of both of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, mark both Yes boxes

The Standard Indigenous Question (SIQ) is based upon the Commonwealth working definition (Endnote 2) which states 'An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is a person of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he or she lives.' However, the SIQ does not include the third element of the Commonwealth definition, namely that an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander ‘is a person who is accepted as such by the community in which he or she lives’ as it is usually not practical to collect information on community acceptance in a survey or administrative data collection setting.

The definition of Indigenous Status is therefore operationalised as ‘whether or not a person identifies as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin'. The term 'origin', when used in the context of the operational definition, is understood to relate to people's Australian Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent and for some, but not all, their cultural identity.

The current SIQ was introduced in 1996 and is used in the five yearly Census of Population and Housing (henceforth referred to as the Census), and in all ABS collections that ask respondents for their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status. The SIQ is also asked in the health, education, and crime and justice sectors in most Australian state and territory government departments and agencies, and in many non-government sector collections.

The method for collecting information about Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is through self-identification. Respondents self-identify their Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status as either non-Indigenous, Aboriginal origin, Torres Strait islander origin or both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin. The Standard does not require people to prove their Indigenous Status.

ENDNOTES

1. COAG (Council of Australia Governments) 2011, National Indigenous Reform Agreement, http://www.federalfinancialrelations.gov.au/content/npa/health_indigenous/indigenous-reform/national-agreement_sept_12.pdf, viewed 5 July 2014.

2. ALRC (Australian Law Reform Commission) 1986, The Recognition of Aboriginal Customary Laws. Vol. 1, ALRC 31, AGPS, Canberra.