The Past, The Present & The Future
Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples occupy a unique and important place in Australia’s society and culture.
In May 1967, a referendum was held to change clauses in the Federal Constitution which were considered discriminative against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. As a result of this change, the first official counting of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples took place in the 1971 Census.
In 1994 the ABS conducted the first national survey specifically for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. This survey was created as a result of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.
In recognising the importance of Indigenous statistics, the ABS has subsequently developed detailed strategies and techniques to collect accurate and useful data.
Engagement Strategy (ICES)
In 2004 the ABS established an Indigenous Community Engagement Strategy (ICES) which aims to improve the return of information, resulting in an increased quality and relevance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics.
Indigenous Engagement Managers (IEMs) are responsible for driving the ICES and are located in ABS offices across Australia. The role of the IEMs is to build relationships between the ABS and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Organisations.
The WA IEM is Marissa Russ, a Ngarinyin woman from the Kimberley region of WA. Marissa has been with the ABS for three years and has worked in Aboriginal affairs assisting Aboriginal communities, in both WA and the NT, for 16 years.
Some of the activities Marissa has been involved in recently include: ABS website training to communities; helping agencies and individuals to find Indigenous statistics; returning data from the 2006 Census; promoting the ICES (including training packages such as Introduction to the ABS and About the ICES); and pilot testing of the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey in the Pilbara.
In addition to this, Marissa was involved in the 2006 Community Housing and Infrastructure Needs Survey (CHINS) which was conducted on behalf of the then Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs.
The CHINS collects information about all Indigenous Housing Organisations (IHOs) and the dwellings they manage, as well as information about housing, water, sewerage, power supply, education, health and other services in all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
The information collected will be used by a range of Commonwealth, state and territory agencies for policy and program development. Housing, water, sewerage, power supply, education, health and other services are all important to the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia.
From August to December 2008 the ABS will be in the field conducting the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey. This survey is part of an established program of Indigenous statistics produced by the ABS to provide a picture of the social well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The 2008 NATSISS is the third in a series of Indigenous social surveys which commenced with the 1994 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey (NATSIS) and was followed by the 2002 NATSISS.
For more information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statistics visit the Indigenous theme page at www.abs.gov.au or call Marissa Russ on 08 9360 5910.