The 2002 NATSISS provides, for the first time, information on the prevalence of disability in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. In 2002, 36% of Indigenous people aged 15 years or over had a disability or long-term health condition, including 8% with a profound or severe core activity limitation, meaning that they always or sometimes needed assistance with core activities of daily living (self-care, mobility and communication). Although these estimates are not strictly comparable with those for the general population, it is clear that disability and profound or severe core activity limitations are much more prevalent among Indigenous people than non-Indigenous people. It is estimated that Indigenous people were at least twice as likely to have a profound or severe core activity limitation as non-Indigenous people.
The prevalence of disability among Indigenous people is higher at all ages. In 2002, over two-thirds of people aged 55-64 years, and one-half of people aged 45-54 years had a disability or long-term health condition. The earlier onset of disability or long-term health condition with a profound or severe core activity limitation indicates the comparatively higher need for service provision for Indigenous people with a disability at younger ages.
While Indigenous people are generally disadvantaged when compared with non-Indigenous people, those with disabilities were likely to experience a further degree of social and economic disadvantage. On average they had completed fewer years of formal education, were much less likely to be in the labour force or to be employed, had lower levels of income, and were more likely to be living in households that had experienced financial stress. The rate of profound or severe core activity limitation for Indigenous people who had been removed from their natural family was nearly twice that for all Indigenous people. Attendance at cultural events and involvement in social activities did not appear to be affected by a person's disability status.
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