4704.0 - The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2005  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/08/2005   
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Disadvantages remain for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, but some health and other gains

A major joint report launched today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) shows the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples remains poor compared to the rest of the Australian population.

But there is good news. There have been some improvements in education, employment, home ownership and health status.

The report, The Health and Welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2005, compiles information from a variety of sources to examine the health and welfare of Indigenous Australians. Launching the report in Adelaide today were Mr Tom Calma, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, and Mr Jim Birch, Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Health in South Australia.

For the first time the report includes information on disability in the Indigenous population. In 2002, Indigenous people were at least twice as likely as non-Indigenous people to have a profound or severe core activity limitation.

The report identifies declines in recorded Indigenous mortality rates in Western Australia between 1991 and 2002, and a decline in infant mortality in Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory over the same period. Nevertheless, it shows that between 1996 and 2001, the life expectancy of Indigenous Australians was around 17 years less than for other Australians.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are twice as likely to be hospitalised as other Australians. Much of the difference is due to dialysis and other potentially preventable chronic conditions, which together account for 72% of all hospitalisations of Indigenous people aged 45 years and over compared with only 21% of hospitalisations for other Australians of the same age.

Despite major disparities in health status between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia, spending on health services per person is only slightly higher for Indigenous Australians – an estimated $3,901 per Indigenous person, compared to $3,308 per non-Indigenous person.

There were improvements in some of the social determinants of health, particularly in education and employment outcomes. Between 1996 and 2004, there were steady increases in Indigenous primary and secondary school enrolments. Over the same period the proportion of Indigenous people aged 18-64 years in mainstream employment rose from 31% to 38%. Much of this gain was in part-time employment. In 2002, an additional 13% of Indigenous Australians aged 18-64 years participated in the Community Development Employment Program (CDEP).

The report found that 70% of Indigenous adults recognise their homeland or traditional country, 54% identify with their clan, tribal or language group, and 21% speak an Indigenous language. Over 90% participate in social activities, 46% play a sport and 28% do voluntary work.