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) 14/10/2005   
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Contents >> Chapter 8: Health Risk Factors >> Exposure to Violence

Exposure to violence is a health risk factor that is at times overlooked, despite its potential to result in permanent disability, psychological trauma and even death. The World Health Organization (2002b) reports that in addition to direct physical injury, victims of violence are at greater risk of a wide variety of psychological and behavioural problems including depression, anxiety, suicidal behaviour, and alcohol and substance misuse. Victims of sexual violence are also at increased risk of developing reproductive health problems and contracting sexually transmitted diseases (WHO 2002b).

In 2002, nearly one-quarter (24%) of Indigenous people aged 15 years or over reported being a victim of physical or threatened violence in the previous 12 months, nearly double the rate reported in 1994 (13%). However, some of this increase may reflect the different wording of victimisation questions used in the 1994 and 2002 surveys.

Rates of victimisation were similar for people living in remote and non-remote areas (23% compared with 25%) and for men and women overall (26% compared with 23%). Younger people were more likely to have been a victim of physical or threatened violence in 2002, with men aged 15-24 years having the highest rate of any age group (36%) (graph 8.9).

8.9 Victims of physical or threatened violence(a), Indigenous persons aged 15 years or over - 2002
Graph: Victims of physical or threatened violence(a), Indigenous persons aged 15 years or over – 2002

Those who were victims of physical or threatened violence in 2002 reported higher rates of fair or poor health (28% compared with 22%) and lower rates of excellent or very good health (38% compared with 46%) than those who had not been victimised. Moreover, people who had been victimised were more likely to report having a disability or long-term health condition (43% compared with 34%). They were also more likely to regularly smoke (61% compared with 45%), to usually consume alcohol at risky or high risk levels (22% compared with 13%) and to have used at least one illicit substance in the last 12 months (38% compared with 19% of persons in non-remote areas).

When age differences between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations are taken into account, Indigenous people aged 18 years or over experienced double the victimisation rate of non-Indigenous people in 2002. These data are consistent with the very much higher rates in the Indigenous population of hospitalisation due to assault. As shown in Chapter 7, hospital separations for assault-based injuries were seven times higher for Indigenous males and 31 times higher for Indigenous females in 2003-04 (AIHW National Hospital Morbidity Database).

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