1289.0 - Standards for Statistics on Cultural and Language Diversity, 1999  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 22/11/1999   
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Contents >> Indigenous Status >> Measurement issues and related classifications


Data quality

46. Collection of Indigenous Status in non-ABS collections is subject to a number of data quality considerations, in particular poor response rates and issues arising in situations where information is gathered from third parties. Not stated responses are not always genuine cases of non-response. They may mask uncertainty and doubt as to ones origin or result from the question not being asked. In the same way, 'No' responses may be seen by respondents as the default'. Thus the 'Non-indigenous' category may, in practice, include some individuals about whom there is uncertainty regarding their Indigenous Status. Data collections which rely on the assessment of a third party are most frequently affected by this.

Both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander status

47. The complete classification is most commonly used in the Census, surveys specifically targeted to Indigenous people and some administrative collections. The category, 'Both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander' is likely to contain few people and should be released separately with care. If 'Both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Origin' has too few people to be released separately then, data should be released for the total Indigenous Status only, with no further breakdown.

Terminology Guidelines

48. In November 1992 the Chief Executive Officer of ATSIC made a formal request to all government bodies that they adopt appropriate terminology when referring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Acceptable terms

49. The correct name for this variable is 'Indigenous Status'. An acceptable alternative is 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin'.

50. 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' is the preferred term for referring to Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders collectively. 'Indigenous peoples' is an acceptable alternative. Circumstances where the latter term might be used in place of the former term include:

  • in sentences where repetition of the term 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' detracts from the readability of the text;
  • in presenting information in tables or graphs where the term 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' detracts from the readability of the table or graph, or where space is limited.

51. 'Indigenous Australians' is also an acceptable term for referring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

52. The terms 'Indigenous' and 'Aboriginal(s)' should always be capitalised when referring to Indigenous Australians and Australian Aboriginal(s). These terms do not need capitals when used in a general sense to refer to the original inhabitants of other countries.

Unacceptable terms

53. 'Aboriginality' is an unacceptable alternative for 'Indigenous Status'.

54. The terms 'Aboriginal' and 'Torres Strait Islander' are used in the question wording because they are widely accepted throughout Australia and are not offensive to Indigenous people. These terms should not be replaced in the question with other terms such as 'Koori' or 'Murri' as terms relating to particular Aboriginal groups do not cover Torres Strait Islander people and many other Aboriginal groups. Indigenous people who do not identify with alternative terms may resent having the terms applied to them or may respond 'No' to the question. Although 'Koori', 'Murri' and other names of particular groups are unacceptable alternatives for 'Aboriginal' in a general sense and in the Indigenous Status question, they may be used to refer to a person or group of people who are known to identify themselves as 'Koori', 'Murri', etc.

55. 'ATSI', ATSIs 'ATSI people', 'Aboriginal and TSI' or 'A&TSI' 'Islanders', 'TSIs', 'TIs' are all unacceptable terms.

56. 'ATSIC people' or 'ATSICs' are also incorrect. ATSIC, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, is an organisation.

57. When referring to events or circumstances affecting Indigenous people, phrases such as 'Deaths of Indigenous people' are to be preferred over 'Indigenous deaths'.

58. 'Aboriginal' should not be used to include Torres Strait Islander people, in particular the following should be avoided '... Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, referred to subsequently as Aboriginal,...'.

59. Persons and groups of persons should not be described as 'ethnic': this is both inaccurate and offensive.


60. Australian Standard Classification of Cultural and Ethnic Groups (ASCCEG), 1249.0.

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