4700.0 - ABS Directions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics, Jun 2007  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 08/06/2007   
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Information Development Plans (IDPs) represent an agreement between key stakeholders about areas where further development is needed in a field of statistics and a plan to improve the quality, coverage and use of data within that field.

Each IDP embodies three kinds of knowledge and shared commitment to statistical development activity:

  • Demand for information - a picture of the information including statistics that would, ideally, support informed design and evaluation of policy, other decision-making, research and community discussion.
  • Supply of information (and of raw data that might be used to create statistics) - a picture of the existing data pool that might satisfy the demand for information.
  • Agreed statistical development activity - identified through the comparison of demand and supply, which defines and prioritises information gaps, overlaps and deficiencies (e.g. in sub-population disaggregation).

Since requirements for information on the Indigenous population are cross-cutting, these requirements are addressed in the IDP for each field of statistics. At present, IDPs have been released by ABS for crime and justice, education and training, emergency management, and rural and regional statistics. An IDP for child and youth statistics was released in 2006 and at the time of writing an IDP was under development for statistics on ageing.


Crime and Justice

An agreed priority area identified in the Crime and Justice IDP is improvement in information on Indigenous people to provide an improved evidence base for Indigenous policy development and research. Crime and justice issues are closely connected to issues of socioeconomic wellbeing such as health and work. Current ABS sources of information include the six-yearly NATSISS. Administrative data sources include information from corrective services institutions (published by the ABS). Identified data gaps include survey information on the personal safety of Indigenous people. Data developments include the implementation of the ABS standard question on Indigenous status in police processes and systems, and the investigation of the feasibility of transferring, for statistical purposes, Indigenous status information to the courts sector. Indigenous data for selected jurisdictions from the National Recorded Crime Victims Collection was first published in June 2007 (Recorded Crime - Victims Australia, ABS cat. no. 4510.0). For further information see Information Paper - National Information Development Plan for Crime and Justice (ABS cat. no. 4520.0).

Education and Training

The Education and Training IDP identifies the emerging need for data across the education sectors to be presented and analysed in a holistic manner to provide a perspective for important sub-populations, such as young people, Indigenous Australians, and people with a disability. Key ABS sources of data include the six-yearly NATSISS, the six-yearly NATSIHS and the five-yearly Census of Population and Housing. Administrative sources include the National Schools Statistics Collection, published by ABS, the National Preschool Census, and information from the vocational and higher education sectors. Priority areas for data development for Indigenous statistics include the consistency and comparability of national reporting of pre-school and school attendance, reporting of learning outcomes by geographic regions, state and territory breakdowns of 15-24 year olds in transition from school to work, participation in and outcomes from vocational educational and training, and engagement of Indigenous people in all sectors of the education workforce. For further information see Information Paper - Measuring Learning in Australia: Improve the Quality, Coverage and Use of Education and Training Statistics (ABS cat no. 4231.0)

Rural and Regional

The Rural and Regional IDP identifies the need for regional statistics about Indigenous people together with four other sub-populations: young people, older persons, women and persons with a disability. Current ABS sources of regional information on Indigenous people include the five-yearly Census of Population and Housing and population estimates and projections. Administrative sources of regional data include school enrolments and persons in police custody. These collections are subject to limitations due to varying levels of completeness of the identification of Indigenous status. User needs for information about Indigenous people living in regional and remote areas include statistics on health and economic wellbeing, as well as ensuring that the geographic unit for Indigenous output reflects the spatial frameworks used by Indigenous administration and advocacy bodies. The IDP includes a data development priority to investigate options for expanded regional analysis of sub-populations using data from existing sources. For further information see Information Paper: Regional Research in Australia - the Statistical Dimension: an Information Development Plan for Rural and Regional Statistics (ABS cat no. 1362.0)

Children and Youth

In developing an Information Development Plan for Children and Youth, Indigenous children and youth are identified as a key sub-population for data development. Current ABS sources of data include the six-yearly NATSIHS the five-yearly Census of Population and Housing and experimental estimates and projections of the Indigenous population. Administrative data sources include information on pre-school and school enrolments and child protection information. Priority areas for Indigenous information development include data to monitor early intervention programs. For further information see Information Paper: Improving Statistics on Children and Youth - An Information Development Plan, 2006 (ABS cat. no. 4907.0).


Indigenous Community Services

The AIHW and ABS prepared a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Services Information Plan for the National Community Services Information Management Group (NCSIMG). NCSIMG reports to the Community and Disability Services Minister's Conference through the Community Services Ministers' Advisory Council. The combined ABS and AIHW unit preparing the plan reviewed the collection protocols of Indigenous status in community services, and examined issues affecting the collection of Indigenous status, in order to develop principles and standards for the collection of this information.

The purpose of the plan is to improve information in both the government and non-government sectors about the Indigenous clients of community services, through:
  • The use of the standard ABS Indigenous status question and the National Community Services Data Dictionary protocol.
  • Developing a supportive base and infrastructure for data collection and use.
  • Improving the technical aspects required to facilitate quality Indigenous community services information.
  • Gaining national commitment to implement recommendations to improve Indigenous information.

Indigenous Health

The NAGATSIHID Strategic Plan for the Development of Data and Information about the Health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2006-2008 outlines 20 priority themes for Indigenous health information and data. The themes listed encompass data development, quality improvement and capacity building activities; specific health-related topics such as mental health, violence and prisoner's health; and research and analysis issues such as health trends and burden of disease. Each theme is addressed in terms of the current context, NAGATSIHID's role, and 'next steps and monitoring progress'.

In addition to NAGATSIHID's key advisory role, the group is also responsible for continuing the implementation of the 1997 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Information Plan - This time let's make it happen (AIHW 1997). The NAGATSIHID Strategic Plan has been developed within the context of this Plan.

Indigenous Housing

The Agreement on National Indigenous Housing Information aims to: improve the quality and range of Indigenous housing information at a national level; improve access to Indigenous housing information and facilitate the use of data, whilst maintaining and protecting data confidentiality; minimise duplication of efforts and maximise the compatibility of Indigenous housing data with other housing data sets, and with other relevant health and community services data. Specific objectives include the development of a National Housing Data Dictionary, and a National Minimum Data Set. The National Indigenous Housing Information Implementation Committee (NIHIIC) is responsible for the overall operation of the Agreement.

The agreement has been developed within the context of the Indigenous issues and priorities addressed in the National Community Services Information Plan 2005-09.


As described in the main paper, the breadth of data collection for Indigenous people has increased in quality and quantity over recent years. In addition, the IDP process provides a basis for setting priorities and focusing work in a number of areas. The ABS and other agencies have made progress in a range of areas, including population estimation, survey output and identification of Indigenous people in administrative collections. Nevertheless, there are still major data gaps (eg. as identified in the COAG reports and by NAGATSIHID).

The following provides an indicative list of some key areas where demands for further improvement or additional data have been expressed by users of Indigenous statistical data:
  • more accurate and reliable population counts, estimates and projections at small area level;
  • continued improvements in vitals data, Indigenous identification coverage and resulting analyses;
  • improved Indigenous identification in other administrative data collections (particularly in jurisdictional housing; police and courts; hospitals; and Vocational Education and Training (VET) data collections);
  • more detailed data on children and youth, including on health (specifically mental health), risk factors, child abuse and neglect;
  • more detailed data on youth suicide;
  • data on family violence;
  • provision of longitudinal data on all aspects of health, environmental health and wellbeing;
  • more comprehensive data on illicit substance use;
  • improved Indigenous education attendance and attainment data;
  • more detailed (regional) and regular data on labour market participation;
  • more comprehensive data on Indigenous economic and business activity;
  • more comprehensive small area statistical data, including down to 'community' level to meet regional planning and monitoring requirements and the possible evaluation requirements of Shared Responsibility Agreements (SRAs).