4726.0 - Information Paper: Perspectives on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Identification in Selected Data Collection Contexts, 2012  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 01/02/2013  First Issue
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The ABS conducted research work in 2010 and 2012 to understand the issues surrounding and contributing to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ propensity to identify. This work took the form of focus groups, facilitated by external consultants in locations around Australia. The focus group research conducted in 2010 focused on identification in administrative data collections and the 2012 research sought to understand identification behaviours in survey contexts. The focus group research was supplemented by a brief review of relevant literature in Australia and internationally.

The focus groups explored a range of environments/situations in which participants may have the opportunity to identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. Discussion included, but was not limited to, collections administered or accessed by the ABS.

Broadly, the findings of the focus group research were around the following themes:

    • Pride in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander heritage as a reason to identify
    • Perceptions of benefit, both at the individual and the population level, resulting from identification
    • The potential for negative consequences, experiences of discrimination and inappropriate administration of Indigenous status questions as factors discouraging identification
    • The desire for information about the need for Indigenous status information, to inform decisions about identification
    • The impact of social environment on identification, and change in the environment surrounding identification in recent decades

Focus groups are not a representative sample; focus group participants are self-selecting. They belong to a specific sub-population of people who have links to the community organisations and contacts involved in the focus group research in each location. Participation was open to people who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander, and as such a bias toward consistent identification is possible in the participants’ views. The findings generated by the focus groups are valuable in informing discussion on identification behaviours, but the findings are not representative of the views of any one group.

The views expressed in the focus groups are summarised below without preference. Quantifiers such as ‘some’, ‘most’, or ‘a few’ have been avoided in acknowledgement of the fact that the number of focus group participants expressing a particular view is not necessarily representative of the extent to which that view is held in the wider population. Where views or discussion topics are presented here, they reflect the views of a number of participants, generally across multiple focus group sessions. This paper has been careful to avoid any bias toward the opinions of individual participants.


The ABS would like to thank the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who participated in the focus groups. Their knowledge provides valuable insight into the environment in which data is collected and the experiences of clients and stakeholders in data collection contexts. Their contributions to this research form part of an essential dialogue toward a greater shared understanding in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy space.

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