4160.0.55.001 - Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, Jun 2015  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/06/2015  First Issue
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ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLES

Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples occupy a unique place in Australian society and culture. Accurate and comparable statistics over time in this area are needed in order to understand and measure the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to help formulate policies to plan, promote, deliver and evaluate essential services to achieve positive social and economic outcomes.

SUPPORTING WELLBEING

Societies desire to improve key aspects of human life, regardless of differing cultural values and social structures. The social, cultural and economic environment that a person lives in has a dramatic impact on their quality of life. These factors contribute to overall wellbeing, both of individuals and the communities of which they are a member.

Central to the concept of wellbeing is a sense of identity. Identity is defined by the individual’s roles, responsibilities and experiences. Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples maintain their cultural heritage by passing their knowledge, arts and rituals from one generation to the next, speaking and teaching languages and maintaining their ancestral connections to the land.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are culturally and linguistically diverse. However, common to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community is a culture that is very different to the non-Indigenous culture. Elements of cultural difference may include, but are not limited to: concept of family structure and community obligation, language, connection to country and continuation of traditional knowledge. This in turn has an effect on the areas of concern that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples might see as important to their wellbeing.

WHAT ARE THE MAIN MEASUREMENT ISSUES?

There are well documented problems with the quality and availability of data about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These limitations include the quality of data on most key measures, for example, mortality and morbidity, uncertainty about the size and composition of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, and a paucity of available data on issues such as their access to health services. The absence of quality data from a variety of sources remains a significant impediment to a full understanding of the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Many studies compare outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous people. While this is useful for highlighting differences between the two populations, it may hide other important aspects. For example, analysing changes over time within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population will highlight areas of progress as positive examples or conversely, areas that need greater attention. Information on the distribution of outcomes and identifying subgroups of interest within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is also very important.

USEFUL RESOURCES

Productivity Commission, 2011, Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage. Key Indicators 2014 - In April 2002, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) commissioned a Steering Committee to produce a regular report against key indicators of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples disadvantage. The Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report measures the wellbeing of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The report provides information about outcomes across a range of strategic areas such as early child development, education and training, healthy lives, economic participation, home environment, and safe and supportive communities. The report examines whether policies and programs are achieving positive outcomes for Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Council of Australian Governments (COAG), 2011, National Indigenous Reform Agreement (Closing the gap) - This Agreement implements intergovernmental reforms to close the gap in Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' disadvantage.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010, Framework for Measuring Wellbeing: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (cat. no. 4703.0) - This framework maps statistical information about Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in the context of the interrelationships with their social and physical environments. Not only does it provide a means to present existing data, the framework also provides the means to identify potential data gaps.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 2015, Indigenous Affairs, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2014 Report - The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework (HPF) monitors progress in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes, health system performance and the broader determinants of health. This is the fifth biennial report in this series. The health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is improving for a number of measures, although there remain many areas where further concerted effort will be needed to achieve improvements in health outcomes.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2013, Measures of Australia's Progress (cat. no. 1370.0) - This release is designed to help Australians address the question, 'Is life in Australia getting better?' Measures of Australia's Progress (MAP) provides a digestible selection of measures in answer to this question. Australians can use this evidence to form their own view of how our country is progressing, includes measures about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010, About Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statistics, Indigenous Statistics for Schools - This online resource introduces statistics about Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It includes explanations of statistical terms and provides background on some factors that impact on the collection, dissemination and interpretation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statistics.

KEY TERMS

Indigenous status

‘Indigenous status’ is an acceptable term for use in data collection only, and only in terms of identifying a characteristic of a person. A person's Indigenous status is determined by their response to the ABS Standard Indigenous Question: "Are you of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin?" for which categories are:

  • No
  • Yes, Aboriginal
  • Yes, Torres Strait Islander.

This question also allows respondents to report that they are both 'Aboriginal' and 'Torres Strait Islander' if that is how they identify.

The ABS considers, for statistical purposes, an Indigenous person to be anyone who identifies themselves, or is identified by another household member, as being a person of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin. Outside of the ABS in broader Australian society, an individual who is recognised by their Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community as a person of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin may also be considered to be Indigenous.

CLASSIFICATIONS

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011, Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS): Volume 2 - Indigenous Structure (cat. no. 1270.0.55.002).

Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2014, Indigenous Status Standard (cat. no. 1200.0.55.008).


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