4720.0 - National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey: User Guide, 2014-15  
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COMMUNITY STRENGTH AND SOCIAL SUPPORT


Overview

This chapter provides information on questions related to community strength and social support, which were collected in the 2014–15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS). This includes questions that aimed to:

  • determine whether people provide support for others, and whether they are able to draw on support from others in times of need;
  • determine whether people feel they are able to have a say on important issues, and the level of trust people have in other people and in institutions; and
  • gauge perceptions of community leadership and whether changes in the community have made the community a better or worse place to live.

This chapter covers the following topics:

Social support

Providing unpaid care for a person with disability, a long-term health condition or old age

People aged 15 years and over were asked if they had provided unpaid care, help or assistance to someone with a long term health condition, disability or a problem related to old age, in the four weeks prior to interview. This included helping or supervising someone, or sharing the responsibility of helping or supervising someone, because their condition, disability or old age limited them in performing everyday activities. Examples of the types of everyday activities that might have required help or supervision included:
  • cognition or emotion (e.g. decision making, interacting with others or coping with feelings);
  • communication (e.g. understanding, and being understood by, others);
  • health care (e.g. tasks such as foot care, taking medication and using medical machinery);
  • housework (e.g. household chores such as washing and vacuuming);
  • meal preparation (e.g. preparing ingredients and cooking food);
  • mobility (e.g. getting into or out of a bed or chair, walking, bending and picking up objects and using public transport);
  • paperwork (e.g. checking bank statements, writing letters or filling in forms);
  • property maintenance (e.g. changing light bulbs, minor home repairs, mowing lawns and removing rubbish);
  • self-care (e.g. bathing, dressing, eating or toileting); and
  • transport (e.g. going to places away from the usual place of residence).

People who provided this type of assistance, and received Government payments such as Carer's payment or Carer's allowance, were considered to have provided unpaid care.

Family and community support

People aged 15 years and over were asked a series of questions to determine whether they had a support network of friends, family or neighbours outside the household, but fairly close by, who they could turn to for help with routine household tasks, or for support in a time of crisis. People were also asked about support they may have given to people outside of their household.

People were asked to think about help they may ask for from other people in their day to day lives. They were asked if they could request help from anyone who does not live with them, if they needed to. Examples of the types of help a person might ask for were provided as a guide. These examples were given verbally to people in remote areas and via the use of prompt cards in non-remote areas. Examples included:
  • looking after the house/pets/garden while away;
  • collecting mail while away;
  • minding a child for a brief period;
  • helping with moving or lifting things;
  • helping out while sick or injured; and
  • borrowing tools or equipment.

Aside from asking for help on a day to day basis, people were asked if they were able to get support in a time of crisis. Time of crisis refers to a time of trouble which is out of the ordinary for most people, for example:
  • sudden sickness;
  • death of a partner/spouse;
  • loss of job;
  • breakdown of marriage/relationship; or
  • fire or flood.

Support could be in the form of emotional, physical or financial help. The question wording used to collect this information was slightly different for remote and non-remote areas. In remote areas people were asked if they could ask somebody who does not live with them for help/support if they were having serious problems. In non-remote areas people were asked if they could ask somebody who does not live with them for support in a time of crisis. Examples of the types of support a person might ask for were provided as a guide. These examples were given verbally to people in remote areas and via the use of prompt cards for people in non-remote areas. Examples included:
  • providing emergency money/food/accommodation;
  • helping out when the person has a serious injury or illness;
  • helping to maintain work/family responsibilities; and
  • providing advice/emotional support;

People who said they could ask somebody for support in a time of crisis then nominated all of the people they could ask, based on the following list:
  • friend;
  • neighbour;
  • family member;
  • work colleague;
  • community, charity or religious organisation;
  • local council or other government services;
  • health, legal or financial professional; and
  • other.

More than one response could be provided.

People aged 15 years and over were also asked if they provided any help or support to people who did not live with them. They were first asked if they provide any of the following types of support for any relatives (including children) who do not live with them:
  • money to help pay rent/bond/other housing costs;
  • provide or pay for food;
  • provide or pay for clothing;
  • let them borrow your car;
  • drive them places;
  • pay for educational/schooling costs/textbooks;
  • give them spending money;
  • give them money to pay bills/meet debt;
  • give them money to buy big cost items;
  • child support payments; or
  • other.

More than one response could be provided. They may have also said that no support was provided or they had no relatives outside the household. People were then asked if they helped anyone who does not live with them with any of the following activities, in the four weeks prior to interview. Response categories included:
  • domestic work, home maintenance or gardening (non-remote)/helped around the home or garden (remote);
  • providing transport or running errands (non-remote)/provided transport or went out and got things for them (remote);
  • any unpaid child care;
  • any teaching, coaching or practical advice;
  • providing any emotional support; or
  • any other help.

More than one response could be provided. A person may have also said that they did not help anyone. People who had helped someone with one or more of these activities were asked who it was they helped, based on the following:
  • relative in another house;
  • friend;
  • neighbour;
  • work colleagues; or
  • other person.

More than one response could be provided.

Comparison to the 2008 NATSISS

Information on providing unpaid care for a person with disability, a long-term health condition or old age was collected for the first time in 2014–15.

Sense of efficacy within community

The 2014–15 NATSISS collected information about a person's sense of efficacy within the community. This information includes whether someone personally knows a member of parliament, local government or someone in an organisation who they could contact for information or advice; and how often a person feels they are able to have a say on important issues.

People aged 15 years and over were asked if they personally know a member of State or Federal parliament, or local government, that they would feel comfortable contacting for information or advice. People who lived in non-remote areas were also asked if they personally know someone, in any of the following types of organisations, that they would feel comfortable contacting for information or advice:
  • State or Territory government department;
  • Federal government department;
  • local council;
  • legal system;
  • health care;
  • trade union;
  • political party;
  • media;
  • university/TAFE/business college;
  • religious/spiritual group;
  • school related group;
  • big business; or
  • small business.

More than one response could be provided. They may have also said they did not personally know someone, in any of the following types of organisations, that they would feel comfortable contacting for information or advice.

People were also asked how often they feel they are able to have a say on issues that are important to them:
  • with their family and friends; and
  • within the community.

The terms 'have a say' and 'issues that are important to you' were left open to interpretation. However, the idea is that the person has some level of control over things that are really important to them, and that their ideas are not always dismissed. If a person felt they were unable to answer because they are never motivated to have a say, they were asked to provide a response based on their expectation of their ability to have a say if they ever wanted to. Responses were based on the following scale:
  • all of the time;
  • most of the time;
  • some of the time;
  • a little of the time; or
  • none of the time.

A person may have also said they had no family and no friends, or they did not know. These categories were not available for the community question.

Trust

The 2014–15 NATSISS collected information on the level of trust people have in other people and in selected community services. The terms 'most people' and 'trust' are based on the respondent's interpretation. A local area is the space close to a person's home, such as their neighbourhood, suburb or community. The first question aims to determine a person's level of trust in the general public, and whether they feel they can go about their business confidently, expecting that people will generally treat them fairly. The remaining questions are in relation to specific people or services.

People aged 15 years and over were asked how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the following statements:
  • most people can be trusted;
  • their doctor can be trusted;
  • hospitals (public and private) can be trusted to do the right thing by them;
  • police in their local area can be trusted to do the right thing by them;
  • police outside their local area can be trusted to do the right thing by them; and
  • the local school can be trusted to do the right thing by the children who attend.

The wording of response categories differed slightly between non-remote and remote areas, but responses were treated the same:
  • strongly agree;
  • agree;
  • neither agree nor disagree;
  • disagree; or
  • strongly disagree.

Comparison to the 2008 NATSISS

In 2008, the output data item, 'Level of trust in most people' was labelled 'Level of trust generally', however the data items are based on the same question and are comparable between cycles.

Perceptions of community leadership and change

The 2014–15 NATSISS collected information about perceptions of community leadership, functioning and change. This information was collected in remote areas and relates to the community in which respondents were living at the time of interview. Each question aimed to provide a subjective measure of the respondent's feelings and perceptions.

People aged 15 years and over in remote areas were asked to think about the community they were living in, and about all the things in that community that had changed 'since this time last year'. They were asked whether the community was:
  • a better place to live;
  • about the same, not better not worse; or
  • a worse place to live.

A person may have also said they did not know.

People who said the community was a better place to live were asked what things had changed to make the community better. Response categories were provided on a prompt card, and included:
  • less drinking/drug problems;
  • less fighting;
  • less crime;
  • more jobs;
  • more housing;
  • more kids going to school;
  • more say on community issues; or
  • other.

More than one response could be provided. They may have also said that nothing had changed.

People in remote areas were also asked whether they felt the community they were living in had strong leadership, and whether they felt leaders in the community had time to listen and give advice. The term 'leader' was left up to the interpretation of the respondent. A leader was not necessarily a Community Elder or council member, and may have been, for example, the local teacher, clinic nurse, or someone else within the community.

Comparison to the 2008 NATSISS

Information on perceptions of community leadership and change was collected for the first time in 2014–15.