4720.0 - National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey: User Guide, 2014-15  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/05/2016   
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The survey was conducted under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. The ABS sought the willing cooperation of households in this survey. For survey questions of a particularly sensitive nature (eg substance use) selected persons (or their proxies) may have chosen not to provide a response. More detailed information on allowed survey responses (including refusals) is provided in each of the topic-based chapters.

The confidentiality of all information provided by respondents is guaranteed. All aspects of the survey's implementation were designed to conform to the Information Privacy Principles set out in the Privacy Act 1988, and the Privacy Commissioner was informed of the details of the proposed survey. Under this legislation, the ABS cannot release identifiable information about households or individuals.

Trained ABS interviewers conducted personal interviews at selected private dwellings from September 2014 to June 2015. Interviews were conducted using a Computer-Assisted Interviewing questionnaire (CAI). CAI involves the use of a notebook computer to record, store, manipulate and transmit the data collected during interviews. In non-remote areas, respondents had the option of self-completing the substance use module, through Computer-Assisted Self Interview (CASI).

Prior to enumeration, ABS interviewers participated in cultural awareness training, which provided information specifically developed for surveys involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The training outlined the ABS protocol for conducting surveys in community areas and described cultural considerations for interviewers.


Interviewers conducted a screening process to identify Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households, that is, households where one or more household members were identified as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin. Interviewers went to dwellings in selected areas and asked one usually resident household member (aged 18 years and over) if anyone in the household was of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin. If the household spokesperson stated that one or more usual residents were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, the household form was commenced.

The household form collected general characteristics of the household and all household members, from one usually resident household member aged 18 years or over. This information included:

  • age;
  • sex;
  • geographic information;
  • relationship in household;
  • whether anyone aged 15–24 years was a full-time student; and
  • Indigenous status.

Based on this demographic information, individuals were randomly selected for personal interview. For selected households in non-remote areas, up to two Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander adults (aged aged 15 years and over) and up to two Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children (aged 0–14 years) were randomly selected. In remote areas, up to one Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander adult and up to one Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander child was randomly selected.

An elected household spokesperson also answered some financial and housing questions on behalf of other household members. Question topics included:
  • household facilities available and number of bedrooms;
  • household maintenance and condition of housing;
  • dwelling tenure type including rental and mortgage arrangements;
  • household financial stress; and
  • income for non-selected adults (aged 15 years and over).

If a usually resident household member aged 18 years or over was not available, interviewers made appointments to call-back to the household, as necessary.

Information on demographic and household characteristics is provided in the Population characteristics chapter. A full list of the topics included in the survey is provided in the Introduction.

In order to conduct a personal interview with the selected person (ie the respondent), interviewers made appointments to call-back to the household, as necessary. All interviews were conducted face-to-face. Due to the sensitive nature of the survey questions, it was suggested that interviews be conducted in private. However, interviews may have been conducted in private or in the presence of other household members, according to the wishes of the respondent. Interviews, including the household assessment, took on average 101 minutes in remote areas and 107 minutes in non-remote areas.

Personal interviews were conducted with selected Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person(s) aged 15 years and over. Exceptions occurred where the selected person:
  • was unable to complete the survey due to injury or illness; or
  • did not have sufficient English skills and an interpreter was unable to be arranged.

In the above instances, a proxy interview may have been organised. Where the selected person was mourning the death of a family member (Sorry Business) a personal interview was not pursued.

Proxy interviews were used to collect information on selected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years. Wherever possible, the proxy was a parent or guardian. If no parent or guardian was available, then a close relative or other household member who had responsibility for the child provided responses.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander respondents aged 15–17 years, permission from a parent or guardian was required. Where permission was not obtained, a personal interview was not conducted.


The questionnaire was administered by experienced ABS interviewers, who had received specific training for the survey. The questionnaire was further supported by detailed interviewer instructions, covering general procedural issues as well as specific instructions relating to individual questions.

The questionnaire is not fully indicative of the range of information available from the survey, as additional items were created in processing the data. For example, ABS classifications were applied to raw data inputs to create labour force status. Additionally, some questions were asked solely for the purpose of enabling or clarifying other questions, and are not available in survey results.

Initial household information was collected from one usually resident household member aged 18 years and over using a Household Form. This was similar in design to the household form used by the ABS Monthly Population Surveys (MPS). The random selection of household members was made from this information.

The personal interview consisted of a number of separate modules, collecting information on demographics; language and culture; social capital; life experiences; health; education; work; income and finances; housing and mobility; transport; information technology; and safety, crime and justice.

The questionnaire employed a number of different approaches to recording information at the interview:
  • questions where responses were classified by interviewers to one or more predetermined response categories. This approach was used for recording answers to more straightforward questions, where logically a limited range of responses was expected, or where the focus of interest was on a particular type or group of response (which were listed in the questionnaire, with the remainder being grouped together under ‘other’);
  • questions asked in the form of a running prompt, ie predetermined response categories read out to the respondent one at a time until the respondent indicated agreement to one or more of the categories (as appropriate to the topic) or until all the predetermined categories were exhausted; and
  • questions asked in association with prompt cards, ie where printed lists of possible answers were handed to the respondent who was asked to select the most relevant response(s). By listing a set of possible responses (either in the form of a prompt card or a running prompt question) the prompt served to clarify the question or to present various alternatives, to refresh the respondent’s memory and at the same time assist the respondent select an appropriate response.

To ensure consistency of approach, interviewers were instructed to ask the interview questions as shown in the questionnaire. In certain areas of the questionnaire, interviewers were asked to use indirect and neutral prompts, at their discretion, where the response given was, for example, inappropriate to the question asked or lacked sufficient detail necessary for classification and coding.

Copies of the survey questionnaire and prompt cards

The NATSISS questionnaire and prompt cards are available in PDF format via the downloads tab of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014–15 (cat no. 4714.0). The survey questionnaire and prompt cards are provided as a reference to the 2014–15 NATSISS and should not be used for administering survey interviews.