The relationship between social and economic circumstances and overall health status is clearly established (see chapter 7). Since 1994 there have been a number of improvements in the social and economic circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. These include gains in educational attainment, improvements in employment (with associated reductions in unemployment) and increases in home ownership. Nevertheless, Indigenous people remain disadvantaged across a range of areas of social concern when compared to the social and economic circumstances of non-Indigenous Australians.
This chapter provides a context for the more detailed health and welfare information in later chapters. It presents information on the demographic, social and economic characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The Indigenous demographic data presented here are experimental estimates based on the 2001 Census of Population and Housing. Socioeconomic data are drawn primarily from the Australian Bureau of Statistics' (ABS) 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS). Where possible, comparisons are made over time using data from the 1994 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey (NATSIS), and with the non-Indigenous population using the 2002 General Social Survey (GSS). Data on Indigenous prisoners are based on administrative records held by corrective services agencies in each state and territory.