4704.0 - The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2005  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 14/10/2005   
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Contents >> Chapter 12: Torres Strait Islander Peoples >> Economic and Social Characteristics

Results from the 2002 NATSISS and 2001 Census indicate that the educational, economic and social circumstances of Torres Strait Islanders are similar to those of Indigenous people overall, with some differences between the circumstances of Torres Strait Islander people living in the Torres Strait Area and those who live in other parts of Australia.


Language spoken at home

The preservation of language through everyday use is an important element in the maintenance of culture, and proficiency in spoken English improves access to services and mainstream educational and employment opportunities.


Results from the 2001 Census show that a majority (82%) of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over in the Torres Strait Area spoke a language other than English at home. Just over half (52%) spoke an Oceanian Pidgin or Creole (e.g. Tok Pisin) and 29% spoke an Australian Indigenous language (e.g. Torres Strait Creole). Five out of six Torres Strait Islander people in the Torres Strait Area (84%) who spoke a language other than English at home also assessed themselves as competent English speakers (Appendix 6).


In 2002, three-quarters (75%) of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over spoke English as their main language at home. A further 11% spoke an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language and 14% spoke another language - most likely an Oceanian Pidgin or Creole (e.g. Tok Pisin). One in ten Torres Strait Islander people reported difficulty understanding and/or being understood by service providers where English was the only language spoken (table 12.8).

12.8 Main language spoken at home and difficulty communicating with service provider(s) - 2002

Torres Strait Islander(a)
Indigenous

Main language spoken at home
English only %
(b)74.7
(b)85.9
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language %
11.4
12.0
Other language(c) %
(b)13.9
(b)2.0
Has difficulty communicating with service provider(s)(d) %
10.0
10.3
Indigenous persons aged 15 years or over no.
29 800
282 200

(a) Includes people who are of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.
(b) Difference between Torres Strait Islander and Indigenous data is statistically significant.
(c) Includes Oceanian Pidgins and Creoles.
(d) Refers to services or offices where only English is spoken. Asked of all persons, including those whose main language was English.
ABS, 2002 NATSISS


Highest year of school completed

In 2001, the Year 12 completion rate for Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years or over in the Torres Strait Area (33%) was higher than that for both Torres Strait Islander people in other parts of Australia (27%) and for Indigenous people overall (20%) (Appendix 6). This is due, in part, to relatively high Year 12 completion rates among Indigenous people in Queensland, when compared with Indigenous people living in all other states and the Northern Territory.


Results from the 2002 NATSISS and 2002 GSS show that Torres Strait Islander people (26%) and Indigenous people overall (18%) were less likely to have completed Year 12 than non-Indigenous people aged 18 years or over (44%) (table 12.9)

12.9 Highest year of school completed(a) - 2002

Torres Strait Islander(b)(c)
Indigenous(d)
Non-Indigenous(c)(d)

Highest year of school completed(e)
Year 12 %
(f)26.2
(f)18.5
43.5
Year 10 or Year 11 %
45.2
40.7
35.5
Year 9 or below(g) %
(f)28.6
(f)40.8
21.0
Total %
100.0
100.0
100.0
Persons aged 18 years or over who were not still at school no.
26 900
249 900
14 292 100

(a) Items in this table are comparable between the 2002 NATSISS and 2002 GSS. Data have not been age standardised.
(b) Includes people who are of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.
(c) All differences between Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous data are statistically significant.
(d) All differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous data are statistically significant.
(e) Includes people with a non-school qualification. Excludes people still at school.
(f) Differences between Torres Strait Islander data and Indigenous data are statistically significant.
(g) Includes people who never attended school.
ABS, 2002 NATSISS and 2002 GSS


Highest non-school qualification

In 2001, Torres Strait Islander people aged 25-64 years in the Torres Strait Area (23%) were less likely to have a non-school qualification than those in other parts of Australia (28%) (Appendix 6). In the 2002 NATSISS, around one-third of Torres Strait Islander people (33%) and Indigenous people overall (32%) reported a non-school qualification, compared with 57% of non-Indigenous people (table 12.10).

12.10 Highest non-school qualification(a) - 2002

Torres Strait Islander(b)(c)
Indigenous(d)
Non-Indigenous(c)(d)

Highest non-school qualification
Bachelor degree or higher %
**4.2
4.6
20.6
Certificate or diploma
Certificate III or above(e) %
15.1
14.4
26.3
Certificate I/II %
11.0
9.8
8.5
Total with a non-school qualification(f) %
33.0
32.1
56.9
No non-school qualification %
67.0
67.9
43.1
Total %
100.0
100.0
100.0
Persons aged 25-64 years who were not still at school no.
19 900
186 400
10 258 000

** estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use
(a) Items in this table are comparable between the 2002 NATSISS and 2002 GSS. Data have not been age standardised.
(b) Includes people who are of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.
(c) Apart from Certificate I/II, differences between Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous data are statistically significant.
(d) Apart from Certificate I/II, differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous data are statistically significant.
(e) Includes people with a Diploma or Advanced Diploma.
(f) Includes level of non-school qualification not determined.
ABS, 2002 NATSISS and 2002 GSS


Labour force status

In 2002, the labour force participation rate for Torres Strait Islander people aged 18-64 years was 70%. The participation rate for Torres Strait Islander men (80%) was higher than that for women (60%) (table 12.11).


Just over half (55%) of Torres Strait Islander people aged 18-64 years were employed in 2002, including 15% who were participating in the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme (table 12.11). Results from the 2001 Census show that CDEP work comprised almost half (48%) of all employment for Torres Strait Islander people aged 18-64 years in the Torres Strait Area whereas a majority (95%) of employed Torres Strait Islander people living in other parts of Australia were in mainstream jobs (Appendix 7).


The unemployment rate for Torres Strait Islander people aged 18-64 years was 22% in 2002, similar to that for Indigenous people overall (20%) (table 12.11).

12.11 Labour force characteristics(a) - 2002

Torres Strait Islander(b)(c)
Indigenous(d)
Non-Indigenous(d)(c)

Labour force status
Employed
Employed - CDEP %
*14.6
13.5
. .
Employed - Other %
40.1
37.8
74.4
Total %
54.7
51.3
74.4
Unemployed %
15.0
13.0
4.6
Not in the labour force %
30.3
35.7
21.1
Total %
100.0
100.0
100.0
Labour force participation rate
Males %
80.4
76.5
86.9
Females %
60.3
53.3
70.8
Persons %
69.7
64.3
78.9
Employment to population ratio
Males %
62.7
60.5
82.0
Females %
47.6
43.0
66.6
Persons %
54.7
51.3
74.4
Unemployment rate
Males %
22.0
20.9
5.6
Females %
21.1
19.4
6.0
Persons %
21.6
20.3
5.8
Persons aged 18-64 years no.
26 100
238 500
12 131 600

* estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
. . not applicable
(a) Items in this table are comparable between the 2002 NATSISS and 2002 GSS. Data have not been age standardised.
(b) Includes people who are of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.
(c) All differences between Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous data are statistically significant.
(d) All differences between Indigenous data and non-Indigenous data are statistically significant.
ABS, 2002 NATSISS and 2002 GSS


Income

An equivalence scale developed for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has been used to adjust the actual incomes of households so that the relative wellbeing of people in households of different size and composition can be compared. This adjusted income is called equivalised gross household income and amounts are presented on a per person per week basis. For more information on the calculation of equivalised gross household income, refer to the Glossary.


In 2002, the mean equivalised income of all Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years or over ($377 per week) was lower than for Indigenous people overall ($394 per week), and equal to 57% of the mean equivalised gross household income for non-Indigenous adults ($665 per week) (table 12.12).


People with low incomes can be defined as those with mean equivalised gross household income in the second and third deciles (see Glossary for more information). While 20% of the non-Indigenous population had incomes in the second or third income deciles, 46% of Torres Strait Islander people were in this low income group in 2002 (table 12.12).

12.12 Selected household characteristics(a) - 2002

Torres Strait Islander(b)(c)
Indigenous(d)
Non-Indigenous(c)(d)

Income
Mean equivalised gross household income per week(e) $
(f)377
(f)394
665
Second and third income deciles %
(f)46.3
(f)37.5
19.8
Housing tenure
Owner
Without a mortgage %
11.0
10.0
38.5
With a mortgage %
*19.9
16.5
34.6
Total owner/purchasers %
30.9
26.5
73.1
Renter
State or Territory housing authority %
*16.6
21.2
3.8
Indigenous Housing Organisation/Community housing %
*22.0
24.5
0.4
Private and other renters %
27.9
24.2
20.1
Total renters %
66.6
69.6
24.3
Total(g) %
100.0
100.0
100.0
State of repair of dwelling
Dwelling has major structural problems %
34.4
39.3
. .
No repairs or maintenance in last 12 months %
32.0
35.4
. .
Persons aged 18 years or over no.
27 000
251 400
14 353 800

* estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
. . not applicable
(a) Items in this table are comparable between the 2002 NATSISS and 2002 GSS. Data have not been age standardised.
(b) Includes people who are of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.
(c) Apart from Private and other renters, differences between Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous data are statistically significant.
(d) All differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous data are statistically significant.
(e) Derived from gross household income in occupied private dwellings, where all incomes were reported.
(f) Difference between Torres Strait Islander and Indigenous data is statistically significant.
(g) Includes people in dwellings being purchased under a rent/buy scheme or occupied rent-free or under a life tenure scheme.
ABS, 2002 NATSISS and 2002 GSS


Housing

The relationship between adequate housing and the general health and wellbeing of Indigenous people has been discussed in Chapter 4 of this report. In addition to home ownership, community and cooperative housing can offer people secure tenure. In 2001, a relatively high proportion of Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years or over in the Torres Strait Area (58%) were living in community or cooperative housing, compared with 7% of Torres Strait Islander people living elsewhere (Appendix 7). In 2002, 31% of Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years or over were living in houses that were owned or being purchased (table 12.12).


Results from the 2002 NATSISS indicate that around one-third of Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years or over were living in dwellings that had major structural problems (34%) and/or in dwellings where no maintenance or repairs had been carried out in the preceding year (32%) (table 12.12).


Information technology

In 2002, around one in five (22%) of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over did not have a working telephone in their home. In the preceding year, 58% of the Torres Strait Islander population had used a computer and 42% had accessed the Internet, most commonly at home (table 12.13).

12.13 Access to communication and information technology - 2002

Torres Strait Islander(a)
Indigenous

Does not have a working telephone at home %
(b)21.5
(b)28.7
Used a computer in last 12 months
at home %
31.2
31.7
elsewhere(c) %
47.3
46.6
Total(d) %
58.0
55.5
Accessed the Internet in last 12 months
at home %
20.3
20.2
elsewhere(c) %
34.4
34.4
Total(d) %
41.6
41.0
Indigenous persons aged 15 years or over no.
29 800
282 200

(a) Includes people who are of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.
(b) Difference between Torres Strait Islander and Indigenous data is statistically significant.
(c) Includes work, school, public libraries and other peoples' homes.
(d) Components do not add to total as people may have provided more than one response.
ABS, 2002 NATSISS

12.14 The Island Watch (Lagaw Asmer) project
Diagram: The Island Watch (Lagaw Asmer) Project



Cultural attachment

In 2002, seven out of ten Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over had attended a cultural event in the preceding year. Commonly reported activities included attendance at festivals involving art, craft music and dance (38%), and sports carnivals and ceremonies (both 33%). Although one in six Torres Strait Islander people (16%) reported living in traditional country, 67% recognised their homelands and 44% said they identified with a clan, tribal group or language group (table 12.15).

12.15 Cultural attachment - 2002

Torres Strait Islander(a)
Indigenous

Identifies with clan, tribal/language group %
(b)44.3
(b)54.1
Recognises homelands %
67.2
69.6
Currently lives in homelands/traditional country %
(b)16.4
(b)21.9
Attended cultural event(s) in last 12 months
Attended funeral %
46.7
46.6
Attended ceremony %
(b)32.5
(b)23.5
Attended sports carnival %
33.3
29.8
Attended festival/carnival involving arts, craft, music or dance %
38.1
35.7
Involved with Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander organisation %
27.0
26.1
Total reporting at least one cultural event(c) %
70.4
68.1
Indigenous persons aged 15 years or over no.
29 800
282 200

(a) Includes people who are of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.
(b) Differences between Torres Strait Islander and Indigenous data are statistically significant.
(c) Components do not add to total as people may have provided more than one response.
ABS, 2002 NATSISS


Social participation

The 2002 NATSISS and 2002 GSS collected information on a range of social characteristics such as participation in community activities, support in times of crisis, and personal and financial stressors.


Most Torres Strait Islander people reported an active involvement in community life in 2002. In the three months prior to interview, 89% of Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years or over had been involved in social activities. In the preceding year, 51% had participated in sport or physical recreation activities and 29% in voluntary work (table 12.16).

12.16 Selected social characteristics(a) - 2002

Torres Strait Islander(b)
Indigenous(c)
Non-Indigenous(c)

Family and culture
Involved in social activities in last 3 months %
89.0
89.5
92.2
Participated in sport or physical recreation activities in last 12 months %
(d)51.1
45.6
(d)64.2
Had undertaken voluntary work in last 12 months %
29.3
27.6
34.4
Able to get support in time of crisis from someone outside household %
90.5
90.5
94.0
At least one stressor experienced in last 12 months %
(d)82.6
82.6
(d)57.3
Financial stress
Unable to raise $2,000 within a week for something important %
(d)54.2
54.3
(d)13.6
Had at least one cash flow problem in last 12 months(e) %
(d)44.0
44.7
(d)19.3
Persons aged 18 years or over no.
27 000
251 400
14 353 800

(a) Items in this table are comparable between the 2002 NATSISS and 2002 GSS. Data have not been age standardised.
(b) Includes people who are of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.
(c) Differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous data are statistically significant.
(d) Differences between Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous data are statistically significant.
(e) Data collected in non-remote areas only.
ABS, 2002 NATSISS and 2002 GSS


Stressors

In 2002, five out of six Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years or over (83%) had experienced at least one personal stressor in the previous year and 44% of those in non-remote areas were in households where cash flow problems had been experienced. Nevertheless, 90% of Torres Strait Islander people reported that they were able to get support from someone outside their household in times of crisis (table 12.16 above).


The most commonly reported personal stressor among Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people aged 18 years or over was the death of a family member or friend (49% and 20%, respectively). More than one-quarter of Torres Strait Islander people reported serious illness or disability (32%), inability to find work (28%), and/or alcohol or drug-related problems (28%) (graph 12.17). One-quarter (25%) of Torres Strait Islander people reported stress as a result of overcrowding at home.

12.17 Selected personal stressors(a)(b) - 2002, Persons aged 18 years or over
Graph: Selected personal stressors(a)(b) — 2002, Persons aged 18 years or over



Neighbourhood problems

Serious neighbourhood problems are often associated with poor socioeconomic circumstances rather than Indigenous status alone. Torres Strait Islander people, along with Indigenous people generally, often report high levels of theft, vandalism and violence in their immediate environment. In 2002, around three-quarters (73%) of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years or over reported at least one problem in their neighbourhood or community. The types of problems most commonly reported by Torres Strait Islander people related to theft (42%), alcohol (36%), illegal drugs (35%), vandalism and other damage to property (33%), youth-related problems (32%), and family violence (26%) (table 12.18).

12.18 Selected neighbourhood problems - 2002

Torres Strait Islander(a)(b)
Indigenous(b)

Neighbourhood/community problems reported(c)
Theft including burglaries, theft from homes, motor vehicle theft %
42.0
43.0
Problems involving youths, such as youth gangs/lack of youth activity %
32.1
32.3
Vandalism/graffiti/damage to property %
32.9
32.9
Alcohol %
35.6
33.5
Illegal drugs %
34.8
32.3
Family violence %
26.5
21.2
Assault including sexual assault %
25.7
21.0
Levels of neighbourhood conflict %
23.2
14.9
Total reporting at least one neighbourhood problem(d) %
73.4
73.6
No neighbourhood/community problems reported %
24.9
25.3
Indigenous persons aged 15 years or over no.
29 800
282 200

(a) Includes people who are of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.
(b) Differences between Torres Strait Islander and Indigenous data are not statistically significant.
(c) Not all reported problems are shown in this table.
(d) Components do not add to total as people may have provided more than one response.
ABS, 2002 NATSISS



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