Latest release

Changing characteristics of the Torres Strait region and its people

Statistics on Torres Strait Islander people living in the Torres Strait region

Reference period
2011 - 2016
Released
12/09/2018
Next release Unknown
First release

Summary

Summary of findings

This article provides a snapshot of Torres Strait Islander people living in the Torres Strait region using data from the 2011 and 2016 Census of Population and Housing and the 2014-15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey. It covers four broad topics and explores key characteristics such as: population distribution, migration, educational attainment, employment patterns, plus cultural and community connectedness.

The article arose from the relationship the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has developed with the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) and illustrates our commitment to returning information to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and to deliver more effective regionally focussed information. It has been written in close collaboration with the TSRA to provide a local perspective of the trends revealed from ABS data.

The ABS signed an agreement with the TSRA in 2017 to produce a data library of statistics for the Torres Strait Region. The data library will provide valuable information that can be harnessed to gain a deeper understanding of regional social, cultural, economic and health trends that will help inform policy decisions. While the data library will contain comprehensive time series information on a broad range of topics, this article is only a snapshot of the Torres Strait region and its people. The findings in this article reveal the value of the data and the need for continued collection and analysis of data for Torres Strait Islander people in the Torres Strait.

Key findings for the Torres Strait region:

Migration:

  • Around 1 in 5 of everyone living on the Islands in 2011 had left for mainland Australia by 2016. Torres Strait Islander people who left were most likely to be aged 15-24.
  • Torres Strait Islander people aged 25-34 living on the Islands in 2016 were the age group most likely to have moved to the Islands between 2011 and 2016.


While there could be a range of reasons for these movements, one potential reason may be that young people are moving to the mainland for education and training and returning later for family/cultural obligations and commitments.

Education:

  • More Torres Strait Islander people completed year 12 (46%) in the 2016 Census compared to the 2011 Census (44%), which may be indicative of the educational opportunities provided to high school students, such as the ability to complete TAFE certificate courses in year 11 and 12.
     

Household Financial Stress:

  • The number of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander households spending more than 30% of their income on rental payments doubled between 2011 (73 or 5.3%) and 2016 (156 or 11.2%).
     

Introduction

Information presented in this article is about Torres Strait Islander people (footnote 1) unless otherwise stated.

The experiences and challenges faced by people living in the Torres Strait are unique. The Torres Strait Region consists of 18 island communities and two Northern Peninsula Area (NPA) mainland communities (footnote 2). The islands are dispersed over approximately 44,000 square kilometres, from the top of Cape York to the borders of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. The nature of this scattered geography affects numerous aspects of daily life in the region, including service delivery, infrastructure, education and employment opportunities, and telecommunications.

This article provides some insight into life for Torres Strait Islander people in the Torres Strait region through information collected in the 2011 and 2016 Censuses of Population and Housing and the 2014-15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS).

Footnotes:

  1. Torres Strait Islander includes people who identified as Torres Strait Islander and both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
  2. See Appendix for more detail on the geographic classifications used by the ABS.

Torres Strait population distribution and change over time

Key highlights for the region

  • Of all people living on the Islands in 2011, around 1 in 5 had left for mainland Australia by 2016. Those Torres Strait Islander people who left were most likely to be aged 15-24.
  • Torres Strait Islander people aged 25-34 living on the Islands in 2016 were in the age group most likely to have moved to the Islands between 2011 and 2016.
  • The Torres Strait Islander population increased across every island group between 2011 and 2016, except for the Western Islands.
     

The Torres Strait Region includes 20 communities divided into five traditional island groups and two Northern Peninsula Area (NPA) communities (footnote 3) – see map below. The Torres Strait Region was home to 9,555 people in 2016, the majority (7,615 people, or 80%) of whom identified as Torres Strait Islander. In comparison, Torres Strait Islander people accounted for only 0.3% of Australia’s total population. Most of this article covers the 20 communities as a group and is referred to as the Torres Strait Region. Where the article refers to only the 18 islands, that area is referred to as the Torres Strait Islands.

Movement of people to and from the region

Where people moved between 2011-2016

Where people were on Census night, 2016 (footnote 4)

Almost all Torres Strait Islander people (95%) living in the Region were counted in the Region in the Census.

Badu, Kubin, Iama, Muralag, and Horn Island had the greatest percentage of people away from home on Census night. These people were most likely to be in the rest of Australia or other islands in the Torres Strait – possibly in areas with access to a greater number of services and facilities such as health care, education and training.

Movement of people to and from the Islands (footnote 5)

Note - data in the following section is only available for the Torres Strait Islands which excludes the NPA Torres Strait communities of Seisia and Bamaga. Data for Seisia and Bamaga as separate from the NPA is not available (footnote 6).

Those that stayed

Most people (79%) living on the Islands in 2011 were there in 2016. More Torres Strait Islander people (6 in 7 people) than non-Indigenous people (2 in 5 people) stayed on the Islands between 2011 and 2016. In terms of location of work, the majority of Torres Strait Islander people living on the Islands also worked on the Islands.

Those that moved to the Islands

Around one in seven (14%) of everyone living on the Islands in 2016 had migrated from mainland Australia since 2011. Of these, most were likely to have come from mainland Queensland (83%) with the remainder from other parts of Australia, outside of Queensland. About half of the people who had moved to the islands from Queensland had come from Cairns.

Torres Strait Islander people aged 25-34 living on the Islands in 2016 were the most likely age group to have been living on mainland Australia in 2011 (11%), 62% of whom had been living in Cairns. While there may be many factors driving these movements, a potential explanation for this pattern is that young people are moving to the mainland for education and training and returning later for family/cultural obligations and commitments.

Those who left the Islands

Around one fifth (21%) of everyone living on the Islands in 2011 had moved to mainland Australia by 2016. Of these, approximately 4 in 5 (83%) moved to Queensland, around half (49%) of whom moved to Cairns. A possible reason for this movement is public servants leaving for the mainland after working on the Islands.

Young people were more likely than older people to have moved to the mainland between 2011 and 2016, with more than one-fifth (22%) of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15-24 having moved there, most likely for education and training. In contrast, Torres Strait Islander people aged 55 years and over were the least likely, with just 6% having moved to the mainland since 2011.

Where Torres Strait Islander people live

Torres Strait region

Map of the Torres Strait Region

Torres Strait region

Map of the Torres Strait Region, showing Cape York Peninsula at the bottom and Papua New Guinea at the top.

Lists the two mainland communities in Cape York: Seisia and Bamaga and surrounds

Lists the 20 Island communities: Boigu Island, Duan Island, Saibai Island, Ugar (Stephens) Island, Erub (Darnley) Island, Mabuiag Island, Iama (Yam) Island, Yorke Island, Badu Island, Kubin (Moa Island), Poruma (Coconut) Island, Mer (Murray) Island, St Pauls (Moa Island), Warraber Island, Hammond Island, TRAWQ (Thursday Island), Port Kennedy (Thursday Island), Muralag (Prince of Wales) Island, and Horn Island.

The population of Torres Strait Islander people in the Torres Strait Region was distributed as shown in Table 1:

Table 1: Distribution of Torres Strait Islander population(a) living in the region, 2011-2016
Island Group/ Mainland Community20112016Change 2011 to 2016 (%)
Top Western Islands668790+18.3
Boigu Island185229+23.8
Dauan Island129168+30.2
Saibai Island351389+10.8
Western Islands1,3321,310-1.7
Badu Island696697+0.1
Kubin (Moa Island)159182+14.5
Mabuiag Island246206-16.3
St Pauls (Moa Island)233232-0.4
Central Islands873941+7.8
Iama (Yam Island)281293+4.3
Poruma (Coconut Island)142156+9.9
Warraber (Sue Island)219231+5.5
Masig (Yorke Island)236255+8.1
Eastern Islands732808+10.4
Erub (Darnley Island)342304-11.1
Mer (Murray Island)341429+25.8
Ugar (Stephen Island)4869+43.8
Inner Islands2,1752,638+21.3
Hammond Island206245+18.9
Ngurupai (Horn Island)310368+18.7
Muralag (Prince of Wales) Island4180+95.1
Port Kennedy (Thursday Island)8391,123+33.8
TRAWQ (Thursday Island)784826+5.4
Northern Peninsula Area Communities9591,128+17.6
Seisia138195+41.3
Bamaga and Surrounds826933+13.0
Total Torres Strait Region(b)6,7447,615+12.9
  1. Based on usual residence Census counts

Note: there are small random adjustments made to all cell values to protect the confidentiality of data. These adjustments may cause the sum of rows or columns to differ by small amounts from table totals.

Population by location

In 2016 the Inner Islands had the highest number of Torres Strait Islander people (2,638), but they were the lowest proportion (69%) of the group's population compared to the other island groups. This is due to the large number of non-Indigenous people living on Thursday Island (688 people) – the administrative centre of the Region.

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  1. Based on usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.

Source(s): 2011 Census of Population and Housing, 2016 Census of Population and Housing
 

Population growth and decline

Between 2011 and 2016, the number of Torres Strait Islanders increased in every island group, except for the Western Islands, with the Inner Islands having the greatest increase.

The Islands

Over this period, Muralag (Prince of Wales) Island experienced the greatest growth of Torres Strait Islander people in the Region, almost doubling from 41 to 80 people. Mabuiag Island had the greatest decrease, dropping from 246 to 206 people (16% decline), followed by Erub (Darnley) Island, 342 to 304 people (11% decline).

Other population groups

  • Aboriginal people - while making up only 2% of the population in the Region, increased in all island groups except for the Central Islands (26 down to 10 people) and the Inner Islands (96 down to 93 people).
  • Non-Indigenous people - decreased in every island group except the Western Islands, where it rose by around 10%, from 110 to 121 people.

Footnotes:

  1. See TSRA website - http://www.tsra.gov.au/the-torres-strait/community-profiles.
  2. See Glossary for more information about Mobility
  3. See Glossary for more information about Migration
  4. See Appendix for more information about the ABS geography used in this publication.

Characteristics of people in the region

The following analysis is based on results from the 2011 and 2016 Census for the 18 island communities and two Northern Peninsula Area (NPA) Torres Strait communities, referred to as the ‘Region’.

Information presented below is about Torres Strait Islander people (footnote 7) unless otherwise stated.

Key highlights for the region

  • More Torres Strait Islander people reported in the 2016 Census that they had completed year 12 (46%) compared to 2011 (44%).
  • Public administration and safety was the main industry of employment in 2016.
  • The most common occupations in 2011 and 2016 were community and personal service workers, labourers, and clerical and administrative workers.
  • Median personal income increased from $371 to $424 per week.
     

Education

More Torres Strait Islander people completing year 12

With secondary level education only available from one school on Thursday Island and one in Bamaga, students from other islands have to leave their community to attend school. Almost half (46%) of Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over who had completed school, reported in the 2016 Census that they had completed year 12 or its equivalent. This was a marginal increase from 2011 (44%) and higher than for Torres Strait Islander people in the rest of Queensland (43%) and the rest of Australia (32%) in the 2016 Census.

The groups with the highest proportion of people who had completed year 12 were the NPA (51% in 2011 and 54% in 2016) and the Central Islands (51% in 2011 and 53% in 2016), while the Top Western Islands had the largest increase, rising from 40% in 2011 to 46% in the 2016 Census.

While there could be a number of reasons for these completion rates, one possibility is the educational opportunities provided to the high school students in the Region that may help with gaining employment, such as the ability to complete TAFE certificate courses in year 11 and 12.

The graph below demonstrates the increase in people completing year 12 and corresponding decrease in those completing lower level school years, reflecting more students staying on to complete year 12.

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  1. Excludes those still attending primary or secondary school.
  2. Based on usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.

Note: Components will not add up to 100 per cent as the total includes both where the highest year of school completed was not stated and those who did not go to school.
Source(s): 2011 Census of Population and Housing, 2016 Census of Population and Housing
 

Male and female differences in year 12 attainment

The gap between the rate of male and female year 12 completion is narrowing. The proportion of males completing year 12 in the Region increased from 41% in the 2011 Census to 45% in 2016. In comparison, the proportion of females completing year 12 increased from 46% to 48% over the same period.

Level of highest non-school qualification

A total of 1,720 Torres Strait Islander people living in the Region reported having a non-school qualification in the 2016 Census. There was an increase in people with certificate level non-school qualifications between 2011 (71%) and 2016 (76%) but a slight decrease in people with diplomas (16% in 2011 down to 15%) or bachelor degrees and higher (10% in 2011 down to 8%).

Table 2: Level of highest non-school qualification for Torres Strait Islander people(a) aged 15 years and over in the region, 2011-2016
Percent (%)Top Western IslandsWestern IslandsCentral IslandsEastern IslandsInner IslandsNorthern Peninsula Area CommunitiesTotal Torres Strait Region
20112016201120162011201620112016201120162011201620112016
Bachelor Degree or above(b)0.08.110.89.15.33.913.22.613.411.010.410.09.88.3
Advanced Diploma and Diploma Level19.312.814.915.213.611.817.17.820.918.110.416.916.215.0
Certificate Level74.681.171.874.179.484.970.588.863.870.276.571.870.975.9
Total (c)100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0
  1. Based on usual residence Census counts.
  2. Includes bachelor degree, graduate diploma, graduate certificate and postgraduate degree.
  3. Includes people whose level of highest non-school qualification was inadequately described.
     

Females more likely to have higher levels of non-school qualification

Females were more likely than males to report having diplomas (21% compared with 7%) and bachelor degrees and above (12% compared with 4%) in the 2016 Census. These findings were similar in 2011. Males with a non-school qualification are most likely to hold a certificate level (87% in 2016), consistent with being employed in occupations such as labourers and technician and trade workers.

Work (footnote 8)

Note- the following information is influenced by the replacement of the 2011 Community Development Employment Projects scheme (CDEP) with the 2016 Community Development Programme (CDP) and the change in classification of participants from employed to not employed (footnote 9).

People in the labour force (footnote 10) in 2016:

  • Almost half (46%) of Torres Strait Islander people were in the labour force (working or looking for work).
  • 2 in 5 people (39%) were employed.
  • There was an unemployment rate of 15%.
     

The unemployment rate in the Region was lower than for Torres Strait Islander people in the rest of Queensland (22%) and similar to the rate of those living outside of Queensland (14%).

Unemployment rate higher for young people

In common with young people around the country, people in the Region aged 15-24 experienced a higher rate of unemployment (27% in 2016) than any other age group. In the rest of Queensland, Torres Strait Islander people in this age group also experienced the highest rate of unemployment (32%).

Industry

Most common industries of employment in the region

  • Public administration and safety – main industry (27% of the Region’s workforce) and highest in the Eastern Islands (46% of the Eastern Island’s workforce).
  • Health care and social assistance – second most common industry in the Region (19% of the Region’s workforce) and highest in the NPA communities (24% of the NPA’s workforce).
  • Education and training (14%), ‘other services’ such as personal care services or repair/maintenance services (10%) and retail trade (8%) were other key industries in the Region.
     

Male and female differences in industry of employment

Females were most likely working in health care and social assistance (1 in 4 people), while males were most likely to be working in public administration and safety (1 in 3 people). Of Torres Strait Islander people working in public administration and safety, around 1 in 3 live on the Inner Islands (including Thursday Island).

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  1. Based on usual residence Census counts. Excludes overseas visitors.

Note: Percentage total includes where industry of employment was inadequately described or not stated.
Source(s): 2011 Census of Population and Housing, 2016 Census of Population and Housing
 

Occupation

Common occupations

The most common occupations over the period were:

  • Community and personal service workers,
  • Labourers (almost halved between 2011 and 2016),
  • Clerical and administrative workers, and
  • Professionals
Table 3: Occupations of Torres Strait Islander people(a) aged 15 years and over in the region, 2016
Percent (%)Top Western IslandsWestern IslandsCentral IslandsEastern IslandsInner IslandsNorthern Peninsula Area CommunitiesTotal Torres Strait Region
Community and Personal Service Workers20.721.516.219.719.124.520.4
Labourers18.915.318.014.317.314.016.2
Clerical and Administrative Workers15.312.715.817.017.711.415.4
Professionals13.518.218.020.413.411.114.6
Technicians and Trades Workers4.59.812.39.511.715.211.7
Sales Workers5.48.76.68.86.18.57.1
Managers5.45.87.55.46.97.36.7
Machinery Operators and Drivers2.72.50.02.03.49.33.8
Total(b)100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0100.0
  1. Based on usual residence Census counts
  2. Includes people whose occupation was inadequately described or not stated.
     

Male and female differences in occupation

Across the Region, males were more likely to be in occupations such as labourers and technicians and trades workers, while females were more likely to be community and personal service workers or clerical and administrative workers.

Income

Weekly income

The Region’s median personal income in 2016 was $35 lower than that of Torres Strait Islander people in Australia ($459). The median personal income for people aged 15 years and over in the Region was $424 in 2016, up from $371 in 2011, an increase of $53 – the same increase as Torres Strait Islander people in the rest of Queensland ($405 to $458). The Central Islands reported the largest increase since 2011, increasing by $76, while the smallest increase was in the Top Western Islands, (up $9).

Table 4: Median personal income, Torres Strait Islander people(a) aged 15 years and over, 2011-2016
2011 ($)2016 ($)Increase ($)Increase (%)
Top Western Islands32233193
Western Islands3133756220
Central Islands2913677626
Eastern Islands2973323512
Inner Islands524535112
Northern Peninsula Area Communities455490358
Total Torres Strait Region3714245314
Rest of Queensland4054585313
Total Australia3914596817
  1. Based on usual residence Census counts
     

Footnotes:

  1. Torres Strait Islander includes people who identified as Torres Strait Islander and both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.
  2. Estimates produced from the Census and the Labour Force Survey are not the same. See The 2016 Census and the Labour Force Survey fact sheet for further information.
  3. The CDP is a Government initiative designed to assist job seekers in remote areas to gain the skills, training and capabilities needed to find sustainable employment and contribute to their communities through a range of flexible activities. The change to CDP in 2016 changed the nature of participants’ labour force status. In the 2011 Census, people only participating in this program were considered to be employed. In 2016, they were not considered to be employed unless they also had a non-CDP job. For further detailed information on labour force status and the Community Development Programme, see ‘Labour Force Status (LFSP)’ in Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Census and Census Data, Australia, 2016 (ABS cat. no. 2900.0).
  4. For Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over.

Characteristics of households in the region

The following commentary relates to “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households” in the Torres Strait Region (footnote 11) unless otherwise specified.

Key highlights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in the region

  • Median weekly household income increased 13% between 2011 and 2016.
  • The percentage of households spending more than 30% of their income on rental payments doubled between 2011 and 2016.
  • One-quarter needed one or more extra bedrooms, while almost half had one or more bedrooms spare in 2016.
     

Household income

Median weekly household income has increased

The median weekly household income for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households rose by 13%, or $124, between 2011 ($969) and 2016 ($1,093) – this increase was smaller compared to the national income for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households (up 21% or $212). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in the Inner Islands reported the highest median weekly income ($1,434 in 2016, up from $1,274 in 2011 – an increase of $160 or 13%), while those in the Top Western Islands reported the lowest ($820, up from $722 in 2011).

Percentage of household income spent on rent

Increase in households at risk of experiencing household financial stress

Households spending more than 30% of their household income on rent are at greater risk of experiencing household financial stress. In 2016, one in nine (11%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in the Region had rental repayments greater than 30% of the household's income. This was an increase from 5% in 2011, but was still lower than Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in the rest of Queensland (23%) and Australia (21%). Compared to “Other households” (footnote 12) in the Region, the percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households experiencing household financial stress was twice as high.

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  1. Includes households with at least one Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person who is a usual resident and who was present on Census night.
  2. Based on place of enumeration Census counts. Excludes visitor only, non-classifiable and not applicable households.
  3. Includes No Usual Address, Migratory-Offshore-Shipping and Other Territories.

Note: Percentage total excludes where rent payments as a percentage of household income was unable to be determined.
Source(s): 2011 Census of Population and Housing, 2016 Census of Population and Housing
 

Household financial stress

In 2011, the Inner Islands (7%) and Western Islands (6%) had the highest percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households spending more than 30% of household income on rent. This changed in 2016 to the Eastern Islands (17%) and Top Western Islands (15%) having the highest.

Overcrowding

Not enough bedrooms in the house? (footnote 13)

In 2016 almost one-quarter (24%) of households across the Region reported needing one or more extra bedrooms – more than double that of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households in the rest of Queensland (10%). While new houses are being built in the Region, the growth in the population continues to out-pace the available infrastructure. While not measurable by the Census, this may be explained by temporary mobility of people into and across the Region and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households acting as a key base for relatives, leading to overcrowding (footnote 14). In contrast, almost half (47%) of households had one or more bedrooms spare and 1 in 5 (20%) had no bedrooms needed or spare.

Internet connection

The following analysis is based on all households, not just Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households, for a more complete picture of household internet connection across the Region (footnote 15).

Just over two-thirds (68%) of households in the Region had an internet connection in 2016, much lower than the rest of Queensland (84%) but an increase from 2011 (49%). The island group with the lowest household internet access was the Top Western Islands, with 58%, while the majority (80%) of occupied houses in the NPA had access in 2016. These findings highlight the link between remoteness and internet access, with the mainland communities (NPA) having higher levels of access than the Islands.

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  1. Includes all households
  2. Based on place of enumeration Census counts. Excludes visitor only, non-classifiable and not applicable households.
  3. Includes No Usual Address, Migratory-Offshore-Shipping and Other Territories.

Note: Percentage total includes those whose internet access was not stated.
Source(s): 2011 Census of Population and Housing, 2016 Census of Population and Housing
 

Footnotes:

  1. “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households” have at least one Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person who was reported as living in the household on Census night. Torres Strait Islander only households cannot be analysed separately.
  2. “Other households” are those where no Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people were reported as living in the household on Census night.
  3. See Glossary for more information on Housing Suitability. Note – this is a new derived item for the 2016 Census.
  4. Dockery A.M. and S. Colquhoun 2012, ‘Mobility of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: A literature review’, CRC-REP Working Paper CW004, Alice Springs: Ninti One Limited, p. 16.
  5. See Glossary for more information about Internet Connection.

Social and cultural characteristics of people on the islands

The following analysis is based on results from the 2014-15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS). In this survey, the data for the Torres Strait Islands excludes the NPA Torres Strait communities of Seisia and Bamaga. These communities are included in the ‘rest of Queensland’ due to data availability.

Information presented below is about Torres Strait Islander people (footnote 16) unless otherwise stated.

Key highlights for the islands

  • Most people (78%) had a friend and/or family member outside their household that they could confide in.
  • People living on the Islands reported higher levels of involvement in selected cultural events (such as NAIDOC week), ceremonies or organisations (95%) compared to the rest of Australia (50%).
     

Networks and support

Most (78%) Torres Strait Islander people on the Islands had a friend and/or family member outside their household that they could confide in. This was lower than for Torres Strait Islander people in the rest of Queensland (94%). Most people on the Islands felt they were able to get access to general support outside of their household (86%) and in times of crisis (91%). Most people (72%) also provided some form of support to relatives outside the household, such as food or clothing or assisting with money for bills and housing costs.

Involvement in cultural activities

Cultural events, ceremonies, organisations and activities

There was a higher rate of involvement in selected cultural events (such as NAIDOC week), ceremonies or organisations (95%) compared to Torres Strait Islander people in the rest of Queensland (75%), and the rest of Australia (50%). A large majority (91%) of people aged 15 years and over participated in cultural activities (such as making traditional arts or crafts). This was higher than for people living in the rest of Queensland (80%) and the rest of Australia (58%). This high participation in such activities and organisations is a positive indication of the connection Torres Strait Islander people living on the Islands have with their culture, which can have positive effects on social cohesion and the preservation of tradition. Most (90%) people felt they were able to attend or participate in cultural events as often as they wanted. This was similar to people living in Queensland (85%) and other parts of Australia (74%).

Culture taught at school

Around 2 in 3 (68%) people were taught culture at school or as part of further studies - similar to Torres Strait Islander people in the rest of Queensland, but higher than the rest of Australia (39%). The teaching of culture in schools is important for the sharing of cultural heritage across generations and supports cultural wellbeing.

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  1. Excludes the mainland Torres Strait communities of Bamaga and Seisia.
  2. Excludes Migratory - Offshore - Shipping, No usual address and Other Territories.

* The difference between the Torres Strait Islands and the Rest of Australia is statistically significant.
Source(s): 2014-15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS)
 

Connection with homelands and traditions

Living on homelands

Most people living in the Islands recognise an area as homelands or traditional country (93%). This is much higher than people living in the rest of Queensland (77%) and the rest of Australia (56%). They were also more likely to be living on homelands (85%) than people in the rest of Australia outside of Queensland (18%).

Identification with clan, tribal or language group

The percentage of people who identify with a clan, tribal or language group (80%) was similar to the rest of Queensland (77%) but much higher than the rest of Australia (49%).

Footnotes:

  1. Torres Strait Islander includes people who identified as Torres Strait Islander and both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

Acknowledgement

The Australian Bureau of Statistics gratefully acknowledges and thanks the Torres Strait Regional Authority for their contributions to this article and enhancing the value of the statistical analysis by assisting us to present a local perspective.

This article complements the existing partnership arrangements with the Torres Strait Regional Authority to develop a regional data library.

Foreword from the TSRA chairperson

“We in the Torres Strait welcome this publication from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the data and information that it contains about the Torres Strait region, its communities and people.

Resources such as the statistics and trends presented in this compilation assists the Torres Strait Regional Authority, along with other key service delivery organisations to strengthen planning and provide improved services by understanding more clearly the social circumstances of our people.

It is through this understanding that funding investments targeted to improving outcomes are able to be more effectively targeted based on future needs.

This statistical resource also provides an important basis for developing and designing policies and programs that seek to improve social, economic, health and well-being outcomes for residents of the Torres Strait region.

On behalf of the TSRA, I also welcome the efforts of the ABS to return data and information to the communities from which it is sourced, and look forward to working closely with the ABS, our leaders, and other peak organisations to increase the level of understanding and use of our statistics to determine evidence-based policies.”

Napau Pedro Stephen AM

TSRA Chairperson

Data downloads

Changing characteristics of the Torres Strait region and its people - tables

Previous catalogue number

This release previously used catalogue number 4738.0