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Newsletters - National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics (NCATSIS) - Issue Number 4, October 1998


The National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics (NCATSIS) is located in the Darwin office of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The Centre incorporates the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Welfare Information Unit (ATSIHWIU), a joint program of the ABS and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

NCATSIS has national responsibility for quality statistics relating to Australia's Indigenous peoples. The Centre also provides expert advice to government departments, Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander organisations, and other users of Indigenous statistics, particularly those concerned with population, health and welfare.



In order to address the significant gaps that exist in the availability of Indigenous statistics, the ABS is developing a proposal for a survey-based data collection strategy. The proposal will be prepared as a discussion paper with the intention of circulating it widely for written comment. It is also likely that further input will be sought through seminars and discussions later in 1998. If you would like a copy of the proposal sent to you when it is finalised, please contact Tony Barnes on 08 89 432 190 or


Since the release of the first Indigenous data from the 1996 Census in October 1997, NCATSIS has been working on a range of statistical products relevant to Indigenous people.

The first set of data produced was released as a set of Indigenous Profiles (Cat. no. 2020.0), for the geographical areas of the newly created Australian Indigenous Geographical Classification (AIGC), and made available through the Bureau's thematic profile service. This was followed by the publication Population Distribution, Indigenous Australians, Cat. no. 4705.0 in November 1997, and a further release of the Indigenous Profiles in March 1998. The CD-ROM version of the AIGC with maps and concordance tables will be released later this year (Cat. no. 4706.0.30.001)

This year has seen the progressive release of a series of publications, one for each State and Territory, Census of Population and Housing, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, Cat. nos. 2034.1-8, culminating in the release on 24 September of the national version of this publication, Cat. no. 2034.0.

These publications present a range of detailed social and economic statistics at State and Territory level for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, together with comparisons with the total population. The national publication provides State and Territory comparisons as well as data for the whole of Australia.

An Occasional Paper, Population Issues, Indigenous Australians, Cat. no. 4708.0, is being prepared for publication in November this year.The paper will analyse 1996 Indigenous Census data and describe the components of the increase in census counts from 1991 to 1996.

The publication of standard census tables for Indigenous Australians is now complete. Additional, customised, data is available upon request from NCATSIS, or through any ABS Office. It is now possible to produce tables containing data from the 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991 and 1996 Censuses.

We are now looking ahead to the 2001 Census.Work has already commenced to develop procedures for the next census. To assist in this process we are undertaking research to better understand the factors which determine people's responses to questions about Indigenous status and origin. A specific strategy for the enumeration of Indigenous Australians in the 2001 Census is yet to be developed. As this strategy is formed a consultation process with interested people and organisations will occur. Details of the 2001 Census strategy will be reported in subsequent issues of NCATSIS News.

In addition to the activities of NCATSIS, the Demography section of the ABS produces experimental estimates and projections of the Indigenous population. Estimates are the official population figures produced by the ABS. 1996 Census based estimates and projections are available in two publications - Experimental Estimates of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Population, 30 June 1991 to 30 June 1996, Cat. no. 3230.0 and Experimental Projections of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Population, 30 June 1996 to 30 June 2006, Cat. no. 3231.0
For further information please contact Michael Bourchier on 08 89 432145 or


The ABS has been contracted by ATSIC to plan a Community Housing Infrastructure Needs Survey in 1999. The survey will collect community and housing information from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities throughout Australia as well as from Indigenous Housing Organisations.

The proposed survey involves a two-staged approach.

Stage 1 involves development and testing. Three field tests were planned to take place in 1998, between September and November. During this phase the methodology and questionnaire is being developed and tested. A dress rehearsal is planned for early February 1999.

Stage 2 will be the implementation phase of the survey and will run from April 1999 until January 2000. It will include the recruitment and training of field staff; finalisation of the questionnaires, processing system and dissemination strategy; conducting the survey out in the field; processing of the data and the initial release of survey data.

A brochure is currently being produced and will be available in early October. For any further enquires please contact Tammy White on phone: 08-89432193 or email:

  • developing a training package for service delivery personnel involved in the recording of information on Indigenous identification.
  • preparing publicity material aimed at data collection agencies and the community.
  • developing a project proposal for a study to analyse the interpretation of the ABS standard question on Indigenous status by Indigenous and non-Indigenous repondents.
  • working with the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics (NCCJS) to prepare a suitable methodolgy for police statisticians to determine the quality of the datawhich they collect
  • preparing publicity material for dissemination at a coders conference, 'The meeting of two centres - coding in a rural setting', held in Alice Springs from 23-25 September, 1998.
  • producing a biannual bulletin to report on significant achievements towards improving the quality of Indigenous data derived from administrative collections.

For further information, please contact Phillipa Scurrah on 08 89 432 142 or


A workshop was held in Darwin from 24 - 25 June for ABS representatives from each state and territory to discuss issues associated with Indigenous identification in administrative collections relating to births and deaths statistics. Discussion at the meeting focussed on the following issues:
  • the increase in the population estimates of Indigenous Australians,
  • criteria for publishing of deaths and births information,
  • the role of training in building relationships with the Indigenous community through shared understanding of the need for information on Indigenous identification and appropriate processes for the collection, use and dissemination of information,
  • the need for more information about the activities of national bodies involved in identification and information issues, and
  • the role of the state working groups and ABS in relation to national initiatives such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Information Plan.

For up to date information please contact:



In 1997, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Information Plan,...This time, let's make it happen was endorsed by the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council (AHMAC). The Plan contains 42 recommendations on the collection, use and dissemination of quality health information on Indigenous Australians with lead agencies assigned to each. As part of the commitment to ensuring its implementation, the National Health Information Management Group (NHIMG) set up a working group of representatives from key government and Indigenous organisations to oversee the implementation process.

Since its release, AHMAC and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) have funded several initiatives to address key recommendations. Other work has also been undertaken by NCATSIS.

In August, the NHIMG implementation working group met in Adelaide to review the progress of implementing the Plan's recommendations. All agencies reaffirmed their commitment to the Plan and agreed there is a need to provide an ongoing role in coordinating and monitoring agencies' responses to the recommendations.
For further information, please contact Phillipa Scurrah on 08 89 432 142 or


Hospital separation data is essential for monitoring health status and service use by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Insufficient is known, however, about the accuracy with which Indigenous status is recorded in these data collections.

AHMAC has funded a project which is being managed by ATSIHWIU. The purpose of the project is to develop, pilot, evaluate and document a data quality control procedure for assessing the completeness of Indigenous identification in hospital separation records.

In this project the recording of Indigenous status and other demographic characteristics in electronically held hospital records is being compared to the results of a person-to-person interview with hospital in-patients, in which the ABS standard question regarding Indigenous status is asked of patients. Eleven hospitals in the Northern Territory, South Australia, Victoria, ACT and Queensland are currently participating in this project.

Data collection for the project is nearing completion and a final report is expected to be available early in 1999.
For more information about this project please contact Barbara Gray 08 89432 147 or


Sixty people from all over Australia attended this workshop which was funded by the Department of Health and Family Services and organised by the ABS and the AIHW.

Representatives from these and various other Commonwealth and State government departments, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) and its state affiliates, the Torres Strait and Northern Peninsular District Health Council, Aboriginal medical services, and researchers in the field met to discuss the current and future status of disability data for Indigenous people.

At the workshop, it was recommended that there be consultation with Indigenous people and Indigenous organisations about the need and level of support for Indigenous disability data, and that subject to this process a national Indigenous steering committee should be formed to progress work in the area. Suggestions for the work of such a committee included; developing guiding principles and protocols for the area; exploring, in consultation with Indigenous communities, the concepts of disability and need; developing a definition for Indigenous disability and developing an Indigenous disability data information plan.

The proceedings from the workshop are available from NCATSIS free of charge (see recent publications).
For further information, please contact Mary Beneforti on 08 89 432 194 or


The National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics (NCCJS) collects data on Indigenous people who have contact with the police, the courts and with corrective services. The Centre is located in the Melbourne office of the ABS and has a number of units.

The NCCJS publishes information which includes the ratio of Indigenous to non-Indigenous prisoner rates, age, sex, offence and type and length of sentence.

In a policing environment, the identification and accurate reporting of Indigenous people is a difficult and important issue to which the centre accords a high priority.

For further enquiries about the National Centre for Crime and Justice Statistics, please call 03 9615 7374


NCATSIS recently contracted a consultant to conduct a series of two day workshops in six Aboriginal medical services in Western NSW with the aim of developing and piloting a training package. The training covered an introduction to statistics in addition to topics such as population statistics, health statistics, calculations of percentages and averages and Census information and geography. A statistical training package for use in similar settings is currently being finalised and is expected to be available early in 1999.

For further information please contact Joan Cunningham on 08 89 432 165 or


Over the coming months, NCATSIS will continue to work with ABS Regional offices, State and Territory government departments, service providers and Indigenous organisations to improve the quality of Indigenous identification in administrative data collections. In addition, NCATSIS staff will be preparing the second edition of The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, continuing the testing phase of the Community Housing Infrastructure Needs Suvey, analysing and reporting on data from a variety of sources, providing expert advice and training to a broad range of clients and implementing a number of recommendations of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Information Plan.


Experimental Projections of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Population, 1996 to 2006
ABS cat no. 3231.0 Cost $21.00
Released July 1998
This publication uses a combination of assumptions of future levels of births, deaths, migration and changing propensity to identify to arrive at the size, structure and distribution of the projected Indigenous population for all States and Territories and Australia.

Census of Population and Housing: Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander People, Australia and States and Territories
ABS cat. no: 2034.0-8 Cost $26-$28.
Progressively released from June 1998.
These publications (one for each State/Territory and Australia) contain statistics covering population, living arrangements, education, employment, income and housing.
See 2034.5 - Census of Population and Housing: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, Western Australia

Occasional Paper:
NATSIS 1994 - Law and Justice Issues
ABS cat. no: 4189.0 Cost $19.50.
Released May 1998.
This publication analyses the law and justice data from the 1994 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey (NATSIS). It examines arrest rates, perceptions of the police held by Indigenous people, the extent to which violence is seen to be present in their communities, and the need for and use of legal services. This publication is a joint project between the ABS and the Australian Institute of Criminology.

Corrective Services Australia
ABS cat no. 4512.0 Cost $17.00
Released quarterly from March 1998
This publication contains monthly information on persons in custody, including Indigenous prisoners. It includes the ratio of Indigenous to non-Indigenous prisoner rates.

Occasional Paper: Overweight and Obesity, Indigenous Australians ABS cat. no: 4702.0 Expected cost $19.50.
Released May 1998.
This paper reports on the distribution of relative weight among Indigenous Australian children and adults based on data from the 1994 NATSIS, including comparisons with other populations. The socio-economic, demographic and cultural factors associated with body mass index and with non-measurement in adults are examined.

Indigenous Disability Data, Current Status and Future Prospects, Report on Workshop Proceedings April 1998
Released June 1998 Free publication
The proceedings bring together for the first time, a summary of statistics currently available about disability among the Indigenous population, and point to future directions. Included are papers from various State and Commonwealth agencies, information and statistical organisations, Aboriginal community controlled organisations, and researchers and experts in the field. Contact NCATSIS for a free copy.

Identification of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in CSDA funded disability support services in South Australia and Victoria, 1997
Released July 1998 Free publication
Summarises findings of a questionnaire about Indigenous identification practices in disability support services participating in the annual Commonwealth/State Disability Agreement (CSDA) collection. Contact NCATSIS for a free copy.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Informaton Plan
Released October 1997 Free publication
See article on page 2 of this newsletter.

Occasional Paper: Population Issues, Indigenous Australians ABS cat. no: 4708.0 Expected cost $22.00.
Expected to be released November 1998.
An occasional paper being prepared which will discuss aspects of population change between 1991 and 1996. Geographic distribution and characteristics of the Indigenous population in 1991 and 1996 will be considered.

1995 National Health Survey, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Results, Australia ABS Expected cost $23.00.
Expected to be released November 1998
This publication will present data about the health of non-remote Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians from the 1995 National Health Survey (NHS). Topics will include measures of health status, health related actions taken, and lifestyle factors which may influence health.

Australian Indigenous Geographical Classification
ABS cat. no: 4706.0.30.001 Expected cost $50.00.
Expected to be released November 1998.
An electronic (CDROM) map viewing system which will allow customers to select areas of interest from the Indigenous Geography. The Indigenous Geographical classification is a recent development based on ATSIC Regions and is described in "Statistical Geography, Volume 2, Census Geographic Areas, Australia" (ABS cat no: 2905.0).

The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples ABS 4704.0 Expected cost $34.00.
Expected to be released June 1999
Second edition of this biennial publication, a joint project of the ABS and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. The publication will cover mortality, morbidity, risk factors, and recent developments in health and welfare statistics.

Internet Access
NCATSIS has a range of Indigenous information available on the Internet. NCATSIS data are located on the ABS Statsite, under the headings, 'Australia Now', and 'ABS Papers, Classifications and Directories'.

Customised Tables and Mapping
If you require data from the 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, or 1996 Census or from the 1994 NATSIS, that are not available in standard products, the Centre can produce customised tables/maps to client specifications. The Centre also continues to manage the 1992 ATSIC HCINS dataset.


Phone NCATSIS on (08) 8943 2191
Fax: (08) 8941 0715
Phone (Free Call): 1800 633 216 (outside Darwin)

Or write to:
Judy Richards
National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander Statistics
Australian Bureau of Statistics
GPO Box 3796
Darwin NT 0801
Email address:


        (02) 92684611
        (03) 96157755
        (07) 32226351
        (09) 93605140
        (08) 82377100
        (03) 62225800
        (08) 89432111
        (02) 62526627

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