Australian Bureau of Statistics

Rate this page
ABS Home
Newsletters - National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics (NCATSIS) - Issue Number 9, May 2001

Download this entire document
in Acrobat format

If you do not have reader software...

NCATSIS newsletter.pdf
(625 kbytes)

A Newsletter for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistical Issues


Welcome to the 'new look' NCATSIS News--the updated format and design signalling the success of the Centre's new structure, a reinvigorated work program and the enthusiasm of staff to move ahead.

There has been much activity in Indigenous statistics in recent months, across the ABS and with the Centre's many external stakeholders. And it appears that this is not likely to let up in the near future. As described in the pages of this newsletter, much of the work occurs in the operational areas of ABS, within the social statistics units of the nine ABS offices as well as in other agencies. For the Centre, the extensive Indigenous statistics work program creates a lot of business, and we endeavour to ensure that coordination and communication strategies are in place and that we are ready to provide advice and guidance to our many stakeholders.

This edition of NCATSIS News has a special article on the 'main event' for 2001--that is, the ABS' five-yearly Census. All areas of ABS are drawn into the effort of making sure that the Census is the greatest possible success. For the Centre, the outcomes of the Census will set up many years work analysing and reporting on important issues related to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. Staff of the Centre will also assist in the post-Census process, undertaking several 'case studies' on the enumeration of the Indigenous population for selected Indigenous Communities.

In conjunction with Census, the second Community Housing and Infrastructure Needs Survey (CHINS) will be collected, updating CHINS 1999. Two other Indigenous surveys are also well on the way. The National Health Survey Indigenous supplement (NHS(I)) will be in the field between June and November, collecting information from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across Australia. Next year, the first Indigenous Social Survey (ISS) will be conducted. For more detail on the NHS(I) and the ISS, see Indigenous Social Survey below.

Efforts to improve Indigenous identification in key administrative datasets continues across many areas of the ABS work program, and in partnership with external agencies.

The long-term vision of the work is to achieve routine collection of a number of key datasets offering high quality information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients: the services provided for them, their use of services and their demographic characteristics.

Finally, it is my pleasure to welcome several new staff members to the Centre. Daniel Hopkins (pictured on page 3) joined us in January and is currently located within the liaison and administration work program. Sean Kavanagh and Helga Thomas have joined the Centre temporarily, working on the health/community services, and social/economic work programs, respectively. Welcome all.

Tania McInnes, the Centre's Deputy Director since August last year, will soon be moving on to a new position at the Office for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, located in Canberra. We thank Tania for her contribution to the Centre, and wish her well "down south" of Capricorn.

On 7 August 2001 the ABS will conduct Australia’s 14th five-yearly census. The Census is a keystone of Australia's democracy, counting everyone, wherever they are, on Census night. The information it provides helps governments and the private sector to plan for the future. Its results are used, among other things, to determine the number of seats in the Federal House of Representatives and to assist in deciding how much money will be allocated to the States and Territories.

The ABS conducts extensive testing of the questions to ensure that they provide accurate results. This year's Census form will contain some new questions. Two of these relate to the use of computers and the Internet, and another seeks information about the ancestry of Australians.

The ABS has extensive experience in conducting censuses--this is the 14th national census, and the 7th that includes all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The methods the ABS employs in conducting the Census are internationally recognised for their excellence.

For more detail, see How does the Census affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?


A meeting of all ABS State and Territory Indigenous Administrative Data Project representatives was held in Brisbane on 28/29 March this year. There were 21 attendees, and discussion ranged from the sharing of experiences relating to the ABS project aimed at improving the quality of data in administrative datasets and planning the work program for the next 2-3 years, to developing a National Centre-Regional Office communication strategy.

State/Territory Indigenous Administrative Data Project Representatives in Brisbane 28/29 March 2001

Pamphlets and Posters

Thanks to the efforts of ABS State and Territory project officers, there has been a broad recognition of the need to promote the ‘Indigenous identifier’, and an increased demand for the pamphlets and posters detailing why the Indigenous standard question is asked in health-related areas. Stocks are almost exhausted, and new revised pamphlets and posters should be available from all State and Territory ABS offices at the end of May.
(Phone 1800 633 216 to order).


Between June and November this year the ABS proposes to conduct an Indigenous supplement to the 2001 National Health Survey (NHS). This supplementary Indigenous health survey will be the first in a series of collections that will provide information on Indigenous health over the coming years. The next supplementary Indigenous health survey is planned for 2004 and will, again, be conducted in conjunction with the NHS. Following this, the Indigenous supplement is planned to occur at six-yearly intervals, in parallel with every second NHS.

The supplementary Indigenous health survey has been developed in consultation with a wide range of agencies in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health field. Information collected will assist in the development and evaluation of Indigenous health policies, as well as the administration of programs and services delivered by Commonwealth, State and Territory health authorities.

During the 2001 survey, information will be collected by personal interview from approximately 2,800 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia. Results from the survey are expected to be available from October 2002.


A major recommendation of the review of the ABS Household Survey Strategy, conducted in 1999, was that a more regular collection of Indigenous statistics be undertaken, including a survey designed to collect general social data.

In response to that recommendation, the Indigenous Social Survey (ISS) is being developed. This will be conducted by the ABS for the first time in 2002, and at six-yearly intervals after that. The ISS will provide information across many areas of social concern including health risk, housing, work, education and income.

The survey will allow inter-relationships between different aspects of social and economic conditions to be explored, and will provide information on the extent to which some people face multiple disadvantage.

A process of consultation has been undertaken based on an ISS discussion paper that was distributed to approximately four hundred organisations Australia-wide. Consultation meetings were also held in state capitals, Darwin, Alice Springs and Cairns.

On the basis of these consultations, NCATSIS and the Indigenous and General Surveys Section (IGSS) are currently developing the survey content and will report back to the Survey Reference Group in the next few months. Survey content will be finalised toward the end of the year, following field testing of new data items.


Since 1971 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been included in the five-yearly censuses. This has meant that increasingly accurate (and inclusive) counts of Indigenous people have given successive governments better data upon which to base policy and planning decisions. Consistent questions identifying Indigenous people in Censuses from 1981 have also contributed to a better understanding of total Indigenous population figures.


Ensuring that all Australians are included in the Census is a challenge that the ABS takes up every five years. This time, the Census Management Unit (CMU) in each state has put considerable effort into developing a strategy to ensure that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have the opportunity to participate in the Census. An integral part of that strategy is the recruitment of around 1500 Indigenous Australians to undertake many of the roles associated with the Census.

Community-based collectors are employed to conduct household interviews, while at the administrative level Indigenous people provide expertise in the planning, training and management of the Census in remote Australia.

Urban Australia

The urban parts of Australia pose a particular challenge at Census time, since the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (73%) live here. Census collectors receive intensive training enabling them to locate these people and assist them in completing their forms on Census night.

Over recent Censuses, it has become evident that young Indigenous males are under-represented in the count. Selecting Census collectors who have extensive local knowledge, and an awareness of the local social scene, may improve this situation.

Where additional assistance is required, trained Indigenous field officers will be available to help out with completion of the Census forms, or in resolving language or cultural issues.

Remote Australia

Distance, remoteness, language, cultural differences - each of these factors makes running the Census in remote Australia a logistical task of enormous proportions. From Bidyadanga in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, to the islands in the Torres Strait; from the Anangu-Pitjantjatjara lands in remote South Australia to tiny out-stations in Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, an army of Indigenous community people will be visiting every home around Census night.

To ensure that as many Australians as possible are aware that this is Census year, media launches were held in March in every capital city.

Understanding community protocols, cultural practices, family and clan groupings and a good knowledge of the physical terrain, are critical in getting the job done effectively. Without a high level of involvement by Indigenous people this simply would not be possible.

Case Studies

Following the Census, NCATSIS will undertake a series of case studies in several communities across Australia. The purpose of the studies is to evaluate the Indigenous population count in the light of other sources of information, for example administrative datasets. Staff at NCATSIS are currently developing an appropriate methodology for this work.


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 aims to provide a national leadership role in promoting and facilitating the collection and reporting of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statistics by the ABS and, where appropriate, amongst external stakeholders in all jurisdictions



The latest edition of Australian Demographic Statistics (ABS Cat. No. 3101.0) – released 14 December 2000 – contains, for the first time, a special article on Experimental Estimates of the Torres Strait Islander Population.

Labour Force Characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, Experimental Estimates from the Labour Force Survey, 1994 to 2000 (Cat. no. 6287.0) released 20 December 2000, provides experimental estimates of the labour force characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Australian Housing Survey: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Results (Cat. no. 4712.0) released 23 January 2001, presents information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander housing in non-sparsely settled areas, from the Australian Housing Survey. In addition to information on physical characteristics and condition of dwellings, emphasis is given to the costs, affordability and adequacy of housing. These are analysed in relation to various characteristics such as household composition, tenure status and income levels. Includes comparisons with the non-Indigenous population.

Corrective Services, Australia (Cat. no. 4512.0)
The December quarter 2000 issue was released 29 March 2001. One of the key findings is:
·The highest rate of imprisonment for the Indigenous population was in Western Australia with a rate of 3,001 Indigenous prisoners per 100,000 adult Indigenous population.


Australian Social Trends 2001 (Cat. no. 4102.0) due for release 6 June 2001.

This publication presents statistical analysis and commentary on a wide range of current social issues. The style of the report is clear, focussed and easy to read. Effective use is made of summary tables and graphics to highlight key information. The 2001 edition will include an article on Indigenous housing in non-remote areas, and a section on Indigenous mortality.

Health and Welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples 2001 (Cat. no. 4704.0)

Due for release 30 August 2001. This publication will update the 1999 biennial report, reflecting information on recent developments in the areas covered in previous reports, and including a special chapter on diabetes.

To place an advance order for these publication, call the ABS National Information Service on 1300 135 070.

© Commonwealth of Australia 2008

Unless otherwise noted, content on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia Licence together with any terms, conditions and exclusions as set out in the website Copyright notice. For permission to do anything beyond the scope of this licence and copyright terms contact us.