Thursday, June 5, 2008

Health and Welfare of Indigenous Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples live in all parts of present-day Australia, from the large cities of Sydney and Melbourne to small country towns and very remote communities. They speak a multitude of languages and belong to hundreds of distinct descent groups. Beyond the struggles of maintaining many of their traditional lifeway patterns, cultural identity, and language, many of Australia's indigenous people also experience conditions of economic and social disadvantage. Recently, however, there has been a renewed focus on monitoring the progress in reducing indigenous Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage by the Australian government.


Torres Strait Islander people are a significant cultural group representing one-tenth of the Australian Indigenous population. While they share many of the characteristics of other indigenous Australians, some health and welfare characteristics are different from those of Aboriginal peoples.

Since 1971, indigenous Torres Strait Islander people have been recognized as a separate group from indigenous Aboriginal people according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) standard. From the 1996 Census of Population and Housing onwards, indigenous people have also been able to indicate if they are of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin. Torres Strait Islander people are defined within contemporary Australian law as those who identified as being of Torres Strait Islander origin only, or of both Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal origin.

Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

A recent report published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) gives one a look at the current health and welfare situation of Australia's indigenous peoples. Important new information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and welfare was collected through the ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing and 2004-05 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS). The report also includes data from other ABS collections such as the 2006 Community Housing and Infrastructure Needs Survey (CHINS) and the 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS). AIHW surveys such as Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH), and national administrative data collections such as the National Hospital Morbidity Data Collection, the National Mortality Data Collection and the National Perinatal Data Collection are all important data sources used in the production of this report. In addition, the report includes updated estimates of expenditure on health services for Indigenous people.

The relative socioeconomic disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared with non-Indigenous people places them at greater risk of exposure to health risk factors.

Current Health Risks

The report concludes that in 2004-2005, half (50%) of the indigenous population aged 18 years and over smoked on a daily basis. One in six (16%) reported consuming alcohol at chronic risky/high risk levels in the last week and 19% at short-term risky/high risk levels on a weekly basis. In non-remote areas, 28% of indigenous people aged 15 years and over reported having used illicit substances in the 12 months prior to interview and 49% reported having tried at least one illicit substance in their lifetime.

More than half (57%) of indigenous people aged 15 years and over were overweight or obese in 2004-05. In non-remote areas, three-quarters (75%) of indigenous people were sedentary or engaged in low levels of exercise, while 42% were eating the recommended daily intake of fruit and only 10% the recommended daily intake of vegetables. With the exception of fruit and vegetable consumption, all lifestyle risk factors were associated with fair/poor self-assessed health among indigenous people in 2004-05.

More information about the current health risks and welfare of indigenous Australian Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander peoples is located in the ABS report.

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Anonymous said...

Thankyou for writing this. It helped me with my model UN (MUN) asignment!

Peter N. Jones said...


Glad you found this useful. As noted at the bottom, you can find more information on indigenous Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples by downloading the entire ABS report.

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