NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #NATSIHS : @ABSStats responds to questions raised in @IndigenousX article about the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey


” The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) runs the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) every six years to collect vital information about the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people all over Australia.

These insights inform Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health policies, programs and services and help identify gaps and areas for improvement.

The information is also used extensively as part of the Closing the Gap initiative.”

ABS responds to 13 November Indigenous X article answering 6 key questions

See Part 1 below 

SEE ABS Promo Video

There are videos from ambassadors, FAQs on the ABS website, and other promotional resources available encouraging Indigenous people to participate if their household is randomly selected. What is missing in all of this is the information that says failure to comply in the research can result in fines of $210 per day.

There are no shortage of stories available about the risks for those Aboriginal people who already face financial hardships that can arise from unpaid fines.”

Extract from the Indigenous X article 10 November read in full HERE 

Is the National Indigenous Health Survey ethical?

Part 1 In response to questions raised in the Indigenous X article 10 November the ABS advises  

1.Do they advise in writing in advance (in accordance with their ‘avoiding scammers’ process) that they will be door knocking to inquire about occupants’ Indigeneity?

Before the survey begins, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) works with its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Roundtable members and consults with community groups across the country about the aims of the survey and how it will be conducted.

The survey is also advertised throughout local media, through various Aboriginal and Torres Strait organisations and is communicated to various communities through the ABS Indigenous Engagement Managers.

The ABS has also posted online videos, presenting the material at conferences and events and uses various Indigenous Champions to promote the survey.

Households are randomly selected and, as the ABS is unaware of whether someone within a household identifies as Indigenous or non-Indigenous and is therefore within the scope of the survey, the ABS does not write in advance.

To ensure respondents fit the scope of the survey, ABS interviewers knock on the door and ask if any resident identifies as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

All ABS interviewers are required to identify themselves and show their identification when they first speak to a potential respondent. They also receive special training to work on this important survey.

2. Is it at the point of confirming one’s Indigeneity that a household is then legally compelled to participate in the NATSIHS?


3.Is the financial penalty consistent with other compulsory surveys?

In order to ensure the ABS provides high quality national statistics that reflect the Australian population, the Census and Statistics Act provides the ABS with the capacity to legally direct respondents to provide survey information.

Interviewers are trained to explain the importance of the information the survey collects to potential respondents to encourage them to participate.

If, after a written direction, the requested information is still not provided, the ABS can refer for potential prosecution where a court can consider a fine. This has been the case since the introduction of the Act in 1905 and applies consistently across all ABS surveys undertaken under this legislation.

It is the ABS’ experience that once the importance, benefits and value of participating is understood, respondents voluntarily complete ABS surveys. Therefore, very few referrals for court prosecutions, and fines, occur.

4. Have they issued fines as a result of households refusing to participate in the NATSIHS? If so, how many?

No. The ABS has not referred anyone who has refused to participate in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey for potential prosecution.

5. In households where there is more than one adult in the premises, who is issued with the fine? What is the consequence for a household if they refuse to pay the fine?

Should respondents refuse to participate in the survey, the matter is referred to the Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to consider who, if anyone, would be prosecuted if the matter cannot be resolved, with the court determining any fine.  A failure to pay any fine would also be a matter for the DPP and then a court.

6. Are there any legitimate grounds for which a household can legally not participate in the NATSIHS?

Upon request and on a case by case basis, the ABS can exempt people in genuine difficulty from completing a survey.

If someone is selected but unable to complete the NATSIHS, or has any further questions about the survey or ABS interviewers, the ABS welcomes their contact on 1300 135 070.

Part 2 NACCHO Article 18 September

I’ve been chosen to be in something called the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS). Why? 

This survey is run to provide the community with vital information for measuring the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

If your household has been selected to be in this survey, it means that the people in your household will represent households that are similar to yours. This is so that statistics about larger groups in the community can be produced. The ABS has developed the NATSIHS in close consultation with a range of stakeholders, including commonwealth and state/territory governments, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations, academics and researchers.

The results from the survey are used extensively by government agencies, researchers, clinicians and other health professionals in your community to help plan for the future and support research into ways to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples live healthier and longer lives.

Watch full Video 

Why was my household selected?

From July 2018 to March 2019, about 6,500 households will be randomly selected to be included in the NATSIHS. Every household in Australia has the same chance of being selected in the survey.

If your household has been selected to be in this survey, it means that the people in your household will represent households that are similar to yours. This is so that statistics about larger groups in the community can be produced.

How will you complete the survey?

An interviewer will come to your home. They will check your address, identify themselves as an ABS interviewer, and show you their official ABS photo identification. They will conduct the interview using a laptop computer. It would be appreciated if you could provide a table and chair to the interviewer if possible.

What information are you going to ask about? 

The NATSIHS collects a range of information to give a ‘snapshot’ of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples health, including the type of health problems people have and their lifestyle patterns.

The NATSIHS includes questions about:

  • General health and wellbeing (including disability status)
  • Health risk status (physical activity, smoking, dietary behaviour, alcohol consumption)
  • Diagnosed conditions (focusing on the National Health Priority Areas of asthma, cancer, cardiovascular and circulatory conditions, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and high sugar levels, kidney disease, as well as mental health conditions)
  • Cultural identification
  • Experience of Discrimination
  • Social and emotional wellbeing
  • Physical measures (blood pressure, weight, height and waist size). This part of the survey is voluntary.
  • Voluntary hearing test.

In addition, detailed demographic and socio-demographic data (age, education, employment, income and housing) are collected to enable an assessment to be made of the health and related needs of groups such as the elderly, migrants and low income families.

Adults aged 18 years and over who are selected, may also be asked to volunteer follow-up contact details for the purpose of assisting the ABS with future health related information collections.

Which people in the Household will be required to participate?

Up to two adult members of each selected household (aged 18 years and over) will be chosen at random to participate. Interviewers will conduct a personal interview with this person which will cover a range of topics about the individual’s health and wellbeing.

Up to two child members of each selected household (aged 0 to 17 years) will also be chosen at random, where applicable. If the selected child is 0-14 years, the interview is conducted by proxy with a nominated adult. If the selected child is 15-17 years, a personal interview can be conducted if the parent or guardian consents, otherwise a proxy interview will be conducted.

What happens if there are people in the household who don’t speak English?

An ABS interviewer who speaks the language of the householder will conduct the interview if possible. Alternatively, arrangements can be made to organise an interpreter to conduct the interview. Please call 1800 271 346 (free call, excluding mobile phones) so that these arrangements can be made.

Will I be paid for my time?

No. As with other household surveys, the ABS relies on the willing co-operation of households.

I don’t want to participate. Can you choose another household?

It is very important to make sure that every household in Australia has an equal chance of being selected for this survey. This means that when all the selected houses are combined, the survey will resemble the whole community which they represent. Once your household has been selected, another household cannot be substituted in its place, as other households have already had their chance of being selected, and this could mean that some parts of the community are under or over represented.

Is the survey compulsory?

The questions in the survey are asked under the authority of the Census and Statistics Act 1905. Under the Act, you are obliged to provide the information that is requested. The ABS is required by the Act to maintain the secrecy of all information provided. No information will be released in a way that would enable an individual or household to be identified.

How will you keep my information safe, secure, and confidential? 

The ABS takes the security of the information you provide to us very seriously.

The survey information is collected using a notebook computer and then securely transferred to the ABS office environment. The computer makes the survey quicker and easier to do, and means you only need to answer the questions that relate to you and your household.

All ABS employees have signed a legally enforceable Undertaking of Fidelity and Secrecy in which they agree to keep any information, including personal information which they may deal with in the course of their work, private and confidential. This agreement applies to ABS employees for the rest of their lives, even if they leave the ABS. The penalty for breaching this is two years jail, a $21,600 fine, or both.

The ABS complies with the Australian Privacy Principles. If you believe the ABS has breached these principles, you can find information on how to lodge a complaint here. This link also provides more detail on the ABS’s own Privacy Policy.

How can I find the results from the NATSIHS?

The results from NATSIHS 2018/19 will be available in late 2019.

Results from the previous NATSIHS can be found on the ABS website:
4727.0.55.006 – Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: Updated Results, 2012–13

The ABS has also produced some videos related to the upcoming NATSIHS:
NATSIHS video 
Brisbane Lions Charlie Cameron video
Carlton FC Sam Petrevski-Seton video
Fremantle FC Gemma Houghton video
Fremantle FC Michael Walters video
Shellie Morris video

Where can I get more information?

For more information about participating in ABS surveys, see the Household Survey Participant Information FAQ’s

One comment on “NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #NATSIHS : @ABSStats responds to questions raised in @IndigenousX article about the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey

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