NACCHO Aboriginal health news: Aboriginal health isn’t all bad news

 

It’s easy to feel disheartened by the bombardment of negative statistics about Indigenous health, but we shouldn’t ignore the many successes, writes Lisa Jackson Pulver in the  ABC online DRUM Photo:  (Dave Hunt, file photo: AAP)

Lisa Jackson Pulver holds the Inaugural Chair of Indigenous Health and is a Professor of Public Health at UNSW. View her full profile here.

The media loves a bad news story – and the response to the latest report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is no exception.

The Sydney Morning Herald called the past 10 years a “wasted decade“, highlighting increasing rates of diabetes, kidney disease, asthma and osteoporosis among Indigenous people, along with the 11-year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

But the largest-ever survey of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics also has some good news to report that was all too easily passed over.

Fewer Indigenous people are taking up smoking, and those who do smoke are giving up the habit. This is despite nicotine being an addictive substance, highly influenced by social norms. For years, smoking rates have been much higher in the Indigenous community than in the non-Indigenous community. But according to the Bureau, the proportion of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 to 17 years who have never smoked has increased from 61 per cent to 77 per cent, with an increase from 34 per cent to 43 per cent for those aged 18 to 24 years.

This result is matched by the non-Indigenous community. It should be applauded and recognised by all Australians: it shows the resilience of our young people who are increasingly saying no to smoking. The choice they are making will mean a decrease in the knock-on effects that chronic smoking brings.

While it must be acknowledged that this is only one indicator of success, it is still a win. So, where are the accolades for all the tobacco control programs, the Aboriginal Health Worker mentors and those with the resolve to never smoke or to stop? Why is this not the story?

Among the findings in the ABS report, Indigenous Australians are reported as being more than three times as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to have diabetes. While this is cause for concern, many of the major health problems for Indigenous communities are not only affected by health spending, but by the wider determinants of health. This means it will take much longer before we see viable gains. So it should come as no surprise that in such a short period, since 2009, the Closing the Gap policy framework and funding did not produce positive health outcomes on all measures. The period surveyed (2012-2013) cannot have benefitted from the new money that flowed as a result of Closing the Gap. It is too early. More importantly, the severe disadvantage many of these data reflect reinforces the argument for concerted action and sustained funding over the longer term.

We must also remember that early prevention and intervention is important, so we need to continue to look for the early and intermediate signs of what will become a long-term improvement in health – which of course includes lower smoking rates, a top risk factor for a wide array of other health conditions. Likewise, we should not simply focus on the current rates of chronic disease, but also the factors that contribute to good health in the future: nutritional status and healthy diets, physical activity, access to antenatal care, not smoking, engagement in family and community activities, housing quality and whether there is overcrowding, employment and cultural and psychological wellbeing – all of which lay the foundations to health.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, like everyone’s health, is much more than the absence of disease. It involves physical, social, emotional, cultural, spiritual and ecological wellbeing and fulfilment of potential to contribute to the wellbeing of the whole community. Looking more deeply, we can see the outstanding successes in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary healthcare services, visual and performing arts, drama, music, tertiary education and sport as examples of early indicators that many people are flourishing.

It is very easy to see only the negative, given the statistics that seem to bombard us. That’s unfortunate because it promotes a sense of hopelessness, when what is needed is energy, positive models of change and positive commitment over the long term. There would be great value in capturing these positive changes, in collecting and amplifying the voices of those young people in particular who have made conscious decisions to live well and let these voices join the growing chorus of role models, exemplars and successful ventures in our communities.

Closing the Gap is a great start – and a much needed catalyst for change – but it is necessary to shift the lens towards the kinds of deeper changes that lead to lifelong health, including not smoking. Instead of focusing on the negatives, why not support those effective, community-driven enterprises and programs already having positive impacts, so that the children of our children will again enjoy the great opportunities that life in this magnificent country has to offer.

Lisa Jackson Pulver holds the Inaugural Chair of Indigenous Health and is a Professor of Public Health at UNSW. View her full profile here.

Topics: indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, indigenous-policy

NACCHO AGM News: Prime Minister Tony Abbott sends positive message to open NACCHO AGM in Perth

Question Time in the House of Representatives

“New Government,New Approach” was the theme on the opening day of the  NACCHO AGM and members meeting in Perth this week.

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With Parliament sitting in Canberra messages and video addresses were sent from the Prime Minister (see below), Senator the Hon Fiona Nash Assistant Minister of Health ,Samantha Palmer First Assistant Secretary Indigenous Health Service Delivery Department of Health, Maria Jolly Assistant Secretary Health Policy  and John Shevlin Assistant Secretary Health Programmes DPM and C.

Jeff McMullen ,Justin Mohamed and Fred Chaney moderated a very robust discussion on ” the Future of Aboriginal Affairs and Aboriginal Health”

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I send warm greetings to delegates attending the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation Annual General Meeting and Members Meeting in Perth.

Every day the 150 local community health organisations that you represent improve the physical and emotional health of Aboriginal communities across Australia. I honour the work that you do.

It is appropriate that you meet only days after the release of the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data on indigenous life expectancy. While we can all draw some comfort from the improvements in life expectancy, the roughly 10 year gap between indigenous and non-indigenous life expectancy is still disturbing.

It must be our goal as a nation to eliminate this gap within a generation.

Our health is in many ways a reflection of our communities. That is why we have to ensure that children go to schools, adults go to work and the ordinary rule of the land operates in Aboriginal communities.

We need a new level of engagement at every level of society to ensure that Aboriginal people receive better educational, employment, housing and health outcomes. I have brought indigenous affairs into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to achieve exactly that.

I pay tribute to all of you who are working to provide Indigenous Australians with the local health services they need.

I send my best wishes for a successful meeting.

The Hon Tony Abbott MP

Prime Minister of Australia

19 November

NACCHO AGM Perth 2013 health news: Aboriginal life expectancy increases to Close the Gap

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Life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men increased by around one and a half years over the last five years, compared to about one year for non-Indigenous men. Life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women increased by about half a year over the period, roughly the same increase as non-Indigenous women.

Life expectancy at birth for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in 2010-2012 was 69.1 years for men and 73.7 years for women, according to figures released November 15 by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Download ABS life tables report 2013

Download ABS life expectancy FACT SHEET 2013

DOWNLOAD THE DATA in Xcel

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Justin Mohamed Chair of NACCHO is reporting to the NACCHO AGM in Perth this week that the NACCHO recently  commissioned Healthy for Life report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare  gave a great overview of the success of ACCHOs and delivered the evidence of just how big a contribution NACCHO ‘s 150 members are making to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal people.

Follow the NACCHO chair Justin Mohamed in Perth this week on TWITTER #NACCHOAGM13

DOWNLOAD THE AIHW NACCHO Healthy for LIFE Report Card

“The comprehensive report showed that Aboriginal Community Controlled services provided culturally appropriate primary health care to over 310,000 Aboriginal people each year, around half the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, and we are credited with three quarters of the health gains made against the Close the Gap targets.” Mr Mohamed said.

ABS Director of Demography, Bjorn Jarvis, said “Life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men increased by around one and a half years over the last five years, compared to about one year for non-Indigenous men. Life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women increased by about half a year over the period, roughly the same increase as non-Indigenous women,”

“The figures show that the gap in life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared to non-Indigenous people has narrowed,  but only slightly,” said Mr Jarvis.

The new figures for 2010-2012 show that life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men is estimated to be 10.6 years lower than non-Indigenous men, while life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is 9.5 years lower than non-Indigenous women. The gap has reduced by 0.8 years for men and 0.1 years for women over the period.

Response from the Close the Gap  Campaign

Life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples still lags behind that of non-Indigenous Australians, according to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data released today.

Close the Gap campaign co-chair, Mick Gooda, said the small improvement disclosed in the data covers a five-year period during which Closing the Gap policies were implemented.

“The ABS data shows a small but very welcome improvement in Aboriginal and Torre Strait Islander life expectancy. However, a significant gap remains,” Mr Gooda said.

Mr Gooda, who is also the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples don’t want to the health of Australia’s First Peoples to continue to lag behind the broader community.

“When we started the Close the Gap campaign we knew this was a generational effort. We knew that reducing the life expectancy gap was achievable but would take a concerted effort. That’s why we set the 2030 target and are working with the Government and the Opposition to ensure health equality for all Australians.”

Kirstie Parker, co-chair of the Close the Gap campaign and of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, acknowledged the strong support for closing the gap from all political parties and from the wider Australian community.

“It’s heartening to see Government, Opposition and Greens support for the Close the Gap campaign, and almost 200,000 Australians have pledged their support.  Closing the gap is a national priority and an area of bipartisan support that the Government can build on,” Ms Parker said.

In August, the Close the Gap campaign articulated a platform for the first 100 days of the new Government. With that anniversary fast-approaching, Ms Parker said Close the Gap will work with Government so that it:

  • reports back to Parliament on the first parliamentary day of each year;
  • forges an agreement through COAG for a new National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Health Outcomes; and
  • establishes a clear process to implement the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023.

NACCHO Aboriginal health news : Understanding the 21% Increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Census Counts, 2006-2011

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Understanding the Increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Census Counts, 2006-2011

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the publication Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the Increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Counts, 2006-2011 (cat. no. 2077.0) on 17 September 2013.

You can view here

The key findings in this publication are as follows.

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Explaining the increase

  • Between 2006 and 2011, the increase in the Census counts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was much larger than expected, rising by 21% (93,300 people).
  • The vast majority (90% or 83,100) of the increase occurred in non-remote areas, with just over two-thirds (67% or 62,400) of the increase occurring in New South Wales and Queensland.
  • More than two-thirds of the increase (65,500) can be explained by measurable demographic factors of population change (births, deaths, and migration).
  • The remainder of the increase (27,800) is due to a range of other factors. Analysis suggests the most significant other factor contributing to the increased count was a change in the way some people reported their Indigenous status between 2006 and 2011, resulting in them identifying themselves and (if they had children) their children as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin in 2011 but not in 2006.
  • When demographic analysis is undertaken on population estimates (which are adjusted for the Census undercount), a similar conclusion about an increased propensity to identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin can be made.  In other words, the non-demographic component of the increase in the Census counts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (27,800) is not explained by significant changes in the Census undercount.

Family and age dynamics

  • The increase in the count of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children aged less than 15 years can be partly explained by an increased count of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander parents.
  • Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children with mixed parentage (where one parent is of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin and the other parent is not) accounted for half of the increase in Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander children aged 5-9 years in 2011.

Changes in socio-economic characteristics

  • Comparisons of the Census counts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in 2006 and 2011 suggest there has been little change in selected characteristics, such as the proportion of people living in each Remoteness Area, fertility rates and labour force outcomes.
  • The main differences between 2006 and 2011 were an increase in the proportion of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over with a Year 12 or equivalent qualification (up from 20% to 25%) and in the proportion of those aged 25 years and over with a non-school qualification (up from 25% to 31%).
  • Since the count of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was much larger in the 2011 Census than in the 2006 Census, any change in socio-economic characteristics should not be assumed to reflect an outcome for the population identified in 2006.
  • Because of the likely change in the propensity of people to identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin, caution should be exercised when comparing rates calculated using 2006 data and 2011 data (e.g. proportion of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people with a Year 12 or equivalent qualification). Revised estimates of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander population (back to 2001) based on the 2011 Census results will be released by the ABS on 30 April 2014 and using those estimates for the denominator will provide a more consistent basis for rate calculations and comparisons.

Further analysis is expected to be undertaken in the future to investigate some of the key contributors to the increase in counts in more detail. The ABS Statistical Longitudinal Census Dataset, due to be released in December 2013, will provide a new data source for analysing changes in the characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples between Censuses.

Please direct any questions about this publication to:

  • Julie Nankervis, Director, National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics, ph 08 8943 2146, email Julie.nankervis@abs.gov.au, or
  • Bjorn Jarvis, Director, Demography, ph 02 6252 6411, email bjorn.jarvis@abs.gov.au.

Australian Bureau of Statistics

17 September 2013

NACCHO health news :New Stats Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population nearing 700,000

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The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population has a younger age structure than the non-Indigenous population, with larger proportions of young people and smaller proportions of older people.

Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population has reached 669,900(or 3 per cent of the total population), according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today.

The Director of Demography at the ABS, Bjorn Jarvis, said that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples mainly lived in urban areas.

“Contrary to popular belief, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population predominantly lives in Australia’s most populous areas, with about 60 per cent living in major cities and inner regional areas, and just over 20 per cent living in remote and very remote areas,” Mr Jarvis said.

ABS

“New South Wales has the largest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (208,500), followed by Queensland (189,000) and Western Australia (88,300). About three-quarters of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in these three states.

“Almost a third (30 per cent) of the Northern Territory’s population were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – the highest of any state or territory. Victoria had the smallest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at just under 1 per cent.

“The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population has a younger age structure than the non-Indigenous population, with larger proportions of young people and smaller proportions of older people.

The median age of the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander population as of June 2011 was 22 years, compared to 38 years for the non-Indigenous population,” Mr Jarvis said.

Further details, including the method of calculation, are available in

Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2011 (cat. no. 3238.0.55.001) available for free download from the ABS

 

NACCHO health and politics:Aboriginal health and the Australian Constitution ,how do we fix both ?

Aboriginal Soverienty

Chris Lawrence

chris-lawrence

The George Institute for Global Health, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, New South Wales

As an Aboriginal Noongar person from Whadjuk country (Perth) Western Australia, I have seen first- hand the experiences and devastating impact of poor health and the effects of premature death on loved ones. In my own large family and community, there have been many preventable deaths in young and mature age people, but poor health decisions still occur.

Acquiring diabetes or heart disease is almost like a rite of passage, some sort of “cultural initiation”. “We all die from something eventually” , is the general notion.

It saddens me to hear many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people talk about early death as if it is inevitable and life is not worth living.

Since the first Aboriginal Medical Service was set up in 1972 in Redfern, New South Wales, health care services have improved for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country. There is really no excuse for people to not have regular health checks, or is there ?.

The life expectancy gap between an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other Australians is still too wide. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 2011 estimated that this life gap is 12 years for males and 10 years for females. These statistics clearly illustrate that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are still not taking full advantage of these health services or programs. Why is that ?.

I believe there are two fundamental issues to help us understand this disparity. One is about the individual and their health status; the second is about their status as an Australian citizen.

This essay will discuss the association between the health and wellbeing of Australia’s First Peoples and the fundamental legal right of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders to be officially recognised in the Australian Constitution. I acknowledge there are other important determinants of health and well being; however this editorial focuses on health and citizenship status.

Health Status

In 1946 the World Health Organization (WHO) Constitution stated that, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.

In Australia in 1989, the first and only National Aboriginal and Islander Health Strategy clearly advocated for a holistic approach to addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health : we need to recognize the whole person and their environment and not just treat sick body parts.

It has been widely documented that poor people are more often unhealthy people. The more money you have, the more likely you are to look after yourself (in theory, not always in practice). In research terms this is known as social determinants of health, where socioeconomic factors are often taken into consideration to help explain poor health outcomes.

This journal has consistently published papers and letters on these issues, in particular, the December 2012 issue provided varying commentaries on “Healthy Equity”. For many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, these social determinants of health are largely related to the legacy of British colonial history and the generations of poor government policies that have continued to have a profound impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing.

The 1997 “stolen generations” report Bringing them Home provided detailed information about the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. For the first time, the report highlighted the depth of this legacy and, in particular, the traumatic experiences of childhood issues (often physical and sexual abuse), and the relationship of the social and emotional wellbeing to the health of the person. This report only scratched the surface, and there is a need for a follow-up report that more deeply explores the consequences for long-term health.

As an early career researcher in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health who is exploring ways of reducing obesity, diabetes and heart disease through early intervention methods such as nutritious diets and exercise, I research attitudes and behaviours that influence health decisions. I regularly see data showing conflicting patterns of attitudes and behaviour, a complex array of “mixed messages” shaping how people decisions regarding their own health.

On the one hand, people know that good food and exercise mean good health. However, at the same time people will acknowledge that they smoke, and are diabetic and overweight. In some of our focus groups, research participants will talk about their childhood experiences and relate these to their own poor health status in a direct connection.

Citizenship status

As an Aboriginal person, I often find myself feeling like a second-class citizen, and perhaps this has something to do with my own birth date and where I lived at that time. I was born in 1966, the year before the Australian 1967 Referendum, which was not explicitly about citizenship for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Commonwealth Electoral Act was amended in 1962 to give franchise to all Aboriginal people, extending the right to vote to Aboriginal people in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory people in Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. The Referendum changed sections of the Constitution from 1901 that stated, “in reckoning the numbers of people… Aboriginal natives shall not be counted”.

It also changed sections that said the Commonwealth would legislate for any race except Aboriginal people. This left the power over Aboriginal Affairs with the States. We can take two perspectives of the Referendum : 1) Aboriginal people were counted in the Census and 2) the Commonwealth was given the power to legislate for Aboriginal people; ironic that the Commonwealth government now uses this power to mount the intervention in the Northern Territory.

While the Referendum provided voting rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, many were still living in conditions shaped by the White Australia Policy enacted at Federation in 1901. The Western Australian Aborigines Act passed in 1905 made the Chief Protector the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and “half-caste” child under 16. Reserves were established, a local protector appointed and rules governing Aboriginal employment were laid down.

My own Aboriginal mother and father were fresh from the Missions and aged 16 and 17 when I was born in 1966. While my mother was allowed to give birth to me in a hospital, I was later taken home to the local Reserve where I am told we lived in tin shacks with dirt floors, overcrowding and no sanitation.

I recall going back to the Reserve during my childhood holidays and it has always haunted me to think that governments segregated Aboriginal people to live this way. In great contrast, also in 1966, the United Nations launched the International Covenant on Economic, social and Cultural Rights which states that, “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”.

I also become perplexed about my own “citizenship status’ particularly when I listen to discussions about native title and land rights as well as human rights in Australia. We have a long way to go to address the First Peoples’s issues, but watching mainstream TV or listening to radio talk-back shows discussing these topics is disturbing and disheartening.

Most panellists are either ill-informed and  ignorant or are deliberately misleading the audience to gain points for their own political parties. Listening to these programs does not encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be “proud Australians; rather the discussion can further isolate them from the wider Australian population.

I believe not feeling a proud citizen of your own country can affect your sense of self-worth and directly shape decisions and choices about one’s own health and wellbeing.

The Australian Constitution

For more than 100 years, The Australian Constitution has been providing the basic rules by which Australia is governed. It is of continuing importance to Australia because it is the legal and political foundation on which our nation is built and continues to function.

What does the Constitution represent for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people ?. From my perspective, the Australian Constitution discriminate and does not provide adequate (if any) protection for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of this country.

We would need to go to a referendum to make any changes to the Constitution but, in great contrast, the Racial Discrimination Act 1975 has been amended at least three times. All three related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Islander issues – most recently to accommodate the expansion of the Commonwealth Government’s Northern Territory intervention/response and “therefore, it was ineffective in protecting our peoples from the most fundamental of all freedoms, the freedom from discrimination.

Recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian Constitution is inherently the right thing to do as we are the First Peoples of Australia. In 1992, Prime Minister Paul Keating addressed the nation from Redfern Park. He said, “complex as our contemporary identity is, it cannot be separated from Aboriginal Australia’ and “the starting point might be to recognise that the problem starts with non-Aboriginal Australians”. Keating went on to discuss the need for constitutional recognition : “It begins with the act of recognition … We have to give meaning to ‘justice and ‘equality’ … We need these practical building blocks of change.

If we change the Constitution to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander place in Australia, it will start to deliver and address a wide range of human and Indigenous rights issues. It will also be a unique catalyst to improving the health and well-being of ALL Aboriginal and Torres Strait People and our future generations.

In 2008, when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered a national apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, he said, “We apologize for the laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians’ and “We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians. A future where this parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never, happen again… A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity. A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed”.

The monumental legal act of recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Australian Constitution will instil a real sense of pride and dignity for our First Peoples and be one of the solutions to closing the life expectancy gap. It will strongly encourage a more robust participation in the health, as well as the education and employment systems to build strong and proud future generations of Australians.

In regards to health, it will particularly benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the primary health stages, so people will utilise community health programs and embrace health promotion to reduce chronic and preventable diseases rather present with advanced or end-stage disease. This would have the potential to save millions of dollars in health care and social support and, most importantly, save lives.

It is time that we recognise the True First Peoples of this country in our Constitution but more importantly from a health perspective, we need to address these issues as a nation in unity. Health education and funding resources are essential, but recognising one’s own value and worth in the framework of this country as a first-class citizen is vital to taking personal responsibility and addressing one’s own health needs. It has to start with the individual if we as a nation and as health care professionals can truly make any difference.

A healthy Australian is a proud Australian.

The changing face of Aboriginal Australia: 2011 Census released

Photo supplied by Congress Alice Springs

Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population has a median age of 21 years, compared with 38 years for non-Indigenous people, according to a publication released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today.

Director of the National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics, Julie Nankervis, said the Census of Population and Housing: Characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2011 looks at the 2011 Census statistics for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

 “Overall nearly 550,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were counted in the 2011 Census, which is an increase of 21 per cent from 2006,” said Ms Nankervis.

 “The publication shows children aged under 15 years make up 36 per cent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, compared with 19 per cent of the non-Indigenous population.

“People 65 years and over make up 4 per cent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population compared to 14 per cent of the non-Indigenous population.

 “In the 2011 Census, we saw that 37 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over have completed Year 12 or higher qualifications, up from 30 per cent in 2006.

“In housing 59 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households rented while 25 per cent owned their homes with a mortgage and 11 per cent owned their homes outright.

 “There was a large increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households that had access to an internet connection at 63 per cent, compared to 40 per cent in 2006.

 “Over one-third of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over provided unpaid childcare for their children and/or someone else’s children in the two weeks prior to Census, while 13 per cent provided unpaid assistance to a person with a disability.

Just over one in ten Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people spoke an Australian Indigenous language at home,” she said.

  • The ABS will continue to release Census products that report statistics for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • For comparative statistics between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people, see the 2076.0 publication.
  • These products can be accessed on the web for free.

 ABS conducting largest survey of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has commenced the largest Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health survey which will improve our knowledge of the health issues affecting this group of Australians.

This survey will expand on the 2004-05 survey by increasing the number of participants by 30%, collecting new information on exercise, diet (including bush foods) and measures of cholesterol, blood glucose and iron.

For the first time, the ABS will directly measure obesity and blood pressure levels, as well as nutritional status and chronic disease. By combining the self-reported information together with the biomedical samples, a more complete picture of the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples will be available. Importantly this will give us some information about the level of undiagnosed conditions, such as diabetes.

While the biomedical component of the survey is voluntary, our survey champion Cathy Freeman encourages people to get involved as: ‘you will be helping your family, your community, and future generations to live longer healthier lives’.

The survey will be conducted over 2012-13 across the country in cities and remote communities to create evidence to measure progress in improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and contributing to Closing the Gap in life expectancy.

The first survey results will be released in September 2013 and will be used by a wide range of Aboriginal organisations, health researchers, public health advocates, government, clinicians and community health organisations.

Further information and detailed questions and answers are available on the ABS website at www.abs.gov.au/australianhealthsurvey