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Survey Analysis for Indigenous Policy in Australia

Survey Analysis for Indigenous Policy in Australia: Social Sciences Perspectives

Boyd Hunter
Nicholas Biddle
Volume: 32
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: ANU Press
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  • Book Info
    Survey Analysis for Indigenous Policy in Australia
    Book Description:

    Indigenous policy is a complex domain motivated by a range of social, cultural, political and economic issues. The Council of Australian Governments 'closing the gaps' agenda for addressing Indigenous disadvantage in Australia now includes six targets with well defined and measurable outcomes for policy action. In this context there is a continuing and pressing need for robust debate to understand how meaningful improvement in Indigenous outcomes might be achieved. This monograph presents the peer-reviewed proceedings of the 2011 CAEPR/ABS conference on 'Social Science Perspectives on the 2008 National and Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Social Survey'. It is the fourth CAEPR monograph since 1992 to reflect on national surveys of Indigenous Australians. The conference covered topics including child development, crime and justice, culture, wellbeing, the customary economy, demography, education, employment, fertility, health, housing, income and financial stress, mobility, poverty, social exclusion, and substance abuse. The papers summarise the strengths and limitations of the 2008 NATSISS, discuss the types of policy-relevant questions it can inform, and consider future survey design. A social survey such as the NATSISS can ultimately never tell those responsible for developing public policy what to do, but it can provide useful information to inform policy decisions. This volume will be useful for researchers and policy makers, and relevant to the wider national debate and, in particular, Indigenous communities and organisations.

    eISBN: 978-1-922144-19-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Abbreviations and acronyms
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of tables
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. List of figures
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. Contributors
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
  8. 1. Towards a broader understanding of Indigenous disadvantage
    (pp. 1-12)
    Boyd Hunter and Nicholas Biddle

    Indigenous policy is a diverse and complex domain motivated by a range of social, cultural, political and economic issues. One central component of current Indigenous policy is the Australian Government’s stated aim to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous outcomes. This focus on Indigenous disadvantage is not new and has a considerable pre-history. Under the Hawke government in the 1980s there was considerable concentration on ‘statistical equality’. The Howard government placed more emphasis on ‘practical reconciliation’, which focuses on employment, which he juxtaposed with ‘symbolic reconciliation’ that was claimed to have been excessively emphasised in the recent past. The...

  9. 2. Mobile people, mobile measures: Limitations and opportunities for mobility analysis
    (pp. 13-34)
    John Taylor and Martin Bell

    As the third in a (now) regular round of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Surveys (NATSISS), the 2008 survey is an important addition to the ever-growing armoury of statistical information available to governments and others in their analysis of the social, cultural and economic circumstances of Indigenous Australians. This survey activity is important because it provides the basis for determining change in individual and group circumstances since the first survey in 1994 and it lays a foundation for considering this into the future. Current results may also now be added to the volume of information available from the...

  10. 3. Fertility and the demography of Indigenous Australians: What can the NATSISS 2008 tell us?
    (pp. 35-48)
    Kim Johnstone and Ann Evans

    The primary concerns of demographers relate to population size, distribution and composition – how big the population is; the rate of population growth; the population’s age and gender profiles; and where people are located. There are three components that drive population size and composition changes (or stasis) over time:

    fertility: the number of live births within a population, with a particular interest in the age women have babies and how many they have over their life time

    mortality: not only how many people die, but also what age they die, and

    migration: where are people moving to and from, how long...

  11. 4. Does the 2008 NATSISS underestimate the prevalence of high risk Indigenous drinking?
    (pp. 49-64)
    Tanya Chikritzhs and Wenbin Liang

    The 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) estimated that some 9 per cent of Indigenous males and 3.7 per cent of Indigenous females (6.3% for males and females combined) consumed alcohol at levels which placed them at high risk of chronic harm (Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2010a). This was similar to that estimated by the 2002 NATSISS of 5.6 per cent for males and females combined (ABS 2004).¹ Levels of alcohol use which place the drinker at high risk for chronic harm were defined by the 2001 National Health and Medical Research Council (NHRMC) guidelines...

  12. 5. Improving Indigenous health: Are mainstream determinants sufficient?
    (pp. 65-78)
    Nicholas Biddle

    The headline target of the Council of Australian Governments ‘closing the gap’ agenda is the elimination of the difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous life expectancy in Australia. While this in and of itself is a worthwhile (if difficult to achieve) aim, life expectancy represents just one aspect of physical and mental health. Instead, the World Health Organization (WHO 2006) defines health as ‘not only the absence of infirmity and disease but also a state of physical, mental and social wellbeing’.

    This definition of health makes it clear that individuals can be completely free of disease and appear in a physical...

  13. 6. What shapes the development of Indigenous children?
    (pp. 79-102)
    Carrington Shepherd and Stephen R. Zubrick

    Descriptions of the Australian Indigenous circumstance have been dramatically enriched through improvements in, and delivery of, high quality quantitative survey findings over the past 20 years. Since 1901 – when Indigenous Australians were effectively excluded from even being counted in the populations of the States of the Commonwealth (Briscoe 2003) – Australia has made significant improvements in its capacity to detail the demographic and developmental status of its Indigenous peoples. Amid this progress though, it still remains the case that good quality descriptions of the developmental circumstances of Indigenous children, as distinct from Indigenous adults, are surprisingly few and far between. The...

  14. 7. The benefits of Indigenous education: Data findings and data gaps
    (pp. 103-124)
    Nicholas Biddle and Timothy Cameron

    Although the headline target for the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Closing the Gap agenda is the elimination of the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, in numerical terms, education dominates with three of the six targets related to it. This includes targets related to preschool access (Target 3), literacy and numeracy (Target 4) and Year 12 completion (Target 5). The setting of these targets clearly recognises that not only is education important in and of itself, but without reducing disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians in education, other targets on health and employment are unlikely to be...

  15. 8. What are the factors determining Indigenous labour market outcomes?
    (pp. 125-162)
    Prem Thapa, Qasim Shah and Shafiq Ahmad

    The aggregate gaps in employment rates and other labour market outcomes between the non-Indigenous and Indigenous sub-populations in Australia are well documented and form a key plank in the Closing the Gap agenda adopted by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG). Successful employment outcomes with well-paying jobs are critical components of Indigenous wellbeing.

    Behind these aggregate gaps however lies a wide variation in the labour market engagement and outcomes for Indigenous Australians. What is less well understood are the various drivers of successful labour market outcomes within the Indigenous sub-population that lead to the aggregate gaps. This occurs because the...

  16. 9. The Indigenous hybrid economy: Can the NATSISS adequately recognise difference?
    (pp. 163-192)
    Jon Altman, Nicholas Biddle and Geoff Buchanan

    In today’s Australia, hunting is an unusual form of productive activity, but for many Indigenous Australians it represents one continuity with the precolonial hunter-gatherer mode of production. The settler and state colonisation of Australia has generated a remarkable diversity of available livelihood options and hunting remains one form.

    We begin with two graphic illustrations of difference because part of the rationale for the NATSISS is to document Indigenous difference as well as diversity. The butchered carcass of a feral water buffalo shown in Fig. 9.1 was located on the side of the main road between Maningrida and Darwin near an...

  17. 10. Is Indigenous poverty different from other poverty?
    (pp. 193-222)
    Boyd Hunter

    The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) adopted six targets in 2008 with the main aim to close the life expectancy gap within a generation. Specific goals are in the areas of mortality, access to early childhood education, reading, writing and numeracy achievements, Year 12 attainment and employment disadvantage. While none of the targets explicitly mention poverty, it would be unreasonable to ignore it and the associated financial stress as both are likely to condition the ability to achieve any of the targets identified. For example, standard measures of income poverty illustrates that many Indigenous people may lack the private resources...

  18. 11. Is there a cultural explanation for Indigenous violence? A second look at the NATSISS
    (pp. 223-240)
    Don Weatherburn and Lucy Snowball

    Violence is a chronic problem among Indigenous Australians. The 2002 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) found that 22 per cent of Australia’s Indigenous population (aged 15 years and over) had been victims of physical or threatened violence in the 12months preceding the survey (ABS 2004). The 2008 NATSISS survey (ABS 2010) showed a very similar result (23%). It is impossible to obtain comparable figures on the prevalence of physical or threatened assault among non-Indigenous people. There is little doubt, however, that serious violence is far more prevalent among Indigenous Australians. In...

  19. 12. NATSISS crowding data: What does it assume and how can we challenge the orthodoxy?
    (pp. 241-280)
    Paul Memmott, Kelly Greenop, Andrew Clarke, Carroll Go-Sam, Christina Birdsall-Jones, William Harvey-Jones, Vanessa Corunna and Mark Western

    In this paper we consider the sociospatial problem of crowding in Indigenous Australia. Quantitative data are regularly collected in Census and other social surveys by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to create quantitative indices of the extent of household utilisation and then ‘overcrowding’ in Australian society in general, and amongst the Australian Indigenous population in particular. However, in our view, the identification of states of Indigenous crowding requires an understanding of distinct cultural constructs to achieve greater validity of measurement. Our analysis also refers to the interconnected nature of Indigenous crowding and homelessness, a relatedness that has been seldom...

  20. 13. Do traditional culture and identity promote the wellbeing of Indigenous Australians? Evidence from the 2008 NATSISS
    (pp. 281-306)
    Alfred Michael Dockery

    This chapter reports results from one of several ongoing avenues of investigation into the relationship between Indigenous Australians’ attachment to traditional culture and their socioeconomic outcomes and wellbeing. In an analysis of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), Dockery (2010a) presented evidence that Indigenous people with stronger attachment to their culture fare better on a range of outcomes: self-assessed health, substance abuse, incidence of arrest, employment and educational attainment. Motivating this analysis was an attempt to reconsider the enduring debate between the two predominant and opposing schools of thought on...

  21. 14. A mile wide, inch deep: The future for Indigenous social surveys?
    (pp. 307-320)
    Matthew Gray

    Shortly after the release of data from the 1994 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey (NATSIS), Jon Altman and John Taylor wrote: ‘At some future time, it is likely that the undertaking of the 1994 NATSIS will be regarded as a watershed in the collection of statistics about Indigenous Australians’ (Altman and Taylor 1996: 193). Some 15 years later this prediction has proven to be true. The 1994 survey and the subsequent National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Surveys (NATSISS) conducted in 2002 and 2008 have become an important source of information on the circumstances of Indigenous Australians....

  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 321-322)