4433.0.55.005 - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People with a Disability, 2012  
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INTRODUCTION

Over the last decade there has been an increased awareness of the disparity that exists between the socioeconomic circumstances of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous populations of Australia. With Government and community initiatives aimed at ‘Closing the Gap’ in outcomes between the two populations, there has been a corresponding interest in comparative data related to both groups (Endnote 1). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability may be especially vulnerable to disadvantage.

This article compares the prevalence of disability among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people, using data from the 2012 Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) which provides the most comprehensive measure of disability. Users should refer to the technical note for information about other ABS disability measures relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

ABOUT THE INFORMATION

Data presented in this article are from the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 2012. The SDAC is designed to measure the prevalence of disability in Australia and the need for support by people with disability. This article marks the second release of data about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from the SDAC. The sample for the 2012 SDAC consisted of approximately 27,400 private dwellings, 1,000 health establishments and 500 other non-private dwellings. It was designed to provide reliable estimates of disability at the national level and for each state and territory (Endnote 2).

The 2012 SDAC sampled 1550 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and 66,550 non-Indigenous people living in private dwellings. Comparisons between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people in this article are limited to people in private dwellings excluding those in very remote areas and are therefore not necessarily representative of all people living across Australia. While the proportion of non-Indigenous people living in very remote areas is very small (less than 1%), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in very remote areas account for around 14% of that population. This means that the exclusion of people in very remote areas from the SDAC is likely to have a greater impact on data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than on data for non-Indigenous people (Endnote 3).

At the time of the survey, there were estimated to be 440,100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and 22,032,000 non-Indigenous people living in private dwellings.

Age standardisation is often used when comparing data from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous populations. This is because the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population has a larger proportion of young people, and a smaller proportion of older people, than the non-Indigenous population. The age standardised rates in this article are calculated using the direct age standardisation method, and using the age categories of 0 to 14 years, and then 10 year age groups to 54 years, and then a single age group for people aged 55 years or over. Further information on age standardisation may be found in the Glossary of the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (Endnote 4). The disability rate without age standardising is known as the crude disability rate.

For clarity, in this article the surveyed groups will be referred to as 'Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander' people and 'non-Indigenous' people.

HOW COMMON IS DISABILITY?

In the SDAC, disability is defined as ‘any limitation, restriction or impairment which restricts everyday activities and has lasted or is likely to last for at least six months’. In 2012, it was estimated that 18.5% of all Australians (including those living in cared accommodation) had a disability that restricted their daily living in some way (Endnote 2). The SDAC did not collect Indigenous status of people living in cared accommodation and other non-private dwellings such as hotels, motels, short-term caravan parks and self-care components of retirement villages (Endnote 5). As such, the data analysed here are for people living in private dwellings only. Among people living in private dwellings, the disability rate was 17.5% in 2012 and 17.6% in 2009.

Data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people show that:
  • The crude disability rate was 23.4% in 2012 a slight increase on 21.1% in 2009, though this difference was not statistically significant;
  • The overall disability rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and females were not significantly different (24.8% and 22.2% respectively);
  • The disability rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boys aged 0–14 years (21.1%) was 2.5 times as high as the comparable rate for girls (8.5%).

There were notable differences in the rates of disability in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous populations:
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had higher rates of disability than non-Indigenous people across all age groups;
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 years were more than twice as likely as non-Indigenous children to have a disability (15.2% compared with 6.6%);
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 35-54 years were 2.7 times as likely as non-Indigenous people of the same age to have a disability (37.8% and 14.2% respectively);
  • After adjusting for differences in the age structure of the two populations, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were 1.7 times as likely as non-Indigenous people to be living with disability (27.6% compared with 16.5%).

Graph Image for Prevalence of disability, by Age by Indigenous status, 2009 and 2012

Source(s): Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, 2009 and 2012



SEVERITY OF DISABILITY

A core activity refers to one of three main everyday activities - self-care (eating, dressing, bathing etc), mobility and communicating with others. A person with profound core activity limitation is unable to do at least one of these activities at any time or needs constant help. A person with severe core activity limitation needs help some of the time with at least one of these activities. The combined measure ‘profound/severe core activity limitation’ therefore identifies people at the most severe end of the disability spectrum.

In 2012:
  • 7.8% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had a profound/severe core activity limitation (7.8% of males and 7.5% of females);
  • In all age groups (except for 55 years and over) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were significantly more likely than non-Indigenous people to have a profound/severe core activity limitation (Graph 2);
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were 1.5 times as likely as non-Indigenous people to be living with a profound/severe core activity limitation (7.8% compared to 5.2%).

Graph Image for Prevalence of profound or severe core activity limitation, by Age by Indigenous status, 2012

Source(s): Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, 2012



DISABILITY IN NON-REMOTE AREAS

In major cities and inner regional areas, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were significantly more likely to be living with disability than non-Indigenous people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in major cities and inner regional areas were 1.4 and 1.2 times as likely to be living with disability as non-Indigenous people in these areas.

Graph Image for Prevalence of disability, by Accessibility Remoteness Index of Australia (ARIA) by Indigenous status, 2012

Source(s): Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, 2012



EDUCATION

Education is an important means by which individuals can realise their full potential and it can have a positive effect on well-being. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability were 1.3 times more likely than non-Indigenous people with disability to have reported Year 10 or below as their highest level of educational attainment (59.7% compared with 45.1%), and were less than half as likely to have a bachelor degree or higher (6.3% compared with 13.0%).

EMPLOYMENT

Work provides both financial and social benefits. Generally Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had lower labour force participation than non-Indigenous people (64.5% compared with 78.6%), however, the gap was wider amongst those with disability (34.8% and 53.6%).

In 2012:
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability were significantly less likely than non-Indigenous people with disability to be employed (25.6% compared with 48.7%); and
  • The unemployment rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability was nearly three times as high as the comparable rate for non-Indigenous people with disability (25.3% compared with 9.0%).

NEED AND RECEIPT OF ASSISTANCE

In the SDAC there are ten activities of daily living for which need and receipt of assistance is collected. Overall, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability have a significantly higher need for assistance compared with non-Indigenous people (63.1% compared with 59.9%). For example, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were almost twice as likely to need assistance with communication (11.3% and 6.6% respectively), and more likely to need assistance with cognitive or emotional tasks (28.9% compared with 21.7%).

For some other activities, such as health care and property maintenance, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disabilities were less likely to report needing assistance compared with non-Indigenous people (24.1% and 28.8% respectively for health care, 20.5% and 29.3% respectively for property maintenance).

The vast majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous people who reported they need assistance with activities stated they receive some help (93% for both).

TECHNICAL NOTE

DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE SURVEY OF DISABILITY, AGEING AND CARERS, THE AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER HEALTH SURVEY AND THE CENSUS OF POPULATION AND HOUSING

The Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (AATSIHS) conducted in 2012-13 is a multi-faceted survey which provides broad information across key areas of health concern. Information about the disability and long term health conditions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was collected in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) component of this survey.

Disability estimates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) may differ from those in the NATSIHS component of the AATSIHS due to differences in the scope of these surveys, and the weighting of estimates to different population benchmarks (Endnotes 2 and 4 respectively). There are also differences in collection methodology, with SDAC using a series of screening questions which have been found to be more effective in differentiating between people with disability and those with long-term health conditions but no disability (Endnote 6). Estimates of overall disability in the NATSIHS, therefore, are markedly higher than the disability estimates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the SDAC.

The five yearly Census of Population and Housing measures the number and key characteristics of people in Australia on Census night, as well as information about the dwellings in which they live. Information about need for assistance in the core activities of self-care, communication or mobility has been collected in the 2006 and 2011 censuses, and is designed to be comparable with the SDAC measure of people who have a profound or severe core activity limitation.

The disability estimates in SDAC differ from those in the Census because of differences in scope and methodology. The information on need for assistance is derived from a short question set on the Census form, and these typically identify fewer people in the population of interest (Endnote 7).

Being a large survey dedicated specifically to the collection of data on people with disability, the SDAC is able to provide more detail about people with disability than is possible to achieve through the NATSIHS or the Census. However, the SDAC, the NATSIHS and the Census consistently show that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people generally have higher rates of disability than the non-Indigenous population.

Further information on ABS sources of disability information can be found in ABS Sources of Disability Information, Australia, 2003-2008 (cat. no. 4431.0.55.002)

ENDNOTES

1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Information Paper: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Demographic Statistics Work Program and Release Plans, Apr 2012 (cat. no. 3238.0.55.003)

2. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Summary of Findings, 2012 (cat. no. 4430.0)

3. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, June 2011 (cat. no. 3238.0.55.001)

4. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey: First Results, 2012-13 (cat. no. 4727.0.55.001)

5. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Summary of Findings, 2012: Glossary (cat. no. 4430.0)

6. Australian Bureau of Statistics, ABS Sources of Disability Information, Australia, 2003-2008 (cat. no. 4431.0.55.002)

7. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census Dictionary, 2011 (cat. no. 2901.0)