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4720.0 - National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey: Users' Guide, 2008  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 26/02/2010   
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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE


OVERVIEW

This chapter provides information on the following topics collected in the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS):



LANGUAGE

Languages are a key element in the identity and spiritual grounding of Indigenous peoples (AIATSIS, 2005). The 2008 NATSISS collected information on language around four main themes:

Main language spoken at home

People aged 3 years and over were asked which of the following languages they mainly spoke at home:
  • English;
  • Aboriginal language;
  • Torres Strait Islander language; or
  • an other language.

If a person spoke more than one language at home, they were prompted to respond based on the language most often spoken. For children aged 3-14 years, a response was provided by their proxy. For children aged 3-5 years, an additional response category was available for those 'not yet speaking'.

In the 2008 NATSISS, if a person said they spoke a Kriol or Pidgin language, they were classified as speaking an 'other language'. This differs to other ABS surveys, such as the Census of Population and Housing and the National Health Survey, which classify these languages as follows:
  • Aboriginal Kriol/Creole as 'Other Australian Indigenous Languages'; and
  • Torres Strait Creole as 'Torres Strait Island languages'.

It should also be noted that because the specific language mainly spoken was not recorded, the categories 'Aboriginal language' and 'Torres Strait Islander language' may include people who spoke a Kriol or Pidgin language, but who nominated the broad-level language group.

Comparison to the 2002 NATSISS

In 2002, this information was only collected for people aged 15 years and over.


Difficulty communicating in English

People aged 15 years and over whose main language spoken at home was an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander language were also asked about any difficulties they may have had when they went places where only English was spoken. The types of places provided as examples included Centrelink, the post office, banks or shops. Responses were based on experience of the following problematic situations:
  • understanding people at a place;
  • people at the place understanding them;
  • both; or
  • neither.

People may have also responded that they could speak English. People who said that neither situation had occurred to them were subsequently asked what types of actions or assistance they had used to help them understand people or to help them to be understood at these places. Responses included:
  • taking someone along (with them) who speaks English;
  • using an Interpreter (provided to them); or
  • other.

Comparison to the 2002 NATSISS

In 2002, the response categories for difficulties experienced in communicating did not include 'both' or 'can speak English'. In 2002, the follow-up question regarding assistance differed and only allowed for a yes/no response. The question was. 'Do you ever need someone to go with you to help you understand?'


Speakers of an Indigenous language

People aged 3 years and over who identified English or an other language as their main language at home, were asked about their ability to speak an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander language. For children aged 3-14 years, a response was provided by their proxy.

People were asked whether they spoke any Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander languages, with the following responses available:
  • yes;
  • yes, some words only; or
  • no.

If the person said they spoke Aboriginal English, Kriol or a Pidgin language, a 'no' response was recorded. If the person required more information to provide a response, they were given the following definitions:
  • yes - the person could speak the language well enough to hold a conversation; or
  • yes, some words only - the person could not hold a conversation, but could speak some words.

People who said they did not speak, or speak any words of, an Indigenous language were subsequently asked whether they would understand what was being said if someone were to speak to them in an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander language. Responses could be provided based on the following:
  • yes;
  • yes, some words only; or
  • no.

Comparison to the 2002 NATSISS

In 2002, information on language speaking ability was only collected for people aged 15 years and over. The question on language comprehension was not collected in 2002.


Learning an Indigenous language

People aged 3 years and over, who either spoke or spoke some words of an Indigenous language were asked whether they were currently learning an Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander language. If they were currently learning an Indigenous language they were then asked to provide the place this was being taught or who was teaching them the language from the following list of responses:
  • parent;
  • brother/sister;
  • partner/husband/wife;
  • other relative (eg Auntie, grandfather);
  • community elder;
  • neighbour, friend or other community member;
  • volunteer organisation or community group;
  • school;
  • TAFE/university;
  • adult learning centre/community centre/library; or
  • other.

More than one response was able to be provided. For children aged 3-14 years, the response was provided by their proxy.

Comparison to the 2002 NATSISS

The questions on learning a language were not collected in 2002.


CULTURAL IDENTIFICATION

Recognising that many Indigenous people's sense of belonging is attributed through their connections to community and to country, the 2008 NATSISS included questions on identification and recognition of homelands or traditional country. These questions also assist in providing an indication of a person's social and emotional wellbeing.


Identification

People aged 3 years and over were asked whether they identified with any of the following groups:
  • a tribal group;
  • a language group;
  • a clan;
  • a mission;
  • an Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander regional group; or
  • none of the above.

More than one response was able to be provided. For children aged 3-14 years, the response was provided by their proxy.

Comparison to the 2002 NATSISS

In 2002, people aged 15 years and over were only asked if they identified with a tribal group, a language group or clan. The response could have been yes, no or don't know.


Recognition of homelands or traditional country

People aged 3 years and over were asked whether they recognise an area as their homelands or traditional country. For children aged 3-14 years, the response was provided by their proxy.

People aged 15 and over who said that they recognised an area as their homelands or traditional country were asked subsequent questions about their access to and visitation of the area. If a person currently lived in the area recognised as their homelands or traditional country they were not asked any further questions.

If a person did not currently live in the area recognised as their homelands or traditional country they were asked whether they were allowed to visit the area. If a person was not allowed to or did not know if they could visit the area, they were not asked any further questions. If a person was allowed to visit the area, they were asked how often they visited. Responses were based on the following:
  • at least once a week;
  • at least once a fortnight;
  • at least once a month;
  • several times per year;
  • once per year; or
  • less frequently than once per year.

People who visited once per year or more frequently were also asked to provide the longest time they had spent in their homelands or traditional country in the 12 months prior to interview. Responses could be provided in days, weeks or months, or a person may have spent no time during the period specified. Responses were compiled and then output numerically as a day value, ranging from 0 to 365 days.

Comparison to the 2002 NATSISS

In 2002, information on the recognition of homelands was only collected for people aged 15 years and over. In 2002, the question of whether a person was allowed to visit their homelands or traditional country only allowed for a response of yes or no. Questions on the frequency of visitation were not collected in 2002.


CULTURAL PARTICIPATION

A range of questions related to participation in cultural activities were asked in the 2008 NATSISS to assess the extent to which people were involved in Indigenous events, ceremonies or organisations.


Involvement in cultural events, ceremonies or organisations

People aged 3 years and over were asked whether they had been involved in the following types of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander cultural activities or ceremonies in the 12 months prior to interview:
  • ceremonies;
  • NAIDOC week activities;
  • sports carnivals (excluding NAIDOC week activities);
  • festivals or carnivals involving arts, craft, music or dance (excluding NAIDOC week activities);
  • been involved with any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander organisations;
  • funerals/Sorry Business; or
  • none of the above.

More than one response was able to be provided. For children aged 3-14 years, the response was provided by their proxy.


Involvement in selected cultural activities

People aged 3 years and over were also asked whether they had done (including as part of a job) any of the following activities:
  • fished;
  • hunted;
  • gathered wild plants/berries;
  • made Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander arts or crafts;
  • performed any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander music, dance or theatre;
  • written or told any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander stories; or
  • none of the above.

More than one response was able to be provided. For children aged 3-14 years, the response was provided by their proxy.

Where a child aged 3-14 years answered 'none of the above' they were skipped to later questions on their participation in social activities. Where a person aged 15 years and over answered 'none of the above' they were skipped to later questions on the importance of being able to attend events or participate in activities.

People who did at least one of the selected cultural activities were then asked, for each activity, to provide their reasons for doing the activity in the 12 months prior to interview. Responses were based on the following:
  • for food;
  • for own enjoyment/fun;
  • for enjoyment/fun (with others);
  • for cultural learning or ceremony;
  • get money as income;
  • medicinal;
  • school activity; or
  • other.

More than one response was able to be provided. Information on the types of activities and reasons for participation is available on two different levels:
For more information on file levels see Output file in the Survey design chapter.

The selected persons level includes:
  • whether participated in selected cultural activities in last 12 months;
  • number of selected cultural activities participated in last 12 months; and
  • types of selected cultural activities participated in last 12 months.

At this level, the type of selected cultural activity relates to all types of activities a person participated in during the 12 months prior to interview. Data refers to the number of people who participated in each type of activity, therefore each type may only be recorded once per person.

The culture level includes:
  • types of selected cultural activities participated in last 12 months; and
  • reasons for participating in selected cultural activities in last 12 months.

At this level, the reasons for participating in selected cultural activities relates to all reasons a person gave for participation during the 12 months prior to interview. Data refers to the number of reasons each type of activity was undertaken. Therefore, reasons may be recorded more than once for some people, as people may have given the same reason for more than one type of activity.

After this series of questions, people aged 15 years and over were skipped to later questions on the importance of being able to attend events or participate in activities. For children aged 3-14 years, subsequent questions were asked as to whether the child's parent/s or guardian did any of the listed activities with the child. A 'not known' response may have been provided.

The proxies of children aged 3-14 years were also asked who teaches the child or where the child goes to learn the listed activities. Responses were based on the following:
  • parent;
  • brother/sister;
  • partner/husband/wife;
  • other relative (eg Auntie, grandfather);
  • community elder;
  • neighbour, friend or other community member;
  • volunteer organisation or community group;
  • school;
  • TAFE/university;
  • adult learning centre/community centre/library; or
  • other.

More than one response was able to be provided.


Attendance or participation in cultural events or activities

People aged 15 years and over were asked about how important it was/or how much it mattered to be able to attend Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander events, ceremonies, carnivals or do any of the listed activities (eg fishing, arts and crafts, telling stories). The possible responses varied between non-remote and remote areas and were based on the following:
  • very important/matters a lot;
  • important/matters a bit;
  • not important/doesn't matter much; or
  • not important at all/doesn't matter at all.

People aged 15 years and over were also asked how often they attended Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander events, ceremonies, carnivals or done any of the listed activities. Responses were based on the following:
  • daily;
  • at least once a week;
  • at least once a fortnight;
  • at least once a month;
  • several times per year;
  • once per year;
  • less frequently than once per year;
  • never;
  • don't want to.

People who provided a response other than 'don't want to' were asked whether they were always able to attend or participate as often as they wanted. If a person responded that they were unable to, they were asked the reasons that made it hard for them to attend or participate. Responses could be provided based on the following:
  • can't afford;
  • too far away;
  • caring commitments; or
  • other.

More than one response was able to be provided. The response 'too far away' includes people who identified transport as an issue. The types of 'other' reasons included:
  • work commitments;
  • not knowing about events at all;
  • not finding out in time; and
  • health issues.


Comparison to the 2002 NATSISS

In 2002, information was only collected for people aged 15 years and over. Therefore, the questions related specifically to children were asked for the first time in 2008.

The response categories in the list of cultural activities and ceremonies differed between 2002 and 2008. Two items, sports carnivals and festivals or carnivals involving arts, craft, music or dance had 'excluding NAIDOC week activities' added to them for clarification. NAIDOC week activities were included as a new response category and the response category 'funerals' also included 'Sorry Business'.

The wording of the question on participation in specific Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander activities was changed slightly between 2002 and 2008. Three new response categories were included in the list of activities in 2008:
  • fished;
  • hunted; or
  • gathered wild plants/berries.

In 2002 people were asked about their paid involvement in the listed activities, whereas in 2008 there was a list of reasons for participation, including payment.

The questions on attendance or participation in cultural events or activities were asked for the first time in 2008.


CULTURAL EDUCATION

Indigenous culture taught at school - children

The proxies of children aged 2-14 years, who usually attended school, were asked whether the child had been taught anything about Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander culture at preschool or school. If the child's proxy required more information, they were given the following descriptions:
  • field trips, excursions or guest speakers to the preschool or school which were arranged to find out about Indigenous history, lifestyle, language, music, rituals, stories, weapons, clothing or food; or
  • any part of the school curriculum whether the child was taught anything about Indigenous Australian culture.

If the child was being homeschooled, only cultural aspects that were taught as part of the general school curriculum were included.

Comparison to the 2002 NATSISS

This information was not collected in 2002.


Indigenous culture taught at school or as part of further studies - adults

People aged 15 years and over who had attended or were currently attending school, or who had undertaken further studies were also asked whether they had been taught anything about Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander culture as part of their schooling or further studies.

If a person had been taught about Indigenous culture, they were asked where they received their cultural education. Responses could be provided based on the following:
  • primary school;
  • secondary school;
  • university/other higher education;
  • TAFE/technical college;
  • business college;
  • adult or community education centre;
  • industry skills centre;
  • other organisation; or
  • none of the above.

More than one response was able to be provided.

People who had been taught about Indigenous culture were also asked how they felt about what they were taught. The possible responses varied between non-remote and remote areas and were based on the following:
  • usually accurate/right;
  • sometimes accurate/right;
  • rarely accurate/hardly ever right; or
  • never accurate/never right.

People may have also said that they did not know or did not remember.

People who had earlier said they identified with a tribal, language, clan, mission or Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander regional group were also asked whether they learnt anything about the group they identified with in their cultural education.

Comparison to the 2002 NATSISS

This information was not collected in 2002.


REFERENCE LIST

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), 2005. National Indigenous Languages Survey Report 2005. A report prepared for the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Canberra. Retrieved on 29/5/09 from http://www.arts.gov.au/


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