ABOUT ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER STATISTICS
The importance of identification
For all levels of government to make informed decisions on how to best allocate resources, there is a need to collect accurate information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The information provided enables policies to be developed, funds to be allocated appropriately and services to be customised to address areas of most need.
One of the most accurate ways to collect Indigenous status is to have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people self identify. Deciding if a person is of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin on looks or name alone is unreliable. It is best to find out by asking the person the question.
Using the word Indigenous
In Australia the term Indigenous is used to refer to both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The word Indigenous is used in publications and papers by the ABS to acknowledge both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and is used extensively by academics and government agencies.
However, the word Indigenous is not necessarily accepted by Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups prefer to identify with a word from their own language. Some examples are: Nyungar (south-west Western Australia), Murri (eastern Queensland, north west NSW), Nunga (South Australia), Yolnugu (Northern Territory - north-east Arnhem land), Koori (Victoria and NSW).
It is interesting to note that Torres Strait Islanders were not separately mentioned in the Constitution. Legislatively, there has been no agreement as to the definition of a Torres Strait Islander. However, the Commonwealth definition of Indigenous was extended to include Torres Strait Islanders in 1972 following representations by Torres Strait Islanders.
When using the term Indigenous to refer to Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people the first letter should be capitalised as it is a proper noun.
This page last updated 12 October 2010