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Indigenous Statistics for Schools

Image: Introduction INTRODUCTION

Data limitations of Indigenous Statistics

Although every effort is made to produce accurate data, there are some constraints which should be taken into account when critically analysing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statistics.

Participation in surveys
Although a challenge not restricted to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the participation of individuals in surveys, can impact on the overall accuracy and quality of the data collected. As the number of respondents increases, so does the accuracy of the information, and hence the ability to make accurate assumptions and estimates based on the collected data.

The ABS encourages Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation in the Census and in surveys, through the following activities:
  • utilising a special Census form for remote areas;
  • awareness campaigns to break down cultural barriers and publicise benefits of the Census to the community;
  • engaging with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community through the Indigenous Community Engagement Strategy;
  • employing local people to help facilitate and conduct interviews.

    Self Identification
    Not everyone who is of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin chooses to identify themselves as such. This is problematic as the Census provides the basis for population counts and also a range of social statistics for people, families and households at all geographic levels. It is likely that the number of people who identify themselves as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander in the Census is less than the total number of people who are of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin.

    The willingness of individuals to self-identify has been an ongoing challenge and is why the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) undertakes various initiatives aimed at encouraging respondents to self-identify. One approach has been to promote self-identification as part of the last three Censuses. This approach may have contributed to the increase in Census counts for some states and territories over this time. However it is very difficult to quantify the impact of such a measure.

    Asking the identification question
    Quality identification data not only relies on the willingness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to self-identify, but also the willingness of interviewers to ask the identification question. Deciding if a person is of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin on looks or name alone, is unreliable and based on assumptions and perceptions. It is best to find out by asking the person.

    Mobility of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
    Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are highly mobile populations, in which many people move about communities and homelands for sporting, social and cultural events, as well as for work and family reasons.

    These movements, and the virtual closure of some communities as people move about, can make the collection of data from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples challenging, by increasing the likelihood of people being missed in surveys, or even surveyed twice. Collections such as the Census are particularly impacted by mobility, as it aims to collect information about the population within a given time frame

    Note: Some of these pages use Estimated Resident Population (ERP) data as well as 2006 Census counts. Therefore, there may be minor discrepancies between population figures due to differing methodologies.
  • Purpose of Indigenous Statistics for Schools
  • Data limitations of Indigenous Statistics
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