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Data and notes

Data sources

There are currently three main sources for data on prevalence of disability among Indigenous Australians:

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) 2018–19. This survey contains the standard Short Disabilty Module which collects information on activities, participation, and functioning that can be used to compare characteristics across time. As it is an Indigenous-specific survey, it is designed to generate results that are representative for the Indigenous population (and includes respondents from Very remote areas and discrete Indigenous communities). It is also useful in understanding rates of education, employment and other socio-economic variables for Indigenous people with disability.

Survey of Disability Ageing and Carers (SDAC) 2018. The SDAC collects detailed information on people with disability, including underlying conditions, severity of restriction, participation in education, employment and community services and need for/use of assistance. While it has detailed information on these topics, it was not developed to collect data for Indigenous people specifically, and has limited coverage of smaller geographies and populations.

Census of Population and Housing (Census) 2016. The Census is Australia’s largest statistical collection. It provides data for the entire country, and is often used for service planning. However, the scope of the Census is very large, and therefore it only collects limited information on disability—namely it only identifies people who need assistance with self-care, communication and/or mobility (equivalent to a profound/severe core activity limitation).

See ABS Sources of Data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples with Disability for further information.

Census of Population and Housing (Census)

The Census is carried out every 5 years. It includes the standard Indigenous status question, which is asked for each household member. The Census form may be completed by one household member on behalf of others.

The 2016 Census was Australia's 17th national Census of Population and Housing and the first to take a digital-first approach. With more than 95% of Australians participating, the 2016 Census showed a growing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. Indigenous Australians represented 2.8 per cent of the population counted – up from 2.5 per cent in 2011, and 2.3 per cent in 2006.

Following each Census, population projections for years after the Census and back cast population estimates for the years before the Census are prepared based on the new information and a set of assumptions about mortality, fertility and migration. Three series of projections are produced representing combinations of assumptions resulting in high, medium and low population growth.

Further information about the nature of the Census is available at Census of Population and Housing: Nature and Content, Australia, 2016. More information about Indigenous Australian population estimates from the 2016 Census is available at Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS)

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) 2018–19 is the largest health survey of Indigenous Australians, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) between July 2018 and April 2019. This survey collected information about a range of topics including long-term health conditions, disability, lifestyle factors, physical harm and use of health services. It collected information from Indigenous Australians of all ages in non-remote and remote areas of Australia, including discrete Indigenous communities.

The NATSIHS included a sample of just over 10,500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from about 6,500 private dwellings. Physical measurements of height, weight and waist circumference were collected from respondents aged two years and over, except women who advised that they were pregnant, and was a voluntary component of the survey. Voluntary blood pressure measurements were also collected from respondents aged 18 years and over.

Selected non-Indigenous comparisons are available from the 2017–18 National Health Survey (NHS). Time series comparisons for some indicators are available from the 2014–15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), 2012–13 Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (ATSIHS), 2008 NATSISS, 2004–05 NATSIHS, 2002 NATSISS, 2001 NHS and the 1994 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey (NATSIS).

Further information is available at National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey.

For more information

Data tables

Disability - Data tables