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released: 5 May 2011 author: AIHW media release

The health and welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: an overview 2011 is a summary publication of Indigenous health and welfare statistics prepared by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Together with a series of articles available online from the AIHW Indigenous observatory and the Australian Bureau of Statistics, it provides a comprehensive statistical picture of Indigenous health and welfare. Topics covered in the publication include: demographic characteristics; determinants of health and welfare; health and functioning; mortality and life expectancy; health across the life stages; health care and other support services; and health and welfare expenditure.

ISBN 978 1 74249 148 6; Cat. no. IHW 42; 127pp.; $43

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  • The 2006 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population was estimated to be about 517,000, constituting 2.5% of the total Australian population.
  • The Indigenous population has a relatively young age structure. In 2006, the median age was 21 years, compared with 37 years for the non-Indigenous population.
  • In 2008, nearly half (49%) of all Indigenous households were composed of families with dependent children, more than a third (39%) of which were one-parent families.

Determinants of health and welfare

Socioeconomic factors

  • Younger Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults have completed more years of schooling than their parents. In 2008, of those aged 25–34 years, more than three‑quarters (78%) had completed Year 10 or above, compared with less than one-quarter (27%) of those aged 55 years and over.
  • The Year 12 retention rate for Indigenous students rose from 31% in 1995 to 45% in 2009.
  • Less than two-thirds (65%) of working-age Indigenous Australians were in the labour force in 2008, compared with nearly 4 out of 5 (79%) non-Indigenous Australians.
  • In 2008, Indigenous households were nearly 2.5 times as likely to be in the lowest income bracket and 4 times less likely to be in the top income bracket as non-Indigenous households.
  • Nearly half of all Indigenous children were living in jobless families in 2006—3 times the proportion of all children.


  • Between 1994 and 2008, the proportion of Indigenous households who were home owners or buyers rose from 26% to 32%.
  • Between 2002 and 2008, the proportion of Indigenous households living in dwellings with structural problems fell from 34% to 26%.
  • Poor access to public utilities and overcrowded houses remain significant problems, particularly in remote communities.

Community capacity

  • In 2006, nearly half (47%) of Indigenous families with dependent children were one‑parent families, accounting for 45% of dependent children.
  • One in 5 Indigenous adults reported being a victim of violence in the 12 months prior to the NATSISS.
  • In 2008–09, the rate of substantiated child protection notifications for Indigenous children was close to 8 times the rate for other children.
  • Indigenous Australians comprised more than one-quarter of all prisoners as at June 2010.
  • Between 2000 and 2010, the Indigenous imprisonment rate rose by 52%.

Recommended citation

AIHW 2011. The health and welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: an overview 2011. Cat. no. IHW 42. Canberra: AIHW.

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