Stolen Generations survivors face poorer health and wellbeing outcomes than other Indigenous Australians

More than 27,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and over in 2018–19 were survivors of the Stolen Generations, according to new estimates in a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, commissioned by the Healing Foundation, finds that Stolen Generations survivors aged 50 and over face poorer outcomes across a range of health and social measures when compared to other Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians of the same age.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Stolen Generations aged 50 and over: updated analyses for 201819, updates a 2018 AIHW report, using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2018–19 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey.

‘In 2018–19, there were an estimated 33,600 Stolen Generations survivors, including 27,200 aged 50 and over,’ said AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman.

‘The 27,200 people aged 50 years and over comprised 1 in 5 (21%) of Indigenous Australians in that age group. A greater proportion were women (59%) than men (41%), and 28% were aged 65 and over.’

Stolen Generations survivors faced many socioeconomic challenges, with 71% relying on government payments as the main source of income, 66% not owning a home, 63% living in households that didn’t have access to emergency funds and 43% having had days without money for basic living expenses in the past year.  

Compared to Indigenous Australians in the same age group who were not removed from their families, Stolen Generations survivors aged 50 and over were 1.7 times as likely to experience discrimination, 1.5 times as likely to be a victim of actual or threatened harm, 1.4 times as likely to have a severe or profound disability, 1.4 times as likely to have poor mental health, and 0.6 times as likely to own a home (or 1.8 times as likely not to own a home).

Compared to non-Indigenous Australians who participated in the 2017–18 National Health Survey, Stolen Generations survivors aged 50 years and over were 3 times as likely to have a severe or profound disability, 2.7 times as likely to have poor mental health, and 2.2 times as likely to have government payments as their main income source.

The estimated 27,200 Stolen Generations survivors aged 50 and over is substantially higher than the 13,800 survivors estimated in the 2018 AIHW report, which analysed data from the 2014–15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey.

‘While this is a large increase, it is likely that, over time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were removed from their families as children are becoming more willing to report their experiences,’  Dr Al-Yaman said.

‘In addition, a higher number of people were aged 50 and over in 2018–19 than in 2014–15 due to ageing.’

In 2018–19, 8,400 (30.9%) of the estimated 27,200 Stolen Generation survivors aged 50 and over lived in NSW; 5,900 (21.5%) in Queensland; and 4,900 (17.9%) in Western Australia. Most (81%) lived in non-remote locations, which was similar to the distribution of the broader Indigenous population.

In 2018–19, approximately 142,200 Indigenous people aged 18 and over were the descendants of members of the Stolen Generations. This included 13,200 people who were themselves also Stolen Generations survivors.

Healing Foundation CEO Ms. Fiona Cornforth said that the AIHW report provides important data on the ‘gap within the gap’ – the difference in health and wellbeing outcomes between Stolen Generations survivors and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who were not removed.

'The AIHW report demonstrates the extent to which this ‘extra’ gap stems from removal,' Ms. Cornforth said.

'This data is hugely beneficial as we work towards healing for Stolen Generations survivors and their descendants.'

Dr Al-Yaman noted that in 2022, all living Stolen Generations survivors will be aged 50 years and over. 

‘Understanding the experiences of Stolen Generations survivors aged 50 and over is important to ensure they can access appropriate health, disability, welfare and other services as they age,’ Dr Al-Yaman said.

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