In 2016, there were an estimated 798,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia, representing 3.3% of the total Australian population. The Indigenous population has a relatively young age structure—the median age was 23 in 2016, compared with 38 for non-Indigenous Australians. Although most Indigenous Australians live in cities and regional areas (81% in 2016), 1 in 5 (19%) live in remote areas, which is a much higher proportion than non-Indigenous Australians (1.5%).

Factors that contribute to the health and welfare of Australians include social determinants (such as education, employment, income and quality of housing), health risk factors (such as smoking, immunisation and blood pressure) and access to services. Historical and other contextual factors are particularly important to understand when interpreting health and welfare data about Indigenous Australians.

The health and welfare of Indigenous Australians has improved in a number of areas in recent years. This includes:

  • increases in Year 12 completion rates and home ownership rates, and
  • decreases in infant mortality rates, mortality rates for circulatory disease, respiratory disease and kidney disease, the proportion of children with poor ear health and hearing loss, and rates of homelessness.

However, as a group, Indigenous Australians continue to experience poorer health outcomes than non-Indigenous Australians in some areas.

The AIHW produces a range of reports and products that describe the health and welfare status of Indigenous Australians today and over time, and highlight where things are working well and areas of concern. The products cover a range of areas, including burden of disease, access to services, and cultural safety in health care provision. They also look at specific groups within the Indigenous population, such as young people, the aged and the Stolen Generations.

Access to accurate and locally-relevant data and statistics is key to informed decision-making by local communities, services and policy makers. The AIHW developed the Regional Insights for Indigenous Communities (RIFIC) website to make it easy for users to find a wide range of data and statistics about Indigenous Australians and their health and wellbeing in one place. The RIFIC website enables users to find the regional statistics that are most relevant to their communities, or other locations of interest, and compare them to statistics about other regions, states/territories or Australia.

The AIHW analyses and reports on performance measures based on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework, at the national level and state and territory levels. It also reports on the use of Indigenous-specific primary health care services through the national Key Performance Indicators (nKPIs) and Online Service Reports (OSR) data collections, and works with service providers to improve the quality and usefulness of their data to support better outcomes for their clients.

The AIHW undertakes a range of work to examine how Indigenous Australians’ access to health services varies geographically, with a focus on identifying areas with gaps in services. Information on the number of Indigenous Australians who have an Indigenous-specific health check, at various geographic areas, is reported.

The AIHW collects and reports data on ear and hearing health programs, and oral health programs, provided under the Northern Territory Remote Aboriginal Investment partnership.

To consolidate the evidence-base for Indigenous mental health and suicide prevention, the AIHW has developed a Clearinghouse website. The Clearinghouse provides overviews and in-depth publications on topics related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social and emotional wellbeing, mental health and suicide prevention. It also maintains a register of ongoing and completed research and evaluation projects.

Measuring progress on the health and welfare of Indigenous Australians relies on consistent, complete and reliable information about Indigenous people. The AIHW continues to increase the comprehensiveness of data and evidence available to support policy development and service planning by:

  • assessing the quality of Indigenous identification in key health and welfare data sets, and working towards improving Indigenous identification in a variety of ways, including by developing methods to adjust for under identification and providing resources to health care providers
  • identifying gaps in the availability of data on particular topics and, where possible, working with relevant stakeholders to find ways to fill those gaps.

More recently, the AIHW has undertaken more specialist analytical work through, for example, modelling and developing trajectories in order to provide further insights into patterns, trends and outcomes.

To see a full list of AIHW products that focus on Indigenous Australians, see Reports.

In addition, information about Indigenous Australians are included in AIHW products, where data quality permits, including AIHW’s two flagship reports, Australia’s health and Australia’s welfare