Wellbeing and this report

The wellbeing of Indigenous Australians is an important concern, given that so many have relatively poor health together with lower levels of income and employment. This paper examines the wellbeing of Indigenous Australians and the factors that may determine this. Where possible, comparisons with other Australians are provided. The focus is on subjective wellbeing-in particular, reported levels of happiness, sadness and life satisfaction-but some objective measures of wellbeing are also considered, including income and health status.

Some highlights of what we found

  • Compared with non-Indigenous Australians, Indigenous people tended to report lower levels of emotional wellbeing but they were more likely to say that they were satisfied with life.
  • When Indigenous (and non-Indigenous) people reported that their health had improved, they also tended to report a rise in happiness and life satisfaction.
  • There was a weaker, albeit still positive, link between income and subjective wellbeing for Indigenous Australians living in remote areas compared with those in other areas of Australia.
  • Indigenous people who were employed tended to report higher levels of wellbeing than those who were unemployed or not in the labour force.
  • For some of measures of wellbeing-such as employment status, income and the ability to raise $2,000 quickly-educational attainment was positively associated with wellbeing for Indigenous people, regardless of sex or remoteness. For other measures of wellbeing-such as emotional wellbeing and having a say-the link with educational attainment tended to vary according to sex and remoteness.
  • Indigenous Australians with higher levels of education were significantly more likely than those with lower levels of education to have taken part in cultural events, ceremonies or organisations.
  • Lower levels of subjective wellbeing were associated with the likelihood of being arrested for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
  • Indigenous people were more likely than non-Indigenous people to be victims of certain types of crime. Indigenous victims of physical or threatened violence reported lower levels of emotional wellbeing than those who had not been a victim.

Some caution needed

When comparing people from different cultural traditions, readers need to bear in mind that the cultures may differ to some degree in their ideas of wellbeing. As well, issues of language become important since survey questions used to explore wellbeing may not always translate well between cultures.