This publication presents information about the health and welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Australia. The information comes mainly from national surveys and censuses and from administrative collections of various Commonwealth, State and Territory agencies. (The sources for the figures cited in this summary can be found in the main body of the text.) The intent is primarily to present a broad picture at the national level and to supplement this, where possible and useful, with information on variation by region and by State or Territory. Most of the information in this report is about the Indigenous population as a whole, but a separate chapter is included which provides information about Torres Strait Islanders as distinct from Aboriginal people.

Available data and recent developments

The available data are limited by the quality of identification of Indigenous people in administrative data collections, by uncertainties in the estimation of the size and composition of the Indigenous population, and by issues related to the collection of individual and household survey data about Indigenous people. Thus precise estimates of the differences between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations are not always available. In addition, changes over time in the availability and quality of data make the assessment of trends extremely difficult and potentially misleading.

A number of important initiatives have taken place recently which have the potential to lead directly or indirectly to improvements in the quality and availability of information about the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people. These initiatives include the development and implementation of a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Information Plan; performance indicators and strategic framework agreements for Indigenous health in each jurisdiction; the endorsement of the National Community Services Information Development Plan, which gives priority to information about the Indigenous population; the development of a draft National Indigenous Housing Information Agreement; collaborative work to improve the quality of identification in administrative collections; and the Australian Bureau of Statistics review of its household survey program together with the development of a strategy for Indigenous statistics.