Overview

This overview outlines key findings from the analyses of the estimated numbers and demographic characteristics of proxy measures of the Stolen Generations and the descendants of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people removed from their families. It also covers the key findings from examining the relationship between being removed, and being a descendant, regarding 38 outcomes that cover health status, health risk factors, cultural factors and socioeconomic indicators for the most recent data, as well as changes over time. In this component of the analysis, the Stolen Generations proxy population was compared with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the same age cohort who were not removed. In addition, the descendants of all people removed were compared with Indigenous people who had not experienced any type of removal. Comparisons with non-Indigenous Australians were also carried out for a smaller set of outcomes.

Key findings

Using data from five Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) surveys of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population (undertaken from 2002 to 2014–15), it is possible to identify individuals who were born before 1972 and who reported being removed from their families. This subgroup is used as a proxy measure for the Stolen Generations. The ABS surveys can also be used to identify the descendants of all people removed from their families, which include descendants of the Stolen Generations.

Based on data from the 2014–15 survey:

  • 20,900 individuals born before 1972 were estimated to be the surviving members among those who had been removed from their families
  • a slightly higher proportion of them were women (56%) than men (44%), and the majority (79%) lived in non-remote areas
  • 29% of those who were removed in this age cohort reported living alone, 66% were aged 50 and over, and 20% were aged 65 and over.

The time series data suggest that, on average, 11% of people in the cohort born before 1972 report being removed from their families.

  • When this proportion is applied to population data for 2018 (among those aged 46 and over), the resulting estimate is that in 2018, around 17,150 people in the cohort born before 1972 are the surviving members among those who had been removed from their families (the Stolen Generations proxy population).

The Stolen Generations proxy population experienced a range of adverse health, cultural and socioeconomic outcomes at a rate higher than the Indigenous population that had not been removed.

  • Key findings among these differences are a higher likelihood of: being incarcerated in the last five years (3.3 times), being formally charged by police in their lifetime (2.2 times), having government payments as their main income source (1.8 times), not being a home owner (1.7 times) and being more likely to have poor general health based on a composite measure (1.6 times).

This report also estimated the size of the population of descendants of all people removed in the past. The descendants are defined as people aged 18 and over at the time of the ABS survey who reported having elder relatives (great/grandparents, parents, or uncles and aunts) removed.

  • In 2014–15, the estimated number of descendants aged 18 and over was around 114,800; this includes around 15,400 individuals who reported that they themselves were also removed from their families.
  • The proportion of the population identified as descendants remained stable across the five ABS surveys—around 33% of the population aged 18 and over.

The descendants were also consistently more likely to have experienced adverse outcomes over a broad range of health, socioeconomic and cultural indicators, compared with a reference group of Indigenous people aged 18 and over who reported neither being removed themselves from their own families, nor having any relatives removed.

• Key findings among these differences are a higher likelihood of: feeling discriminated against in the last 12 months (2 times), experiencing actual or threatened physical violence (1.9 times), having poor general health based on a composite measure (1.6 times), and having been arrested in the last five years (1.5 times).

Large differences are also seen between the Stolen Generations proxy population born before 1972 and a comparable non-Indigenous reference group, as well as between the descendants aged 18 and over and their comparable non-Indigenous reference group.