Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

Indigenous Australians continue to face disadvantage in areas of education, income, employment, and housing. The relationship between these social determinants and both mental and physical health is well established [6]. Indigenous Australians of all ages face substantial health issues. This population has a higher mortality rate and a lower life expectancy than other Australians, reflected in the younger age profile of Indigenous Australians—in 2016, just 5% (31,000) of the Indigenous population were aged 65 and over compared with 16% (3.4 million) of the non-Indigenous population [1].

Health and disability

According to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey 2014– 15, Indigenous people were half as likely as non-Indigenous people to assess their health as ‘excellent’ or ’very good’. Long-term health conditions affect almost 9 in 10 (88%) Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 55, with higher risks of certain conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease and respiratory disease [2].

Older Indigenous people tend to have higher rates of disability than non-Indigenous people. In the 2016 Census, just over 1 in 4 (27%) older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people reported a need for assistance with core activities (self-care, mobility or communication tasks), compared with 19% of non-Indigenous people aged 65 and over [1].

Access to services

Reduced accessibility to health and welfare services may be one reason for the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. In 2014–15, almost one quarter of Indigenous people (24%) reported problems accessing service providers; this proportion increased to 1 in 3 people (33%) for Indigenous people living in Remote or Very remote areas [2]. In this same period, the rate of potentially preventable hospitalisations for Indigenous Australians was around 3.4 times that for non-Indigenous Australians [4].

Aged care

In general, older Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people tend to be more highly represented in community-based care programs, such as Home Support and Home Care, compared with residential aged care services (Table 1). In 2016–17, around 20,000 Indigenous Australians aged 50 and over accessed Home Support services (3% of all clients)—a rate of 172.5 clients per 1,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and over. Home Care was accessed by around 2,500 older Indigenous Australians, representing almost 3% of all clients. Home Care had a usage rate of 21.2 per 1,000 people of the target population [7].

Aged care service usage rates per 1,000 of the target population(a), by service type and Indigenous status 2016–17 
  Home Support Home Care Permanent
residential
aged care
Respite
residential
aged care
Transition
care
Indigenous 172.5 21.2 17.2 5.6 1.9
Non-Indigenous 165.2 17.3 60.9 15.1 6.4

Note:

  1. Target population refers to the number Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years and over for Indigenous clients , and the number of non-Indigenous people aged 65 years and over for non-Indigenous clients.

Source: SCRGSP [7].

Less than 1% of people in permanent residential aged care in 2016–17 identified as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin. The age profile of Indigenous Australians in permanent residential aged care was substantially younger than that of their non-Indigenous counterparts: 1 in 4 (26%) Indigenous Australians in care were aged under 65, compared with 3% of non-Indigenous Australians [3].

 

To address the inequality older Indigenous Australians may face in accessing aged care services, some places and programs within the aged care system are specifically allocated for people who identify as being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. In particular, Indigenous Australians can access aged care services through the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flexible Aged Care Programme. At 30 June 2017, the program had 820 operational places, predominantly located in rural and remote Australia [5]. For more information on aged care services, see Aged Care.

References

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2017. Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia - Stories from the Census, 2016. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, 2016. ABS cat.no. 2071.0. Canberra: ABS.
  2. ABS 2016. National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014–15. ABS cat. no. 4714.0. Canberra: ABS.
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2018. National Aged Care Data Clearinghouse: AIHW analysis of unpublished data.
  4. AIHW 2015. The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples: 2015. Cat. no. IHW 147. Canberra: AIHW.
  5. Department of Health (Doh) 2017. 2016–17 Report on the Operation of the Aged Care Act 1997. Canberra: DoH.
  6. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PMC). 2016. Closing the gap—Prime Minister’s report 2016. Canberra: PMC.