Good morning, I’m Su Maharaj and this is my colleague Mary Jackson. We’re from NCATSISS.
Before we begin today, I would like to acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, the Traditional Custodians of the land we are meeting on today and pay my respects to their Elders both past and present and to acknowledge members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community who may be here today.
Thank you for having us along here to talk about the ABS’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistical Program. We really value this opportunity and see this as the first of many conversations we can have together. Data that is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, not just about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is central to the work we do and we hope to share this with you today. We’ll start with a brief overview of the objectives of the ABS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistical Program, take a look at two of our key engagement initiatives, explore some of our key data sources and have a bit of a discussion on where the program is headed into the future. We’ll have time for questions either as we go or at the end.
We like to start talking about statistics with this quote from the World Bank. Statistics are a vital source of evidence as they provide us with clear and objective data on important aspects of life, including the growth and characteristics of our population, economic performance, levels of health and wellbeing, and the condition of our surrounding environment. The use of statistical information is vital for making evidence based decisions that guide the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies or projects.
Using all available evidence, including fit for purpose data, can lead to policy or project decisions that are more effective in achieving their desired outcomes, as decisions are based on accurate and meaningful information.
When evidence is not used as a basis for decision making, or the evidence that is used is not an accurate reflection of the ‘real’ needs of the key population/s, the proposals for change are likely to produce ineffective outcomes.
So onto the ABS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics Program.
The ABS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics Program provides information essential to monitoring the social and economic circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The program also provides statistical leadership in the collection and analysis of data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The program aims to improve the quality, timeliness and relevance of social, demographic and economic information for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
Key elements of the program include commitment to ongoing engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in ABS planning, collection and dissemination activities; assessing and improving the quality of statistics available from the Census of Population and Housing, surveys and administrative sources; analysis and reporting to explain and improve understanding of data; and development of strategies to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of data collection and reduce respondent burden on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Program is overseen by the National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics (NCATSIS). NCATSIS is part of the Population and Social Statistics Division at the ABS. There are around 20 staff in NCATSIS, with most of the team in Canberra and some of our team in Darwin.
The broad objectives of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistical program which are fed into NCATSIS, are:
- To inform Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their organisations, and the wider community about statistics and statistical issues related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples including demographic composition, social conditions and health status;
- To provide governments with reliable statistical information on Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population that can be used to support policy development and evaluation
- To assess, reporting and promoting improvements in the quality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statistics from ABS and other survey administrative collections;
- To support best practice in the enumeration of statistics related to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and in relevant quantitative methods;
- To assisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations in the effective use of statistics; and
- To ensure that broad consultation with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community remains a key strategy in the coordination and development of national statistics.
Let’s take a look at some of our key engagement initiatives starting with the ABS Round Table on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics.
The ABS Round Table was established by the ABS in early 2013 and meet around twice a year, usually in Canberra. Members are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from across the country who were nominated for their grassroots experience working with their community. The Round Table is chaired by Debra Reid from the University of Sydney, and there are about 10-15 members from urban and remote areas including the Torres Strait Islands. Members include Gayle Rankine from the First Peoples Disability Network and Aven Noah from the Torres Strait Regional Authority. There is also at least one ABS member who is an Indigenous Engagement Manager (IEM). IEMs facilitate a range of Census and survey activities.
There are several reasons the Round Table was established.
Firstly, we wanted to build on the success of the grassroots engagement conducted in the lead up to and during the 2011 Census.
Secondly, there is increasing demand for operational level advice, for example:
- The ABS already benefits from a number of active and high level forums for strategic policy advice on our statistical activity related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, such as the National Advisory Group on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Information and Data (NAGATSIHID).
- We also rely on our Indigenous Engagement Managers (IEMs) as our main source of operational level advice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- The Round Table establishes an avenue for discussion with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that is external to the ABS.
- Input of Round Table members combined with the knowledge and experience of the IEMs creates a richer source of operational advice for the ABS to draw upon.
The Round Table is a significant initiative aimed at providing us with insights into improving:
- the quality of statistics for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- ABS’ engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including the return of information to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community
- the ABS’ efforts to build statistical literacy among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- In short, the Round Table establishes an additional avenue for discussion and for exploring new approaches to overcoming old operational level challenges.
It is the Round Table’s operational grassroots focus that distinguishes it from the other active high level forums the ABS already has in place. Members are not statistical experts or involved in strategic statistical policy.
- Members provide advice, information and feedback to the ABS on operational matters such as:
- Cultural issues to consider when collecting or disseminating statistics
- Survey/Census concepts (e.g. what does homelessness mean to you?)
- Question design (e.g. will this question effectively capture what it is intended to?)
- How to effectively return information to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
The other aspect that makes it different from other forums is that members have the opportunity to speak for themselves, drawing on their own experiences, rather than on behalf of particular agencies or organisations.
Round Table members have provided valuable advice to the ABS on a wide range of operational matters related to improved Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statistics. For example:
- Their input was critical in the formulation and/or revision of question modules relating to homelessness, racial discrimination and community leadership in the 2014-15 NATSISS
- They have helped develop communication and engagement strategies to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples participation in the 2014-15 NATSISS and 2016 Census
- They have provided advice on strategies for the effective communication of 2012-13 AATSIHS survey results to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
Members are highly engaged and as pleased with the outcomes of the group as we are. The Round Table has rapidly developed a reputation for providing sound advice on operational statistical matters.
Also key to our engagement is the ABS Indigenous Community Engagement Strategy or ICES. ICES was established to enhance ABS engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in both data collection and dissemination. The strategy is managed by Indigenous Engagement Managers in each State and Territory who as mentioned facilitate a range of survey and Census activities, which in turn lead to better quality data.
The aims of the ICES team are to:
- Engage with urban and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through collaborative partnerships to increase understanding of and participation in ABS collections;
- Return information to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities e.g. by providing statistical training to communities in order to increase their access and usage of ABS information. A great example of this is the ICES promotion of the ABS school footy stats program;
- Improve the quality and relevance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statistics for key stakeholders including meeting the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
Let’s now take a look at some of our key data sources starting with the health survey.
The ABS ran the first stand alone National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) in 2004/5. Prior to this the National Health Survey included supplementary sample for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in 1995 and 2001.
The most recent NATSIHS was conducted in 2012-13 as part of the much bigger Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (AATSIHS). The 2012-13 AATSIHS is based on a combined, nationally representative sample of around 13,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of all ages from across Australia including very remote areas and discrete communities. Together with the Australian Health Survey, it represents an investment of over $50m from the ABS, Department of Health and the National Heart Foundation.
The 2012-13 AATSIHS is made up of 3 components:
- National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) (in purple) — the NATSIHS, a standalone survey, had a sample of about 9,300 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (NATSINPAS) (red) — The NATSINPAS had a sample of about 3,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The NATSINPAS is one of the new components in the survey made possible through the investment from our survey partners. The NATSINPAS collected detailed information about nutrition and physical activity.
- The blue circle in the middle of the diagram represents the core component. This is made up of a set of questions common to both the NATSIHS and NATSINPAS. Information from the core component is therefore available for all 13,000 people in the survey. It included questions about key health risk factors such as smoking, and measured BMI and blood pressure.
- Lastly is the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Measures Survey (NATSIHMS) (in green). The NATSIHMS was entirely voluntary. It involved a voluntary biomedical component where blood and urine samples were collected. Around 3,300 adults participated in this component of the survey. Like the NATSINPAS, this new component was made possible through investment from our partners.
It is important to note that the 2012–13 AATSIHS was developed with the assistance of an advisory group comprised of experts on health issues, many of whom were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The success of the 2012–13 AATSIHS was also dependent on the very high level of cooperation received from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated; without it, the range of statistics published by the ABS would not be possible.
Let’s take a look at some the survey results, starting with nutrition. Nutrition is one of the new components of the 2012-13 health survey and is the first time we’ve been able to produce detailed nutrition information for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
To ensure that the NATSINPAS was relevant and appropriate, the nutrition component of the survey included a bush tucker prompt card which you can see here, along with a series of other food cards and serving size examples to help people recall foods they may have consumed in the last 24 hours.
Here we can see what proportion of people’s total energy intake is from discretionary foods. These are foods that are energy dense but don’t have much nutritional value (also known as junk foods).
On average, around 41% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s total daily energy intake was from discretionary foods. (35% for non-Indigenous people)
People in non-remote areas got more of their total energy from these foods than those in remote areas, especially children aged 4 to 13. The types of discretionary food people ate varied with age. For children and older adults, discretionary foods were more likely to be cereal based products such as burgers, pizzas and biscuits, whereas for 18 to 50 year olds, it was alcohol.
Now for some results from the new health measures or NATSIHMS component of the survey. This is a really valuable addition to survey, and importantly the results were provided back to the participants. Voluntary blood and urine samples provide the most accurate data in monitoring the health trends of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The blood and urine samples were tested for major chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and for nutrition markers such as Vitamin D and folate levels.
The results of the biomedical component of the survey revealed some important insights.
By the age of 35, 1 in 4 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will have either high blood pressure or high cholesterol (about the same as the non-Indigenous population) and 1 in 10 will have signs of kidney disease. The equivalent rate for signs of kidney disease for non-Indigenous people was not reached until after the age of 65
Importantly, we also found that the vast majority of those people who had high blood pressure, high cholesterol or signs of kidney disease – at any age - were unaware they were at risk.
Diabetes is a real concern for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The ABS causes of death data show that diabetes is the second leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people after heart disease and that the death rate from diabetes is 7 times higher than for non-Indigenous people.
To get an accurate measurement of how many people have diabetes, we took into account people’s blood test results, whether they had been diagnosed with diabetes previously and whether they were taking medication.
We found that just over one in ten Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had diabetes. This comprised of approximately one newly diagnosed case for every six diagnosed cases. This means there is a small group of people who are not receiving the diabetes care they may need. A further one in twenty Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were identified as being at high risk of diabetes.
What was even more striking was how much earlier in life Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults experience diabetes. The equivalent rates of diabetes in the non-Indigenous population were often not reached until 20 years later compared with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
We have released a number of publications on the 2012-13 AATSIHS that are freely available on the ABS website. Each of these publications is focussed on a particular topic or area of the survey. In addition to the products included on this slide, we also release a number of microdata products which allow paying users to access AATSIHS data and construct their own tables.
You may also see or have seen data from the AATSIHS in a range of government reports such as the 2014 Health Performance Framework and the 2014 Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report. AATSIHS results are also used by a number of researchers and organisations outside of the ABS such as the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).
The previous slide highlighted some of our key publications associated with the AATSIHS but there are also a number of other strategies used to promote the AATSIHS on the ground.
The image on the left is of one of our suite of fact sheets produced at state/territory levels on a range of health topics such as smoking, high blood pressure, BMI and diabetes.
We have also released Facebook and Twitter posts such as the ones on the right and have put together information sheets for public events such as the Walking the Talk Cancer Day held in Brisbane in January this year.
A series of conference presentations and meetings with stakeholders involved in the set up of the health survey have also taken place where we’ve shared the key messages from the survey.
We are also in the process of developing a video of selected health survey results. I’ll play a short snippit of this for you now.
Our other key survey is the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS).
Since 1994 the NATSISS has collected detailed information on the socio-economic circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people every six years. The NATSISS differs in focus from the health survey but there is some overlap in the content.
The main purpose of the survey is to monitor the social and economic well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by:
- Exploring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' participation in society and barriers to that participation;
- Providing information that is relevant and useful for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their own decision making and planning;
- Allowing for inter-relationships between different areas of social concern to be explored;
- Providing insight into Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' experiences of social and/or economic disadvantage;
- Providing comparisons with the non-Indigenous population; and
- Measuring changes over time.
Like the health survey, the NATSISS has been developed in close consultation with a range of stakeholders, including Commonwealth and state/territory governments, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations as well as academics and researchers.
The last NATSISS was in 2008. We have currently finished collective data for the 2014-15 NATSISS, and we will have results publicly available by mid 2016.
To help promote the NATSISS, the ABS has worked together with local champions from across Australia such as Adam Goodes, Dr Tom Calma AO, Pat Brahim and Xavier Clarke (pictured here on this slide). The NATSISS was also promoted in press such as the Koori Mail and on youth radio station Triple J to really try and get people engaged with the survey.
The ABS also developed a video for people to watch from our website which explains what the NATSISS is, why it is important and what’s involved for people who are asked to participate. Let’s take a look at the video.
[video plays from http://www.abs.gov.au/videos/434-0414-001/NATSISS14_15_player.html]
The Census is one the most recognisable sources of ABS data. It is the largest statistical collection undertaken by the ABS and is conducted every five years. The Census also provides information about small geographic areas and small population groups which can be harder to capture in big surveys such as the health survey or the social survey.
The data obtained from the Census is used to plan for Australia’s future so it’s really important we get everyone to participate in it. Census data is used as the basis for official population estimates. It is often used to support the allocation of funding for services and infrastructure used in all communities, including housing, transport, education, industry, and health services.
You may have seen or heard in the news earlier this month that the next Census will take place on Tuesday 9 August, 2016 making it Australia’s 17th national Census. The 2016 Census will be a digital first Census meaning most people, around 2/3, are expected to complete the Census online which will be fast, easy, secure, environmentally friendly and will help reduce the cost of the Census to the community. Most households will receive a letter from the ABS with a unique login and instruction details on how to complete the Census online. Paper forms will be provided up-front in some areas and will also be available to individuals upon request.
The topics covered in the Census will remain stable in 2016, repeating those included in 2006 and 2011. This follows a consultation and review process for the 2016 Census. An outcome of the review was that users of the Census expressed a strong desire to see continuity in the topics maintained, so that social changes can be measured over time.
While the topics are unchanged from 2011, there have been some minor changes to the questions and supporting text used to collect information on the topics. A full list of topics to be included in the 2016 Census can be found on the ABS website.
The 2016 Census will place particular emphasis on addressing the requirements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations, including special enumeration procedures in communities and remote areas.
Throughout September, the Census team will be doing some small field tests of the new Census procedures in some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across the Northern Territory, Queensland and Western Australia.
The ABS is committed to the Census. The Census and Statistics Act requires that the ABS conduct the Census every five years. The next Census will be in August 2016. Planning for the 2021 Census will begin later this year.
The ABS will continue to look for opportunities to integrate Census data with other data sets to increase the range of insights provided and ensure the Census delivers maximum benefit to governments and the community. We will progress innovations to transform our social and economic statistics over coming years to take advantage of 21st century opportunities such as advances in technology, big data and use of administrative data for statistical and research purposes.
One of the more recent projects currently underway in NCATSIS is the development of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistical Framework and Information Model.
At the moment, the identification and prioritisation of statistics for and about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is currently done in an ad hoc manner. Consultation generally occurs in relation to a particular topic or survey, rather than a more coordinated and holistic approach to identify and prioritise data needs.
Once developed, the framework is intended provide an improved information base for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations to assess their own wellbeing and development needs. Together, the Statistical Framework and Information Model will provide a basis for the ABS and other stakeholders to make decisions about content of future surveys, areas requiring further research and analysis, and areas where further effort is required to progress data pooling or data linkage initiatives or the acquisition and use of administrative data.
To give some context to where we see the ABS’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistical Framework and Information Model developing, I’ll go over 4 existing frameworks, what they focus on, and where the potential lies for the ABS’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistical Framework and Information Model.
Firstly is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework (HPF). The HPF was developed in 2006 to measure the impacts of the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (NSFATSIH) and to inform policy, planning and program implementation.
Next is the Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage (OID) reporting. OID is focused around reporting on progress in areas of “Indigenous disadvantage” . OID is about informing progress on government policy and targets.
The next framework we have is the current ABS Indigenous Wellbeing Framework (on the right hand side of the slide). This was developed in 2010 to consider concepts to measure progress on ‘Closing the Gap’ initiatives and was designed for internal reporting requirements for non-Indigenous comparisons. It is also used to guide the development of ABS Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statistics, mapping statistical information to aid identification of data gaps and to identify areas for statistical improvements.
While it is useful for measuring overall wellbeing, and this may be used in the development of a statistical framework, it doesn’t take into account the unique cultural and historical factors that affect the individual and community wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It has also been noted that there is a lack of interconnectedness between domains in the framework and there is some confusion over how it can and should be used.
Lastly there is a project out of Victoria called the Community Indicators Victoria Project (CIVP). This was created to support the development and use of local community wellbeing indicators as a tool for informed, engaged, and integrated community planning and policy making. Unlike the other frameworks, CIVP is a community wellbeing indicator framework using local-level data to address issues identified as important by local communities in Victoria. CIVP focuses on headline wellbeing measures on a range of topics (e.g. health indicators and access to public spaces) to gather trends and outcomes important to local communities.
Whilst these frameworks are out there, we believe that there is a need for a more holistic or interconnected framework which is what we are working towards.
We think that an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistical Framework needs to:
- Recognise the perspectives, diversity and aspirations of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population
- Value the unique cultural and historical factors that affect the individual and their community.
- Focus on an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' cultural world view
- Better represent the information needs of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and
- Guide the process of prioritising statistical information for (and about) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
To achieve these needs successfully however, there must be active involvement and participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
It is hoped a move to a strengths based reporting approach and the ability to measure progress towards community goals will assist in celebrating the positive changes occurring over time.
As you can see on the slide here, the proposed Statistical Framework and Information Model will provide the ABS and stakeholders with a centralised resource of statistics for and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It is anticipated that the Framework and Information Model will be able to provide some indication of the relative priority of each data item, current or potential future source(s).
This resource would provide:
- A tool for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations to understand, organise and prioritise their information to support their individual or group development
- Guidance to the ABS and other statistical agencies on the information needs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
- Guidance to researchers on what data exists, where the gaps are and how data might be brought together
- Consistency in data collected over time and from different sources.
- A tool for the general public to facilitate discussion about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing
- New efficiencies for the ABS in responding to client queries, such as providing assistance with questionnaire development.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and representative organisations along with researchers and academics have been calling for a framework that recognises the perspectives of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
For example, NintiOne have an Interplay project in progress and as part of that completed a literature review of the interplay between education, employment, health and wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote areas. This review identified the need to develop a wellbeing framework that not only accurately represents education, employment, health and wellbeing and the interplay between these and other factors, but also recognises the strengths and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as well as reflecting their worldviews, perspectives and values.
The ABS is committed to leading the development of the statistical framework and is seeking to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to assist the ABS in achieving this goal.
We also see the Statistical Framework and Information Model as a project of relevance to current AIATSIS research, for example the Mayi Kuwayu longitudinal study on health and wellbeing in the Murray-Darling. We hope in the not too distant future these projects will present opportunities for collaboration so we can share our experience and perspectives.
Onto one of our other key projects currently underway. The ABS is in the process of undertaking detailed design work on a future model for the collection and use of data to underpin high quality population and social statistics.
In relation to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statistics, the aim is for a model to produce data that meets Australia’s current and future information needs.
As part of the ABS' statistical transformation agenda and in response to the growing demand for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics, a key focus of the model is developing innovative statistical solutions that use of a range of data sources to expand and enhance the suite of available Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics. The aim is to improve the quality, timeliness and relevance of social, demographic and economic information on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.
To make this happen we are exploring a number of different options, including a more efficient survey model. This includes the possibility of moving to a continuous survey approach with options for annual data. Other avenues being explored include making better use of administrative data.
We anticipate this model will enable effective monitoring and measurement of change in outcomes over time for different population groups and regions.
This future model should also provide insights into the distribution of outcomes across different population groups and regions, as well as the relationships between outcomes and characteristics for different population groups and regions.
A large scale stakeholder engagement strategy is underway and consultation with key data users including AIATSIS is expected later in 2015.
So there is a run down of the ABS’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistical program. There is lots going on and plenty of discussions to be held with stakeholders into the future.
If you are interested in further information on anything we have touched on today, please contact the National Centre for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Statistics who will be happy to help.
Thank you for the opportunity to present today, and we look forward to your input and support in the future.