Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers

 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers provide unpaid care and support to family members and friends who have a disability, mental illness, chronic condition, terminal illness or who are frail aged. It is estimated that there are over 2.6 million carers in Australia [1].

12.4% of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population are carers, compared to 10.5% of the non-Indigenous Australian population [2].

A large proportion of people living in rural and remote areas are Aboriginal peoples or Torres Strait Islanders [3]. The environmental, social and economic impacts of living in these areas can often affect caring.

Carers living in rural or remote areas often experience:

  • social isolation
  • geographic barriers in accessing health and welfare services
  • lack of transportation
  • lack of information
  • less opportunities for education and literacy; and
  • economic impacts due to environmental factors and urbanisation.

The following information is based on Australian Bureau of Statistics data. It must be noted, however, that there is likely to be under-reporting of the caring role amongst Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders due to a lack of carer self-identification.

Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders are more likely to be carers than non-Indigenous Australians.

  • 12.4% of Indigenous Australians [1] provide unpaid care and support compared with 10.5% of non-Indigenous Australians [2].
  • There has been an increase in Indigenous Australians identifying as carers from 32,581 in 2006 [4] to 45,328 in 2011 [5]. It must be noted that there was a growth in the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population from 455,031 in 2006 [4] to 548,370 in 2011 [5].

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers are more likely to be younger than non-Indigenous Australian carers.

  • The average age of Indigenous Australian carers was 37 years; 12 years less than the average age of non-Indigenous Australian carers [2]. This may reflect higher birth rates at younger ages and earlier onset of many chronic diseases for Indigenous Australians.

There are more Aboriginal women and Torres Strait Islander women who are carers than Aboriginal men and Torres Strait Islander men.

  • 14% of Indigenous women and 9% of Indigenous men have caring responsibilities [2].
  • A large proportion of unpaid assistance (20%) is provided by Indigenous women aged between 45 and 54 years [6].
  • Among both Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians, mothers were most frequently the primary carer (29%), followed by other female relatives (6.8%) [7].

Aboriginal and Torrres Strait Islander carers are more likely to need assistance for their own care needs than non-Indigenous Australian carers.

  •  Indigenous Australian carers were between one-and-a half and three times as likely as non-Indigenous carers to need assistance with self-care, mobility and/or communication [2].

 Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders are more likely to need assistance due to a disability, long-term illness or problems relating to old age, than non-Indigeous Australians.

  • Indigenous Australians aged 0–64 years are 2.4 times as likely to need assistance with self-care, mobility and/or communication than non–Indigenous Australians [6].
  • Despite the higher prevalence of disability among Indigenous Australians, the rate of their specialist service use is similar to that of non-Indigenous Australians (about 330 service users, per 1,000 potential population) [6].

Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders with a disability, long-term illness or problems relating to old age are more likely to have a carer than non-Indigenous Australians.

  • Almost half (49%) of Indigenous disability support service users, aged 0–64 years, had carers, compared with 41% of non-Indigenous users [7].

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers have a lower weekly income than that of non-Indigenous Australian carers.

  • Indigenous male carers average weekly income was $248 compared with $589 for non-Indigenous male carers [2].
  • Indigenous female carers average income was $289 compared with $356 for non-Indigenous female carers [2]. 

 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander carers are less likely to be employed than non-Indigenous Australian carers.

  • Non- Indigenous Australian carers were around one-and-a-half times more likely to be employed than Indigenous Australian carers [2].
  • Among those who are employed, rates of part-time work were similar for Indigenous Australian carers and non-Indigenous Australian carers [2].



References

1.             Australian Bureau of Statistics, Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of findings. Cat. no. 44330.0, 2009, Author: Canberra.

2.             Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and Australian Bureau of Statistics, The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 2008, 2008, Author: Canberra.

3.             Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Rural, regional and remote health: indicators of health status and determinants of health, 2008, Author: Canberra.

4.             Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006 Census Community Profile Series: Indigenous Profile, cat. no. 2002.0, 2007, Author: Canberra.

5.             Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011 Census of Population and Housing: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples (Indigenous) Profile, cat. no. 2002.0, 2011, Author: Canberra.

6.             Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability: wellbeing, participation and support, 2011, Author: Canberra.

7.             Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, The health and welfare of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, an overview 2011, 2011, Author: Canberra.


[1] ‘Indigenous Australians’ is a term used by the Commonwealth Government to refer to Aboriginal peoples or Torres Strait Islanders, or individuals with mixed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage.

[2] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008 #132

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