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Day 1: Australia 2012

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Language and culture

Indigenous cultures today reflect both traditional elements and the influence of non-Indigenous cultures. The 2006 Census reported:

  • 86% of Indigenous respondents reported speaking only English at home, which is about the same as the non-Indigenous population (83%);
  • 12% of Indigenous respondents reported speaking an Indigenous language at home; with three quarters of those recording they were also fluent in English;
  • Many Indigenous peoples are bilingual; however, the pattern varies with geographical location with 56% of respondents living in remote areas reported speaking an Indigenous language, compared with one per cent in urban centres;
  • Older Indigenous peoples (over 45 years) are more likely to speak an Indigenous language than younger Indigenous peoples. (Of those Indigenous peoples aged 45 years and over, 13% speak an Indigenous language, compared with 10% of 0-14 year olds);
  • Indigenous languages are more likely to be spoken in the centre and north of Australia than in the south. [30]


Self reported health status

In the NATSIHS 2004--05:

  • 43% of Indigenous respondents aged 15 years and over reported their health as very good or excellent;
  • 35% reported their health as being good; and
  • 22% reported their health as fair or poor.

After adjusting for differences in the age structures of the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, Indigenous Australians were twice as likely as non-Indigenous Australians to report their health as fair or poor in 2004--05.

Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over in non-remote areas were more likely than those in remote areas to report fair or poor health (23% compared with 19%). [33]

  Life expectation and mortality

Under the life expectation estimation formula adopted by the ABS in 2003, [34] Indigenous males' life expectation was estimated to be 59.4 years over 1996-2001, while female life expectation was estimated to be 64.8 years: a life expectation inequality gap when compared to the general Australian population of approximately 17 years for the same five year period. The ABS has not released a life expectation estimate for Indigenous peoples for the years 2002 on. [35]

The gap in life expectation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians exists in part because of the dramatic increase in life expectation enjoyed by the non-Indigenous population over the past century. Over the period 1890 -- 1997, for example, it has been estimated that, for the non-Indigenous population, women's life expectancy increased around 26 years; while for males, 28 years. In contrast, while figures are not available, much smaller gains appear to have occurred in the Indigenous population contributing to the development of a 17 year life expectation gap. [37]

Text Box 1: International comparisons in Indigenous peoples' life expectancy

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Lewis Mehl-Madrona graduated from Stanford University School of Medicine and completed residencies in family medicine and in psychiatry at the University of Vermont. He is the author of Coyote Medicine, Coyote Healing, Coyote Wisdom, and (more...)

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