Defining, controlling and analysing Indigenous data: commitment to historical consistency or commitment to Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Standard Indigenous Question (SIQ) uses a question about ‘origin’ to collect data on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

A 2014 review found strong support among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stakeholders for a question focusing on cultural identity, rather than origin. However the ABS retained the origin question to preserve data continuity.

In contrast, an Australian influenza-like illness surveillance system, FluTracking, has included the question: “Do you identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander?” for the past 8 years.

Brief consultations found that Aboriginal health professionals and academics preferred the ‘identify’ question as a more accurate descriptor of social realities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities.

Statistical collections could adapt to improve the quality of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander data, and seek to reflect reality, not define it.

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