Better health and ageing for all Australians

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework - 2010

2.13 Community safety

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Why is it important?:

Experiencing threatened violence, or being in an environment where personal safety is at risk, or in a social setting where violence is common, has negative health effects. These effects have been noted amongst Indigenous peoples in Australia (Willis 2010).

Wilkinson (1999) discusses the relationship between income inequality and violence and also notes the link between experience of discrimination and racism and high levels of family violence found in marginalised and oppressed groups. The level of violence in Indigenous societies must be seen in the context of colonisation, post-colonial history and discrimination, and subsequent markers of disadvantage such as low income, unemployment, lack of access to traditional lands, and substance use. Krug et al. (2002) notes that ‘violence is the result of the complex interplay of individual, relationship, social, cultural and environmental factors’.

The Burden of Disease and Injury study (Vos et al. 2007) ranked homicide and violence as the tenth largest contributor to total burden for Indigenous Australians. As a health risk factor, intimate partner violence was responsible for 5.4% of the burden for Indigenous females, having its impact not only through homicide and violence but also anxiety and depression, heart disease, suicide and other diseases.

Findings:

In 2008, 24% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 18 years and over reported they were a victim of physical or threatened violence in the last 12 months. The proportion declined with age, from 33% of those aged 18–24 years to 8% of those aged 55 years and over. After adjusting for differences in age structure, Indigenous Australians aged 18 years and over were twice as likely to report being victims of physical or threatened violence in the last 12 months as non-Indigenous Australians.

Indigenous adults who had been arrested in the last five years were more likely to be a victim of physical or threatened violence (32%) (see measure 2.14) than those who had not. Those aged 15 years and over living in remote areas were slightly less likely than those in non-remote areas to report being a victim of physical or threatened violence in the last 12 months (22% compared with 25%) but they were more likely to report assault as a community problem (37% compared with 19%). After adjusting for age structure between the two populations, Indigenous males were 1.6 times as likely as non-Indigenous males to report having been a victim of physical or threatened violence. Similarly, Indigenous females were two and a half times as likely as non-Indigenous females to report having been victimised.

The rate of males and females hospitalised for the principal diagnosis of assault during the period July 2006 to June 2008 were similar (11 per 1,000). After adjusting for differences in the age structure between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations, Indigenous males were 7 times as likely to have been hospitalised for assault than were other males, and Indigenous females were 36 times as likely to have been hospitalised than other females. (See also measure 1.03.)

In Qld, WA, SA and the NT combined, Indigenous age-standardised hospitalisation rates for the principal diagnosis of assault declined by 11% for males and by 4% for females over the period 2001–02 to 2007–08. This decline has seen a narrowing of the gap between Indigenous and other Australians for this measure.

In the period July 2006 to June 2008, hospitalisation rates for assault were highest for Indigenous Australians aged 25–44 years. In these age groups, rates for Indigenous Australians are 13 to 18 times higher than for non-Indigenous people.

A similar pattern is evident in deaths related to assault. There were 139 Indigenous deaths in 2004–08 due to assault. The mortality rate for assault for Indigenous Australians was around 9 times the rate of other Australians in this period. Mortality rates for assault were highest among those aged 25–44 years in both the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. However, Indigenous Australians in this age range died from assault at 12 to 13 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians in the same age groups.

Implications:

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are much more likely to be a victim of violence and to be hospitalised for injuries arising from assault. Women and men experience these problems at a similar level. Compared with other women, Indigenous women experience vastly higher rates of violence. Poor community safety is a major contributor to the burden of disease for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The Family Violence Prevention Legal Services Program provides assistance to Indigenous victim–survivors of family violence and sexual assault through the provision of legal assistance, court support, casework and counselling.

All governments have committed to the development of the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children, which will include a significant focus on Indigenous family violence (FaHCSIA 2010). The Commonwealth government is making available $64.4 million to fund Indigenous family safety community initia­tives focused on the Indigenous Family Safety Agenda priority action areas. These areas include addressing alcohol problems; more effective police protection; working with local community leaders to strengthen social norms against violence; and coordinating support services to aid the recovery of people who have experienced violence. Case studies in the Northern Territory found that many people in remote Indigenous communities felt that a permanent police presence is critical to reducing the incidence of alcohol fuelled crime (Pilkington 2009). A review of NT policing (Allen Consulting Group 2010) suggested that where there is no police presence, a community will have low levels of reported offences and recorded police activity. As a consequence communities with high policing needs are not always receiving an adequate permanent police presence.

Figure 103 – Age-standardised hospitalisation rates for principal diagnosis of assault by Indigenous status, Qld, WA, SA and NT, 2001–02 to 2007–08


Figure 103 – Age-standardised hospitalisation rates for principal diagnosis of assault by Indigenous status, Qld, WA, SA and NT, 2001–02 to 2007–08
Source: AIHW analysis of AIHW National Hospital Morbidity database
Text description of figure 103(TXT 1KB)

Figure 104 – Hospitalisation rates for principal diagnosis of assault, by Indigenous status and age, NSW, Vic, Qld, WA, SA and NT, July 2006 to June 2008


Figure 104 – Hospitalisation rates for principal diagnosis of assault, by Indigenous status and age, NSW, Vic, Qld, WA, SA and NT, July 2006 to June 2008
Source: AIHW analysis of AIHW National Mortality Database
Text description of figure 104 (TXT 1KB)

Table 47 – Issues of community safety, percentage of persons aged 18 years and over, by Indigenous status, 2008 (Indigenous), 2006 (non-Indigenous)

Male
Female
Persons
Indig.
Non-Indig.
Indig.
Non-Indig.
Indig.
Non-Indig.
Experienced by individual, family members and/or close friends in last 12 months:
Abuse or violent crime
6.7
1.9
8.4
2.8
7.6
2.3
Witness to violence
8.4
2.1
9.5
2.3
9.0
2.2
Trouble with the police
16.6
2.8
12.9
2.5
14.7
2.6
Member of family or friend spent time in jail
12.7
. .
12.8
. .
12.8
. .
Source: ABS analysis of 2008 NATSISS. Non-Indigenous comparison from 2006 General Social Survey

Table 48 – Issues of community safety, percentage of Indigenous persons aged 18 years and over, by remoteness, 2008

Major Cities
Inner Regional
Outer Regional
Remote
Very Remote
Total
Victim of physical or threatened violence in last 12 months:
26.1
24.4
24.3
24.1
19.4
24.1
Experienced by individual, family members and/or close friends in last 12 months:
Abuse or violent crime
9.2
6.7
7.2
8.3
5.7
7.6
Witness to violence
10.3
7.7
8.1
11.9
7.4
9.0
Trouble with the police
15.1
15.0
14.2
17.3
12.6
14.7
Member of family or friend spent time in jail
12.9
12.9
12.3
14.5
12.0
12.8
Source: ABS analysis of 2008 NATSISS.

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