I was reading the Australian Post today and their Indigenous News section. It features an article on how literacy and numeracy is improving among Indigenous children in Western Australia, more children are in school and so on (you can read it here). The article embarks into disadvantage in Aboriginal communities and even manages to tie (the improved) child school attendance together, with Aboriginal women’s drinking habits during pregnancy.
(Guess what? statistics show that fewer Aboriginal women drink during pregnancy than non-indigenous women, but who would ever believe me if I said that?).
Anyway. It got me thinking about stereotypes, Aboriginal people and especially Torres Strait Islanders. We always say “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders” as if it is the same group. We sort of know it is not, but are they really that different? Here are some facts for you:
- There are an estimate of 53.300 Torres Strait Islanders in Australia. That is 10% of the Indigenous people and 0.3% of the total Australian population. Not much is it? Hard to keep a strong community, when there are so few of you.
- The life expectancy of Torres Strait Islanders is low. Like the one for Aboriginal people.
- A higher proportion of Torres Strait Islanders complete Year 12 compared with the rest of Australia (yes, it is higher)
- 69% of TSI people between 15-64 are employed, compared with 65.3% for the rest of Australia
- 79% of TSI people have a household income in the lowest two quintiles – that is less than $500 a week
All of this from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Despite being a very small community, Torres Strait Islanders stay strong, push their children through school, work hard and get paid nothing for it. Then they die 17 years before the average Australian.
There you go.