Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples occupy a unique place in Australian society and culture. In the current climate of reconciliation, accurate and consistent statistics about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are needed in order to plan, promote and deliver essential services, to monitor changes in wellbeing and to account for government expenditure in this area.
The purpose of this data element is to provide information about people who identify as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin. The following definition, commonly known as 'The Commonwealth definition', was given in a High Court judgement in the case of Commonwealth v Tasmania (1983) 46 ALR 625. 'An Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander is a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he or she lives'.
There are three components to the Commonwealth definition:
- community acceptance.
In practice, it is not feasible to collect information on the community acceptance part of this definition in general purpose statistical and administrative collections and therefore standard questions on Indigenous status relate to descent and self-identification only.