SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC WELLBEING OF ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) acknowledges and thanks the First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN) for their review of this feature article.
This paper is an outcome of ongoing discussions with FPDN over several years and its release coincides with a joint presentation given recently at the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) National Indigenous Research Conference 2017. Using the rich stream of data from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), the paper helps fill a gap in information about the extent and nature of disability experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. While the NATSISS can be investigated to provide the statistics, the ABS has partnered with FPDN to help bring these stories to life. FPDN’s research program takes a narrative research approach to investigate the intersection between the cultural inclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the social inclusion of a person with disability. The ABS agrees that the context and narratives provided by FPDN enhances understanding of the lived experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability.
“The lived experience of Australia’s First Peoples with disability has historically been neglected in research and policy due to a number of factors, including limited data that genuinely reflects the prevalence and nature of disability among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People. Disaggregated information on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disability has not been available in this space and we welcome its publication. The opportunity to enhance the data available by connecting quantitative data generated through the NATSISS and other ABS instruments, with the narrative data on the lived experiences of disability gathered through FPDN’s ‘Living our ways’ research program, enables a new level of understanding of the scope and prevalence of disability in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and its impact across a person’s life trajectory.”
The lived experiences of each Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person with disability are unique. In a society that seeks to be fair and inclusive, their contributions to contemporary life should be respected and valued. This includes recognising their individual and collective histories and connection to culture, and more broadly, their human rights. A social model of disability recognises that for people with impairments, barriers to equality and full participation in society are a root cause of disability. 
The 2014–15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) provides a range of information about the social and economic circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over living with disability or a restrictive long-term health condition. Results presented in this article are for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over unless stated otherwise.
“Social justice is what faces you in the morning. It is awakening in a house with adequate water supply, cooking facilities and sanitation. It is the ability to nourish your children and send them to school where their education not only equips them for employment but reinforces their knowledge and understanding of their cultural inheritance. It is the prospect of genuine employment and good health: a life of choices and opportunity, free from discrimination.”
Mick Dodson, Annual Report of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, 1993. 
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely than other Australians to experience various forms of disadvantage, including higher unemployment rates, poverty, isolation, trauma, discrimination, exposure to violence, trouble with the law and alcohol and substance abuse. For some people, this disadvantage is coupled with impairments that result in disability.
In this article, people with disability or a restrictive long-term health condition are collectively referred to as ‘people with disability’, and those with a profound or severe core activity limitation are referred to as ‘people with profound/severe disability’. It should be noted that survey information used to determine disability, and levels of disability, is self-reported and not independently verified. For more information on how disability is determined and defined in the NATSISS, see the Disability module in the Questionnaire and Disability Status entry in the Glossary.
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