Australia’s young Indigenous population largely consider themselves happy and in good health but still face challenges including racism and mental health issues, according to a new report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Launched by Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt at the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation’s (NACCHO) annual conference in Brisbane, the report, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescent and youth health and wellbeing: in brief; provides a snapshot of health and wellbeing among young Australians across a range of areas including social and economic determinants, health risk factors and health services.
About one in every young people in Australia is Indigenous, with the report finding more than half (63%) of young Indigenous Australians aged 10-24 rated their health as either ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ in 2014-15.
In the same period, 3 out of 4 (76%) of those aged 15-24 reported feeling happy all or most of the time in the previous month and almost 7 in 10 (69%) took part in cultural events in the past year.
More than half of young Indigenous Australians identified with a clan, tribal or language group.
In education, there was an increase in those aged 20-24 attaining year 12 or equivalent qualifications, rising from 47% in 2006 to 65% in 2016.
Most young Indigenous Australians aged 10-24 questioned had access to a GP in their local area (83%) in 2012-13 and between 2010 and 2016 the number of 15-24 year-olds who had health checks rose from 6% to 22%.
AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman said while young Indigenous Australians generally reported good health across a range of measures, areas of concern emerged around experiences of unfair treatment of racism, mental health, injuries and episodes of violence.
The report states in 2014-15, about 1 in 3 (33%) of young Indigenous Australians said they experienced high to very high levels of psychological distress during the past month.
Similarly, in 2011, the leading contributors to the disease burden for Indigenous 10 to 24-year-olds were suicide and self-inflicted injuries (13%) and anxiety disorders (8%).
The report also listed tobacco smoking, alcohol and substance use as areas of concern.
Despite an increase in the number of young people who never smoked about 3 in 10 still smoke daily.
And although the death rate for young Indigenous Australians aged 10-24 has fallen over the past 10 years, about 490 of these deaths during 2011-15 were deemed potentially avoidable, such as deaths from suicides, transport accidents or assault.
Dr Al-Yaman said the report was an important step in understanding how Australia’s young Indigenous population are faring and identifying areas that need support.
She said the challenges are complex, with social factors such as education, employment and housing playing a significant role in health and wellbeing.
“In 2016, 2 in 5 (42%) of young Indigenous Australians aged 20-24 were not engaged in education, employment or training. For young Indigenous people aged 10-24, not being able to get a job was the leading cause of personal stress.”