Chapter 13: Survey Analysis for Indigenous Policy in Australia
‘Do traditional culture and identity promote the wellbeing of Indigenous Australians? Evidence from the 2008 NATSISS’
This chapter reports results from one of several ongoing avenues of investigation into the relationship between Indigenous Australians’ attachment to traditional culture and their socioeconomic outcomes and wellbeing. In an analysis of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), Dockery (2010a) presented evidence that Indigenous people with stronger attachment to their culture fare better on a range of outcomes: self-assessed health, substance abuse, incidence of arrest, employment and educational attainment. Motivating this analysis was an attempt to reconsider the enduring debate between the two predominant and opposing schools of thought on how best to address relations between the Indigenous Australian peoples and what has become ‘mainstream’ society: self-determination versus assimilation. This has been fought out primarily as a normative debate, with different camps offering their views on what should improve the wellbeing of Indigenous Australians. It is also a debate that has been largely premised on the assumption that elements of traditional Indigenous culture are incompatible with the achievement of socioeconomic outcomes valued in mainstream society. Even those who argue for the right of Indigenous people to maintain traditional culture and lifestyles often present this choice as a trade-off with socioeconomic outcomes valued in the mainstream, but as a legitimate choice for Indigenous people to make.