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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

An Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander person is someone who has identified as being of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander origin.

Most data collections base this definition on people having identified themselves or having been identified by another household member.

Some data collections also require information on acceptance of an individual as being a First Nations person by a First Nations community. See also First Nations.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation/Service (ACCHO, ACCHS)

An ACCHO/ACCHS supports Aboriginal community control of health service delivery and decision-making that is based on the Aboriginal holistic definition of health.

It delivers a holistic and culturally appropriate health service to the community that controls it. It is:

  • an incorporated Aboriginal organisation
  • initiated by a local Aboriginal community
  • based in a local Aboriginal community
  • governed by an Aboriginal body which is elected by the local Aboriginal community.

Community control allows the local Aboriginal community to determine the protocols or procedures to be used in managing its affairs. It has its origins in Aboriginal peoples’ right to self-determination.

Acceptable standard of living

Acceptable standard of living is a term used by the NATSIHS to describe households that have:

  • no more than 2 major structural problems and
  • 4 separate working facilities for:
    • washing people
    • washing clothes/bedding
    • storing/preparing food
    • sewerage

See Data sources for more information about the NATSIHS.

administrative data set

An administrative data set is information collected for the purposes of delivering a service or paying the provider of the service.


An admission to hospital is the start of a hospitalisation. The term hospitalisation is used to describe an episode of hospital care that starts with the formal admission process and ends with the formal separation process.

admitted care settings

In the context of mental health care, admitted care settings are where overnight care is provided in either:

  • a psychiatric hospital by specialised mental health services
  • an acute hospital by a specialised mental health unit.

age-standardised rate

Age-standardised rates remove the influence of age differences when comparing data from different groups. Populations often do not have the same age structure; for example, the First Nations population has a younger age profile and the non-Indigenous population has an older age profile. To remove the influence of population age differences from the data, the age distribution of these populations has to be standardised before rates can be compared. This method is called age-standardisation.

ambulatory care settings

In the context of mental health care, ambulatory care settings are where care is provided to people who are not currently admitted to a mental health or residential service.

These settings include community mental health services and hospital‑based ambulatory care services, such as outpatient and day clinics. See also non-admitted.

Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS)

ASGS is used to identify geographic areas in Australia. It is defined by the Australian Bureau of Statistics for use in collecting and disseminating geographically classified statistics.


burden of disease

Burden of disease analysis is a measure of the impact of different diseases or injuries on a population.
It combines the years of healthy life lost due to living with ill health (non-fatal burden) with the years of life lost due to dying prematurely (fatal burden). Fatal and non-fatal burden combined are referred to as total burden, reported as the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) measure.


cause of death

The cause of death is the condition entered on the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. This entry is the disease, morbid condition or injury that either resulted in or contributed to death, and the circumstances of the accident or violence that produced any such injuries.

Causes of death are commonly reported using the underlying cause of death.

chronic diseases and conditions

This term covers a diverse group of diseases and conditions that tend to be long lasting and persistent in their symptoms or development. Examples include heart disease, cancer and arthritis.
Although some communicable diseases (infectious diseases) are chronic, the term is usually confined to non-communicable (non-infectious) diseases.

community mental health care

Community mental health care refers to specialised mental health care that is provided by community mental health care services and hospital‑based ambulatory care services, such as outpatient and day clinics. It is funded and operated by government. See also service contact.


Country refers to an area of land or sea on which Indigenous people have a traditional or spiritual association.

crude rates

Crude rates are defined as the number of events over a specified period (for example, a year) divided by the total population at risk of the event. Crude rates are not adjusted to account for variation in age structure between different populations, time periods or locations.



Disability is an umbrella term for any or all of the following:

  • an impairment of body structure or function
  • a limitation in activities
  • a restriction in participation.
Disability is a multidimensional concept. It is considered as an interaction between health conditions and personal and environmental factors.

disability-adjusted life years (DALYs)

Measure (in years) of healthy life lost, either through premature death, defined as dying before the expected life span at the age of death (YLL), or, equivalently, through living with ill health due to illness or injury (YLD). It is often used synonymously with ‘health loss’ .

disease burden

See burden of disease.



In the NATSIHS, the term employed is used to describe someone if they are 15 years and over and, in the week prior to interview, either:

  • had a job or business, or
  • worked without pay in a family business for a minimum of one hour.

This also includes persons who were absent from a job or business.
See Data sources for more information about the NATSIHS.

episode of care

An episode of care is the period of admitted patient care between an admission and a separation. In the context of residential mental health care, episodes are measured in days.

estimated resident population (ERP)

This is the official Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) estimate of the Australian population. The ABS derives the ERP from the 5-yearly Census counts. ERP is updated every 3 months from birth, death and net migration data.


Indigenous household

An Indigenous household is one that contains 1 or more Indigenous Australians.

International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD)

The ICD is the World Health Organization’s internationally accepted classification of death and disease. The Tenth Revision (ICD-10) is currently in use. The ICD-10-AM is the Australian Modification of the ICD-10. It is used for diagnoses and procedures recorded for patients admitted to hospitals.


labour force

The labour force comprises all people who are either employed or unemployed, looking for work.

lateral violence

Lateral violence describes the way people (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) in positions of powerlessness covertly or overtly direct their dissatisfaction inward towards themselves, each other and those less powerful than themselves.

level of mastery

Level of mastery was determined using the Pearlin Mastery Scale, which is a set of seven statements used to measure how much a person feels in control over life events and outcomes. Higher levels of mastery can lessen the impact of stress on a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. Respondents were asked to respond to each statement by selecting one of four responses presented on a prompt card, ranging from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’. Responses to the statements were combined to produce an overall score between seven and 28. The scores were then grouped to describe the level of mastery as low (7–19) or high (20–28). The Pearlin mastery scale was asked of people living in non-remote areas only.

life expectancy

Life expectancy is the average number of years that people of a certain age would be expected to live if death rates at all ages remain as they are. Life expectancy at birth based on current death rates at all ages is a commonly used measure.

Long-term health condition

A current long-term health condition is an illness, injury or disability that was current at the time of the interview and had lasted at least 6 months or was expected to last for 6 months or more 

See Data sources for more information about the NATSIHS.


mental health

Mental health is a key component of health and wellbeing. It refers to our collective and individual ability to think, feel and interact with each other. Mental health is a state of wellbeing in which every person realises their own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, and is able to contribute to their community.

Mental health can affect and is affected by socioeconomic, biological and environmental factors. These can include a person’s access to services, living conditions, discrimination experienced and employment status. Mental health affects not only the individual but also their families and carers.

Mental and substance use disorders

Mental and substance-use disorders are a class of disorders in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems. It includes mental health and behavioural conditions as well as other conditions such as autism spectrum disorder and cognitive impairment.

mental health conditions

Mental health conditions interfere with a person’s cognitive, emotional or social abilities. They include a wide range of disorders that vary in severity, such as clinically diagnosable anxiety, affective, behavioural, psychotic and substance-use disorders.

A person can be negatively affected by their mental health without being clinically diagnosed with a mental health disorder. See also mental health.

mental health or behavioural condition

A mental health or behavioural condition refers to the following:
•    depression (including feeling depressed)
•    anxiety
•    harmful use or dependence on alcohol or drugs
•    behavioural or emotional problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorders in children and adolescents and adults
•    other mental health conditions such as organic mental problems, other mood (affective) disorders, other anxiety related problems, and psychological development.


Morbidity refers to the ill health of an individual and levels of ill health in a population or group.


Mortality refers to the number or rate of deaths in a population during a given time period.



Non-admitted patients are patients who do not go through a hospital’s formal admission process. Most patients who receive care in emergency departments are non-admitted patients, and they may subsequently become admitted. See also ambulatory care settings and presentations.

non-Indigenous Australians

The term ‘non-Indigenous Australians’ refers to people in Australia who have declared that they are not of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.



For population studies, obesity is defined as a body mass index of 30 or over. See also overweight.

out-of-home care

This is overnight care for children aged 0–17 for which the government offers a financial payment that can be accepted by a carer (but does not have to be accepted).


Housing is defined as overcrowded if one or more additional bedrooms would be required to adequately house its inhabitants, given the number, age, sex and relationships of household members.

owner (of dwelling)

The owner of a dwelling can be either an:

  • owner without a mortgage—if there is no mortgage or loan secured against the dwelling
  • owner with a mortgage—if there is any outstanding mortgage or loan secured against the dwelling.
It refers to a household when at least 1 member owns the dwelling in which the household members usually live.



Postvention services support people who have been exposed or bereaved through suicide. These services aim to help reduce distress and the risk of suicide.


The presentation of a patient at an emergency department occurs following the arrival of the patient at the emergency department. It is the earliest occasion of being registered clerically, or triaged.

Mental health-related emergency department presentations are defined as presentations in public hospital emergency departments that have a principal diagnosis of mental and behavioural disorders. However, this does not include presentations of self-harm, which may have a principal diagnosis relating to the injury.


The number or proportion of a population who have a specific characteristic in a given time period.

principal diagnosis

This is the diagnosis established after study to be chiefly responsible for occasioning an episode of patient care (hospitalisation), an episode of residential care or an attendance at the health care establishment.

protective factor

Protective factors enhance the likelihood of positive outcomes and reduce the chance of negative consequences from exposure to risk.

psychiatric disability

Psychiatric disability is defined in the AIHW’s Disability Services National Minimum Data Set (DSNMDS) data guide. It includes recognisable symptoms and behaviour patterns, frequently associated with distress, which may impair personal functioning in normal social activity.

Psychiatric disability includes the typical effects of conditions such as schizophrenia, affective disorders, anxiety disorders, addictive behaviours, personality disorders, stress, psychosis, depression and adjustment disorders.

psychological disability

Psychological disability is the term used in the NATSISS to describe disability due to a mental health condition. A disability refers to a limitation, impairment, disease or disorder that lasted or was likely to last for at least 6 months or more, and restricts everyday activities.

See Data sources for more information about the NATSIHS. 

perceived social support

Perceived social support in the NATSIHS was determined using a set of six statements from the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS), which measure a person’s perception of the social support they receive from family and friends. Respondents were asked to respond to each statement by selecting one of seven responses presented on a prompt card, ranging from ‘very strongly disagree’ to ‘very strongly agree’. ‘Don’t know’ and refusal options were available and, if selected, a score was unable to be determined. Responses to the statements were combined to produce a family score, a friends score and an overall score. The family, friends and overall scores were grouped to describe the level of perceived social support from each dimension as low (1–2.9), moderate (3–5) or high (5.1–7). The MSPSS was asked of people living in non-remote areas only.

See Data sources for more information about the NATSIHS.

psychological distress

Psychological distress in the NATSIHS was determined using the Kessler 5 (K5), which is a measure of non-specific psychological distress, derived from a modified version of the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10). It is designed for use in surveys of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Respondents were asked questions about how often they had experienced negative emotional states in the previous four weeks by selecting one of five responses, ranging from ‘all of the time’ to ‘none of the time’. Responses were combined to produce an overall score between five and 25. The scores were then grouped to describe the level of psychological distress as low/moderate (5–11) or high/very high (12–25).

See Data sources for more information about the NATSIHS.



A rate is a way of comparing 2 values. For example, the rate of hospital admissions in a community would be the number of hospital admissions in a community divided by the total number of people in the same community. If 20 people in a community of 15,000 people were admitted to hospital in a reporting period, the rate would be 20/15,000 = 0.0013 (or 0.13%).

Rates are often expressed as whole numbers. For the hospital admissions example, this calculation would be reported as 13 hospitalisations per 10,000 people.
See unemployment rate for another example.


Each state and territory is divided into regions based on their relative accessibility to goods and services (such as to general practitioners, hospitals and specialist care) as measured by road distance.
These regions are based on the Accessibility/Remoteness Index of Australia and defined as Remoteness Areas by either the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC) (before 2011) or the Australian Statistical Geographical Standard (ASGS) (from 2011 onwards) in each Census year. The 5 Remoteness Areas are Major citiesInner regionalOuter regionalRemote and Very remote.

residential mental health care

Residential mental health care refers to residential care provided by residential mental health services. A residential mental health service is a specialised mental health service that:

  • employs mental health trained staff onsite
  • provides overnight rehabilitation, treatment or extended care to residents in a domestic‑like environment
  • encourages the residents to take responsibility for their daily living activities.
These services include those that employ mental health trained staff onsite 24 hours per day and other services with less intensive staffing. All these services employ on‑site mental health trained staff for some part of the day.

risk factor

A risk factor is any attribute, characteristic or exposure that increases the likelihood of a person developing a health condition or experiencing an event.



Self-determination is the process by which communities control their destinies, particularly in relation to political status and economic, social and cultural development. For the people in Indigenous communities, this means the freedom to live well and according to their own values and beliefs.

separation (from hospital)

A separation is an episode of care for an admitted patient, which can be a total hospital stay (from admission to discharge, transfer or death) or a portion of a hospital stay beginning or ending in a change of type of care (for example, from acute care to rehabilitation).

Separation also means the process by which an admitted patient completes an episode of care either by being discharged, dying, transferring to another hospital or changing type of care.

service contact

In the context of community mental health care, a mental health service contact is the provision of a clinically significant service by a specialised mental health service provider for patients. Any one patient can have one or more service contacts. Service contacts include face-to-face communication as well as telephone, video link or other forms of direct communication. Service contacts can be with the patient or with a third party, such as a carer or family member, or other professional or mental health workers or other service providers.

social and emotional wellbeing

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, good health is more than the absence of disease or illness.

Social and emotional wellbeing is a holistic concept that includes mental health and physical illness. It also encompasses the importance of connection to land, culture, spirituality and ancestry, and how these affect the wellbeing of the individual and the community.

social determinants of health

Social determinants of health refer to the circumstances in which people are born, grow up, live, work and age, and the systems put in place to deal with illness. These circumstances are in turn shaped by a wider set of forces: economics, social policies and politics.

specialised psychiatric care

Assistance provided specifically to people who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness.

specialist homelessness service

Assistance provided specifically to people who are experiencing homelessness or who are at risk of homelessness. Services range from general support and assistance to immediate crisis accommodation.

Stolen Generations

The Stolen Generations are the current survivors of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children who had been removed from their families and communities as a result of government policies across Australian jurisdictions in the 20th century.

suicidal behaviours

Suicidal behaviours include having thoughts about suicide (suicidal ideation), planning suicide and attempting suicide.

suicidal ideation

Suicidal ideation refers to a person having thoughts about ending their own life. These thoughts may vary in intensity and duration.


A deliberate action intended to end one’s own life.


underlying cause of death

This is the disease or injury that initiated the sequence of events leading directly to death, or the circumstances of the accident or violence that produced the fatal injury. See also cause of death.

unemployment rate

This is the number of unemployed people as a proportion of the labour force.

usual residence

The area of the address at which the deceased lived or intended to live, for 6 months or more prior to death.


First Nations

The term ‘First Nations’ is used interchangeably with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander on this website.