Poster Presentation Lowitja Institute International Indigenous Health and Wellbeing Conference 2016

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child development: Culture, housing and remoteness (#233)

Alfred M Dockery 1 2
  1. Curtin University, Perth, WA, Australia
  2. Population Mobility and Labour Markets, CRC for Remote Economic Participation, Alice springs, NT, Australia

The limited empirical evidence available in Australia points to beneficial effects of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ identification with their culture across a range of outcome domains. This evidence is contrary to assumptions underpinning much of the discourse on socio-economic development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, in which culture is often portrayed as a barrier to advancement. Living in remote communities, with limited mainstream economic opportunity, services and infrastructure–notably inadequate housing; and the associated mobility that maintains connection to country and kinship networks have been highlighted as cultural aspects that contribute to lower outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, relative to other Australians, on many mainstream indicators of socio-economic wellbeing. This paper uses data from the Longitudinal Survey of Indigenous Children (LSIC) to develop measures of cultural transmission between parents and young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Interrelationships between families’ housing, culture and remoteness and their children’s outcomes across domains covering physical health, social and emotional wellbeing and cognitive development are explored. The paper confronts an important limitation of the existing empirical literature, since the research design eliminates the possibility of (the child’s) outcomes ‘causing’ greater cultural identity or engagement; or of some unobserved factor contributing to both. Initial analysis has identified three key elements to parents’ responses to questions on culture in Waves 1 to 4 of the LSIC: identity; engagement and wanting to pass on pride in culture to the child. Greater remoteness is associated with inferior aspects of housing, notably crowding, that negatively impact on child outcomes. Greater remoteness is associated with higher engagement in cultural activities, but relatively less emphasis on passing on pride and respect for culture to the child. In turn, preliminary results suggest that this emphasis on imparting cultural pride and respect is association with improved child developmental outcomes in later years. The presentation will report results updated to include Wave 7 of the LSIC, which is due be released at the end of March 2016.