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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework - Summary report


An adequate income is fundamental to being able to live a healthy life – it gives a person greater access to nutritious food, better housing, and health and other services, as well as a greater ability for social participation (World Health Organization 2017).

Equivalised household income: Household incomes are adjusted to facilitate the comparison of income levels between households of different size and composition, reflecting the requirement of a larger household to need a higher level of income to achieve the same standard of living as a smaller household.

Income quintiles: Household incomes are ordered from lowest to highest income, and then divided into five equal-sized groups, or quintiles. The lowest income group is the 1st quintile, and the highest is the 5th quintile. Equivalised household income quintile boundaries are calculated for the total population.

In the 2021 Census, more than 1 in 3 (35% or 137,600) Indigenous adults lived in households with incomes in the lowest 20% of incomes nationally (1st income quintile; based on equivalised gross household income, an adjusted income measure used to compare households of different types and sizes).

Between 2011 and 2021, after adjusting for inflation, the median gross weekly equivalised household income increased:

  • from $619 to $825 for Indigenous adults
  • from $998 to $1,141 for non-Indigenous adults.

Average weekly equivalised household income of Indigenous adults was highest among those living in Major cities ($982), and lowest among those living in Very remote areas ($459) (Figure 5.4).

Figure 5.4: Median gross weekly equivalised household income of adults 2011–2021, by Indigenous status and remoteness area (2021)

Indigenous Australian adults increased from $619 in 2011 to $825 in 2021, while that for non-Indigenous Australians increased from $998 to $1,141. The second column chart shows that, in 2021, the average gross weekly equivalised household income of Indigenous Australian adults decreased with increasing remoteness, from $982 in Major cities to $459 in Very remote areas. For non-Indigenous Australians, the highest income was in Very remote areas ($1,278) and the lowest was in Outer regional areas ($983).

Sources: Measure 2.08, Table D2.08.16 – AIHW analysis of the ABS Census of Population and Housing, data provided by the ABS, customised report, 2023 (ABS 2023a); and Measure 2.08, Table D2.08.12 – ABS Census of Population and Housing 2021.

The association between income and health works in both directions. An adequate income supports better health, but poor health can make it difficult to get a job and earn an income.

Comparing Indigenous adults living in households whose incomes were in the lowest 20% (lowest income quintile) of incomes nationally with those in the top 40% (top 2 income quintiles), in 2018–19:

  • 32% (49,100) of those in the lowest group assessed their own health as fair or poor, compared with 13% (10,200) of those in the top 2 groups.
  • 44% (65,700) of those in the lowest group were classed as experiencing high or very high psychological distress, compared with 18% (14,100) of those in the top 2 groups.

In 2018–19, a government cash pension or allowance was the main source of personal income for 45% (200,200) of Indigenous adults aged 18–64.

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