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Step 7- Demographic variables measured in datasets

Demographic variables measured in datasets

Cultural competence in:

Demographic variables measured in datasets

Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous Peoples - criteria

(1) Residence within or attachment to geographically distinct traditional habitats, ancestral territories, and natural resources in these habitats and territories;

(2) Maintenance of cultural and social identities, and social, economic, cultural and political institutions separate from mainstream or dominant societies and cultures;

(3) Descent from population groups present in a given area, most frequently before modern states or territories were created and current borders defined;

(4) Self-identification as being part of a distinct indigenous cultural group, and the display of desire to preserve that cultural identity.

Given the diversity within Indigenous Peoples, ‘self-identification as indigenous or tribal is usually regarded as a fundamental criterion for determining indigenous or tribal groups, sometimes in combination with other variables such as language spoken and geographic location or concentration.’ (United Nations Development Program 2000).

The Minimum Core Set of Cultural and Language Indicators

Country of Birth of Person

This variable provides fundamental and objective information about a person’s origins. It is widely regarded by many organisations as a priority measure of cultural background, and forms a key element of their current data collection practice. The variable readily enables comparison with existing census and survey data, and with overseas data. When used in conjunction with other cultural and language variables, Country of Birth of Person allows for the identification of subgroups within a migrant population. It has limitations in identifying ethnic and cultural groups which form minorities in their country or countries of origin and groups which have significant populations in countries outside their country of origin.

Main Language Other Than English Spoken at Home

This language variable provides information on the number of people who speak English only and, if one or more other languages are spoken, the main non-English language used in the home. The variable has the merit of capturing a language other than English, where the main language spoken may be English but a language other than English is still used in the home. This maximises numbers for the more established migrant communities. In some cases, however, this measure may not reflect complete language use, for example, when English is the only language spoken in the home but a language other than English is spoken outside the home, within a person’s ethnic or community group.

This measure may also record the language usage of those people whose main and preferred language is English but who have learnt another language, which is occasionally but not normally spoken at home, in the ‘Other Than English’ category.

A weakness of Main Language Other Than English Spoken at Home is that it can only capture language use in the home, and may indicate the use of languages other than English for those people whose main language is usually English and whose use of another language is marginal. However, the extent of these ‘filtering’ problems is not known and many users regard the combination of this language variable and Proficiency in Spoken English as the best measure for identifying service needs and the potentially disadvantaged.

A major advantage of including this language variable in the Minimum Core Set is that it allows for comparability of language data collected by statistical and administrative collections, with census data. This allows, for example, rates of usage of services by particular language groups in particular regions to be calculated on the basis of the size of the group in the catchment area as revealed by census data.

Proficiency in Spoken English

This variable provides a broad measure of the English proficiency of non-native English speakers. Proficiency in Spoken English is seen as a key variable by many organisations because it identifies those people most likely to suffer disadvantage, in terms of their ability to access services, due to a lack of competence in spoken English. Analysis of Census data has also identified a clear association between this variable and socioeconomic disadvantage.

Indigenous Status

Indigenous Status provides data on the number of people who identify as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin. Indigenous Status is a fundamental element of cultural diversity in Australian society and should be included in all relevant data collections except for those specifically focussed on migrants and their descendants.

Standard set

Ancestry

This variable provides a self-assessed measure of ethnicity and cultural background by identifying a person’s origins and heritage. It can also be used in combination with other variables as a measure of the extent to which people retain the ethnicity and culture of their forebears (e.g. parents and grandparents). However, there are many Australians with origins and heritage which do not, in practice, relate to their current ethnic identity. As such, Ancestry is not considered to be a particularly good measure of service needs and should be used in conjunction with the Country of Birth variables and language variables to provide additional information about a person’s cultural identity.

Country of Birth of Father

Country of Birth of Father identifies the country in which a person’s father was born. It is regarded as an important variable as it can be used, in association with other cultural and language variables, to determine the extent to which second generation Australians retain their parents’ culture, ethnicity or language.

Country of Birth of Mother

It is regarded as an important variable for the same reasons as Country of Birth of Father, and the two variables are generally used together.

First Language Spoken

This variable provides accurate information about a person’s cultural and linguistic background, as First Language Spoken does not change over a person’s lifetime, and is regarded as a good surrogate measure of ethnicity because of its connection with a person’s origins and the origins of his or her parents. This variable also provides a good measure of current language use in the community. ABS data show that 95% of Australians whose first language is a language other than English, are still able to use their first language.

Languages Spoken at Home

This language variable provides data on the stock of languages actively used in Australian homes. In some cases, however, this measure may not reflect complete language use when, for example, only one language is spoken in the home but other languages are spoken outside the home, within a person’s ethnic community group. Multiple language responses may include languages which play a minor role in a person’s communication because they are not the person’s first language, the language mainly used or the language of greatest competence. As it is possible to have multiple responses to this variable which include a mix of English and non-English languages, it does not provide a reliable filter for Proficiency in Spoken English and should not be used as such.

Main Language Spoken at Home

This variable provides information about the language most frequently used by a person at home. It is a good indicator of the language in which an individual is likely to be most at ease. However, Main Language Spoken at Home tends to understate current community language usage, of languages other than English, amongst the longer standing migrant groups who now mainly use English at home. In some instances, it does not provide information about a person’s cultural and language background but rather information about an aspect of their living arrangements (i.e. the single language most frequently used in the household in which they live).

Religious Affiliation

As well as providing data on the number of people who identify with particular religious groups in the Australian community, this variable provides additional data for identifying specific ethnic or cultural groups, when used in conjunction with other cultural and language variables. Some organisations have found data on religious affiliation helpful in delivering culturally relevant services to clients.

Year of Arrival in Australia

This variable is used to derive the length of time a person born in another country has spent living in Australia. It is an important variable for many purposes as it gives an indication of how familiar migrants are likely to be with Australian society and practices, how long it took them to overcome settlement difficulties, and how their social characteristics have changed with the length of time they have been here. Year of Arrival in Australia is also related to familiarity with the domestic labour market and may be a major determinant of the economic situation of migrants..