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Abstract

The ability of policy makers, practitioners and the broader public to respond appropriately in reducing the harms caused by alcohol misuse depends in large part on our understanding of the nature of the problem. In the case of consumption patterns and associated harms among indigenous minority peoples—in Australia and elsewhere—such an understanding is often difficult to achieve. There are a host of reasons for this including cultural differences between indigenous peoples and the broader populations within which they are located, cultural heterogeneity among indigenous peoples themselves, political and economic disadvantages which exacerbate misuse and its effects, methodological difficulties in the appropriate design of data collection instruments, sampling issues and the issues in the interpretation of data. All these difficulties mean that we need to subject any studies of substance misuse among indigenous peoples to a high level of scrutiny. This is particularly the case when such studies are conducted by organisations that are generally regarded as ‘authoritative’ sources of information. Chikritzhs & Brady have done this in the case of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey 2002, conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In their review of this and other surveys, they demonstrate that to produce valid information about indigenous alcohol misuse, as well as having the skills to conduct broad population surveys, it is necessary to have an understanding of both methods of collecting data on alcohol consumption and Indigenous cultures themselves.