The Aboriginal Australians Poverty Gap and How to Fix it
In 2008 the Australian government formally recognized that the indigenous Aboriginal population of Australia was facing discrimination and the government committed to addressing this discrimination and disadvantages being faced by the Aboriginals. It is good that the government at least recognized the discrimination; recognition of discrimination is always the first step towards addressing the issues. The commitment to address the divide was named “Closing the gap” but how big was this gap exactly?
The gap or discrimination that the Aboriginals have suffered is spread out over a number of areas, it can be considered as a full spectrum gap which only means that since 2008 work should have been done on an emergency basis to redress the issues. Some of the areas where Aboriginals faced discrimination include
The report on overcoming indigenous disadvantage issued in 2014 highlighted vital research areas that stated that the indigenous community in Australia suffers from a higher ratio of violence, illicit drug usage. Mental health issues but these issues are a result of factors that have persisted with the indigenous community for a long time. The intergenerational trauma resulting from the effects of colonization is one major factor that also includes trauma induced by the loss of language, culture and land, erosion of cultural values and systematic discrimination.
Therefore issues mentioned above such as valence, childhood violence and illicit drug usage are symptoms that stem from problems that are deeply rooted in trauma left by colonization and the only way to redress this issue is to address the cause directly and to eliminate the discrimination faced by the Aboriginals.
Let us Have a Look at Some Stats on the Health Issues of the Indigenous Community
Aboriginal children aged 0-4 years were twice as likely to die than non-indigenous children in a study conducted between 2014-16. The same study concluded that the life expectancy of Aboriginals is lower than non-Aboriginals by birth. Life expectancy is low because aboriginal children are 1.7 times more likely to be malnourished compared to non-indigenous children.
Mental health is also a cause of concern as suicide and self-harm are more common among the aboriginal community compared to the non-aboriginal community. In 2015, the suicide rate of the Aboriginal community was twice that of the general population in Australia. Indigenous people make up for only 3% of the total population roughly, but the suicide rate has risen drastically, form only 3% in 1990 to over 50% in 2010. What is even more concerning is that when you look at the age-wise stratified data, then the grim reality of this statistic pops out that the 10-24 age group saw its suicide rate rise up to almost 80% over the twenty years.
Now, these statistics paint a bleak picture. The commitment made by the government in 2008 seems to have been an empty promise because over half a decade later, these reports suggest no significant improvement in the condition of the indigenous community.
The situation on the education front is a bit better. Approximately 64% of the indigenous students were able to complete their year 12 education in 2015 compared to 86% of non-aboriginals. The divide is still great, and it needs to be closed in order to make things better but it shows an improvement in the year 12 completion rates of aboriginal students.
The 20-64 age group has also shown a good progress, the percentage of Aboriginal students working towards post-school qualifications has also increased from 26% in 2002 to 42% in 2014-15
The employment to population rate for Indigenous 15–64-year-olds was around 48% in 2014-15, compared to 75% for non-Indigenous Australians. According to 2016 census data, 4 out of 10 aboriginals were employed.
What does this Mean?
As it has been mentioned above, poverty can be based upon health, education and employment and looking at these statistics we can determine that although the poverty gap of aboriginal Australians is not too significant and that efforts have been made to narrow this gap down, but there is a need to do a lot more and that also on war footings.
What should be done?
The Australian government came up with a plan to bridge the gap in 2008, but twelve years later, the results are not as good as they should have been. Aboriginals face the highest discrimination in health, followed by employment and then education. The priority, therefore, needs to be health because there are some serious issues related to aboriginals.
There is a need for the Australian government to reiterate their promise and present a clear policy with step by step policy measures on what the government aims to do in order to bridge this gap down. Australia is big in terms of landmass but not very big in terms of population. Australia has a population of roughly 25 million, which is already smaller than many metropolitan cities. Secondly, the aboriginal Australians make up for only 3.3% of the total population, that is almost 825000, and this is not something that the Australian government should require a lot of time and resources to manage.
Aboriginals make up for almost 3.3% of the total population. When you look at the stats in this manner, you start to realize that the government could have done much better. The failure to make things right in the last 12 years, is really in simple words a failure of the governments to deliver on their promise to make things better.
Main Image Source : Pixabay
Also See : Aboriginals of Australia – A brief Story