The 1967 referendum gave the Commonwealth power to legislate for indigenous people and required the census to count indigenous people as members of the Australian population.

And 40 years on? The statistics provided in this article are intended as a general snapshot only. The process of depicting an ‘average Aborigine’ is fraught on several fronts, not least of all because of a paucity of available data.

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For example, some figures are only available from 2001, while others are from 2006. Also, the gap in some areas between Indigenous people in remote regions and those in metropolitan regions is huge, particularly in relation to health, employment and income.

But all that said, the ‘average Aborigine’ as depicted here correlates almost exactly with what those familiar with indigenous affairs would expect to see:

  • Indigenous Australians make up a little under 2.5 per cent of the national population.
  • Our ‘average Aboriginal’ is 20 years old, which was the median age for the entire Indigenous population in 2001, versus 36 for the non-Indigenous population.
  • He more than likely lives in a family of 3.5 people, compared to a white family which averages about 2.6 people.
  • An Aboriginal male born today has a life expectancy of about 59 years. But our ‘average Aboriginal’ is already 20 years of age, so his life expectancy at birth was much less, probably around 54 years. So in seven years time – at age 27 – he will have already lived half his life.
  • Nationally, the average indigenous Australian is about 15 times more likely to go to prison than a non-indigenous Australian.
  • On the day our Aboriginal turns 25, about six per cent of his countrymen will be in prison.
  • In some areas of the country, as many as one in three Aboriginal males will go to prison at some stage in their life. So while our average Aboriginal may not, on average someone from his family is likely.
  • He more than likely lives in a metropolitan or urban area – only about 25 percent of the indigenous population live in remote or very remote regions of Australia. Which is lucky for him – if he’d been born in a remote region, his life expectancy would have been under 50 years of age.
  • Superannuation is obviously of little relevance to him – he will likely die long before he claim it.
  • And he’s unlikely to have any superannuation anyway. While the official unemployment statistics claim only about 20 per cent of indigenous Australians are unemployed, the real figure is much higher (probably around 50 per cent). More than 30,000 indigenous people are on the black work-for-the dole program (CDEP), yet still classified as employed.
  • His average weekly household income (according to 2001 figures) was $364, compared to $585 for white households. Were he to live in a very remote area, his average weekly household income would have been $267.
  • His father, on average, is probably already dead, with 45 percent of Aboriginal men dying before the age of 45.
  • Our average Aboriginal’s sister – if she marries – is 25 times more likely to suffer domestic violence than a non-Indigenous woman.
  • On the education front, our average Aborigine is highly unlikely to have finished a Year 12 education – only about 38 percent of indigenous students do, compared to 76 percent of non-indigenous students. On the balance of probabilities, he probably dropped out during Year 11 or Year 10.
  • Ironically, the longer he stayed at school, the worse his achievements (set against white students). In Year 3, he was more than likely to meet the national literacy benchmark. But by Year 7, he was already on average failing to meet the national numeracy benchmark.
  • University is a pipe dream for him. In 2001, for example, less than 2 per cent of the indigenous population attended university, which was less than half of the proportion of the total Australian population that attended university.
  • He’s unlikely to ever own a home – only about one third of indigenous Australians achieve home ownership, compared to three-quarters of the white population.
  • As for his health, our average Aboriginal’s outlook is horrendous. Life expectancy gap aside, he is almost certainly a smoker (49 percent of indigenous Australians are, compared to 22 percent of non-indigenous Australians).
  • He’s almost three times more likely to develop heart disease. And if he does present at a hospital, he’s 40 per cent less likely to receive diagnostic procedures than his non-indigenous counterparts. And believe it nor not, if he is admitted to hospital for his coronary problems, he’s 2.3 times more likely to die than if he stays at home (where he’s 1.4 times more likely to die).
  • With the four worst rate of type diabetes on the planet, our average Aboriginal is 10 times more likely to have type 2 diabetes than a white Australian, and seven times more likely to be hospitalised because of it.
  • If he marries and his wife attempts to have children, she’s five times more likely to die at childbirth.
  • Because he’s over 15 years of age, he’s more likely to be obese or overweight – 61 percent more likely, compared to non-indigenous Australians (48 percent).
  • It all adds up to our average Aboriginal being about five times more likely to commit suicide than a white Australian, with 108 indigenous male suicides per 100,000 population, compared to 21 for white Australians.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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