Is it any wonder that we’ve made so little progress on indigenous policy when the following statement can appear in the editorial of a national newspaper?
“A majority of Indigenous Australians live in the mainstream and enjoy roughly the same life prospects, health outcomes and educational attainment as non-aboriginal Australians of similar socio-economic backgrounds.”
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands must be shocked — and delighted — that most of them have, according to The Australian Financial Review — attained the same economic, educational and health outcome as the rest of us; so too the thousands of bureaucrats across Australia working at indigenous programs, which can plainly be scaled down.
We hate to ruin the parties doubtless underway across indigenous Australia but the AFR is wrong. Not just a little wrong. Wrong in a way that makes you wonder what was in the head of the person who wrote it.
Life prospects: Not sure what “life prospects” means but let’s try unemployment, using 2014-15 data:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander unemployment rate, remote areas: 27.4%
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander unemployment rate, major cities: 14%
- Australian unemployment rate 2014-15: 6%
- Sydney unemployment rate 2014-15: 5.2%
- Median age at death of non-indigenous Australians in 2013-2015: 81.9 years
- Median age at death of indigenous Australians in 2013-2015: 57.9 years
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rate of heart, stroke and vascular disease, remote areas, 2011-13 : 12.4%
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rate of heart, stroke and vascular disease, major cities, 2011-13: 10.6%
- All Australians rate of heart, stroke and vascular disease, major cities, 2011-13: 5%
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diabetes rate, remote areas, 2011-13: 9.1%
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander diabetes rate, major cities, 2011-13: 6.9%
- All Australian diabetes rate, 2011-13: 4.6%
Educational attainment: In 2012-13,
- Non-Indigenous Australians, completion of Year 12 or equivalent: 54%.
- Indigenous Australians, completion of Year 12 or equivalent: 27%.
- Non-indigenous completion of year 12 or equivalent, major cities, 2006: 82%
- Indigenous completion of year 12 or equivalent, major cities, 2006: 50%
So the Financial Review is correct in claiming indigenous Australians enjoy “roughly the same” outcomes if your idea of “roughly” stretches to “double” or more.
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None of these facts are hard to dig up; a few minutes googling would have saved the national tabloid from embarrassing itself. But it reflects the weird world inhabited by some powerful white conservatives in positions of power, to be so profoundly ignorant of the state of indigenous health, or education, to think the problems only exist in remote areas or on the fringes of major regional centres. Outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in major cities are better than those of indigenous people in remote areas — but still often twice as bad as those of other Australians, and for some conditions and risk factors, urban indigenous people have worse outcomes than non-indigenous Australians in remote communities.
The AFR pompously demands “those behind the Uluru Statement must do much more to show that its proposals would genuinely help all Indigenous people.” How would its op-ed writers know what genuine help was when they don’t have the most basic idea of what’s happening to indigenous Australians?