Today Aboriginals in Australia face many disadvantages. In 2008 the Australian Human Rights Commission published ‘Face the Facts’ which explores and explaines the common issues surrounding the Aboriginal Community in Australia. The publication highlights statistics in areas including health; education; employment; housing and contact with criminal justice and welfare systems. These statistics show that there are clear disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Australia across all indicators of quality of life. Aboriginal Australians generally experience lower standards of health, education, employment and housing. They are also over-represented in the criminal justice system and the care and protection systems, compared to non-Aboriginal people. The under performance and disadvantage experienced by Aboriginals is attributed to the racial discrimination of past and present policy in Australia.
The 2006 Census estimates that there are over half a million people in Australia who identify themselves as Aboriginal and they make up about 2.5% of Australia’s population.
Life expectancy in Australia 1996-01:
Aboriginal males – 59 years
All Australian males – 77 years
Aboriginal females – 65 years
All Australian females – 82 years
- The life expectancy of Aboriginal people is around 17 years lower than that of the Australian population. Aboriginal life expectancy appears to be similar to that of people in low development countries
- According to the 2005 United Nation’s Human Development Index, Aboriginal peoples appear to have the same life expectancy as that of the people of Turkmenistan
- Approximately thirty years ago, life expectancy rates for indigenous peoples in Canada, New Zealand and the United States of America were similar to the rates for Indigenous peoples in Australia. However Australia has fallen significantly behind in improving the life expectancy of its Indigenous peoples. Data suggests Aboriginal males in Australia live between 8.8 and 13.5 years less than indigenous males in Canada, New Zealand and the USA. Aboriginal females in Australia live between 10.9 and 12.6 years less than indigenous females in these countries
Due to lack of access to suitable medical facilities, Aboriginal Australians are twice as likely to report their health as fair/poor and one-and-a-half times more likely to have a disability or long-term health condition.
- The death rate for Aboriginal people aged 35-54 in the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia is five times that of the total Australian population
- The infant mortality rate for Aboriginal Australians is twice the infant mortality rate for all Australians
- Aboriginal people are 1.3 times more likely to be hospitalised for most diseases and conditions when compared with non-Indigenous people
Aboriginal students as a group leave school earlier, and live with a lower standard of education, compared with their peers, although the situation is slowly improving:
- In 2006 the proportion of Aboriginal people over 15 years who had completed Year 10 was 33% in major cities and 24% in remote areas
- 6% of Aboriginal people aged between 18 and 24 years were attending university compared with 25% of non-Indigenous people
Employment and Income
Aboriginal Australians as a group generally experience high unemployment compared to the national average.
- 57% of Aboriginal people aged 15-64 years were in the labour force compared with 76% of the non-Indigenous population in the same age group
- The unemployment rate was 16% for Aboriginal adults compared with 5% of the non-Indigenous population
- The average weekly household income for Aboriginal people ($460) was only 62% of that for non-Indigenous people ($740)
Aboriginals often find themselves living in sub-standard accommodation in urban and rural areas. The lack of appropriate housing can also have a knock-on affect on one’s health and employment status.
- 63% of Aboriginal households live in rental accommodation, 12% of Aboriginal households own their homes outright and 24% own their homes with a mortgage compared with 35% of non-Indigenous households own their homes outright and 36% own their homes with a mortgage.
- Aboriginal peoples are more likely to experience homelessness than other Australians. The rate of Aboriginals who are homelessness was three times the rate for other Australians in 2006.
Criminal Justice System
In general Aboriginals in Australia are more likely to be victims and perpetrators of reported crimes than the rest of the population.
- The imprisonment rate for Aboriginal adults at June 2007 was approximately 13 times that for non-Indigenous adults. Western Australia recorded the highest imprisonment rate, with Aboriginal people 21 times more likely to be imprisoned than the non-Indigenous population
- Aboriginal youth aged 10 to 17 years were 21 times more likely than non-Indigenous youth to be detained in juvenile justice centres
- During 2005, 54 people died in all forms of custody in Australia. Of the 54 deaths, 15 were Aboriginal peoples. 19% of all deaths in prison custody were Aboriginal peoples
Aboriginal women in Australia face double discrimination- as women and as Aboriginals. As a result they are more likely to be victims of violent crimes and abuse when compared to the rest of the population.
- 31% of all female prisoners were reported as identifying as Aboriginal even though the Aboriginal population is only 2.5% in Australia.
- The Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2005 Report indicated that 18.3% of Aboriginal women experienced physical or threatened abuse in the past 12 months compared with 7% of non-Indigenous women. However it is believed that the actual percentage in much higher due to under reporting.
Child abuse and neglect
The issue of child abuse and neglect in Aboriginal communities is a contentious one in Australia due to its current prevalence and the history of the ‘Stolen Generations’. Many Aboriginal families and communities live under severe social strain, caused by a range of social and economic factors. Alcohol and substance misuse, and overcrowded living conditions are just two of the factors that can contribute to child abuse and violence.
- In 2005-06, Aboriginal children were nearly four times as likely as other children to be the subject of abuse or neglect.
- An Aboriginal child is six times more likely to be involved with a statutory child protection system than a non-Indigenous child, but four times less likely to have access to child care or preschool services that can offer family support to reduce the risk of child abuse.
- Aboriginal children are seven times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous children.
To view the full ‘Face the Facts’ publication go to:http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,REFERENCE,,,AUS,45b632e02,4a2e2dd42,0.html
For more statistics on the Aboriginal population go tohttp://www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/cashome.nsf/home/ISS%20Indigenous%20statistics%20for%20schools
For a more detailed discussion on the statistics go to the Australian Human Rights website athttp://www.hreoc.gov.au/social_justice/statistics/index.html