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The economic inequality between Indigenous

and non-Indigenous Australians


In Australia, we can divide the people into indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. If
we look at the economic situation of the 2 groups separately, there is a huge gap
between them. This gap looks like there is a third world country in Australian territory.
This inequality in one country is not acceptable in todays human rights centred world. In
this essay, I will discuss about the gap, which are clearly shown in the statistics in
health, education, employment and security of the indigenous and non-indigenous
Australians. Also I will discuss about the reasons for this gap. Furthermore, I will be
discussing strategies that can reduce or even close the economic inequality gap. In the
final part, I will be reflecting my own social position that has influenced my choice of
strategy.
There are about 670000 Indigenous people or 3% of the Australian population in
Australia and about 20% of them live in remote or very remote area (Australian Bureau
of Statistics 2011). According to Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006), employment to
population ratio of indigenous people was 43.2% compared to 60.5% of non-indigenous
people. Average weekly income in the same year was $267.4 and 456.2 respectively.
Although this gap has decreased dramatically since the 1971, the statistics show there
are still other worrying issues. Life expectancy of indigenous people is on average 20
years less than the other Australians. This shows the health issue of indigenous
Australians are almost same level as third world countries or if they were independent
country they would be ranked 103rd in the world. The gap will go on from schooling,

higher education, infant mortality to crime rates, alcoholism and child abuse. So what is
the cause of this inequality?
In my view, the main reason there is such gap exist is that what indigenous
people value in their life are not the same as non-indigenous people. In fact that, is it
even fair for the indigenous people to use same measurement as the non-indigenous
people? Employment, for example, most probably did not exist before the first ship from
Europe landed in 1788 in Australian east coast as their way of living did not require
them producing something for trade or other economic activities. This different way of
living is one of the main reasons that there is still a huge gap between them. Another
reason for the gap is that, indigenous people were treated unfairly since the arrivals of
Europeans. They were counted in Australian population only from 1967. There were a
number of governments wrong actions towards indigenous people and in 2008,
Australian government for the first time apologized to indigenous community (Muir &
Alford 2004). One of the decisions, which had negative impact, was to introduce welfare
program. This had led to less motivated indigenous Australians which resulted them to
become jobless and welfare-dependent (Davidoff & Duhs 2008). Unemployment itself
only can have so many negative impacts such as alcoholism, having no self-confidence
and distress.
There are policies that already exist to close to economic inequality gap, which
are overall will be beneficial to both indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
Improved economic situation for the indigenous people means 3% of the population will
contribute to strengthen the economy of the country (Reconciliation Australia 2014).
Reversely, if indigenous Australians are not doing great, overall economy will be pulled

back. From here, we can see some of the policies are enforcing indigenous people to
live like non-indigenous people in order to have better outcome even though they have
different values. It is like enforcing indigenous people to become same as them, since
indigenous people need to give up their culture, tradition and languages which are
considered not important to improve economic situation (Biddle 2011). In reality, these
factors play vital role in wellbeing which we can see why the most of the policies to
improve lives of indigenous people until 2008 had failed (Davidoff & Duhs 2008).
To improve wellbeing of indigenous people, Australian government needs a long
term strategic plan as it will take time for indigenous people to change and these
strategies have to be developed with cooperation of indigenous community. In my
opinion, creating job opportunities for indigenous people whether they are in remote or
urban areas is far more important than other issues and most importantly they should
have freedom to work not by forcing. This way, as people learn from each other,
indigenous people will realize and understand the importance of income which comes
with self independence and better life. Creating a job opportunity that is suitable for
those in remote area can be challenging for the government as there is lack of
infrastructures, but it is very important to keep their culture and respecting their way of
living which is close to the nature as they have lived there for centuries.
Another strategy in my opinion that is highly important to close the gap is
education. Investing in taking care of young indigenous children will be beneficial in the
long term. Education in general can enable them to learn importance of knowledge, to
understand importance of personal income, health and all other aspects. Therefore,
education can be a tool to many solutions.

In conclusion, indigenous people were not treated equal until 1967 which is very recent
and it will take time to change, but it is important that the Australian government realized
and started taking actions to improve indigenous people lives. What has happened in
the past cannot be changed; therefore they have to do what is best for indigenous
peoples future. Education and employment, the strategies recommended by me, can
solve many issues as I discussed, and other important aspects of wellbeing such as
health can improve respectively.
Since I am a Mongolian student, we have a similar situation in my country. About
40% of Mongolian population live as nomadic people whose life are highly connected to
nature and it is important for them to keep it untouched as possible. But recent mining
activities in various parts of the country are destroying the fields for their animals as
there are around 30 million of them. Also polluted rivers caused by chemicals in mining
are killing their animals is leaving them no option but to come to cities and live on
government welfare. As a result, the unemployment, alcoholism and health issues rise
and rapid increase in urban areas causing it more expensive to live in cities. For this
reason, I believe, creating job opportunities in remote areas rather than destroying their
community will help this people to have better lives. My social position also affected the
policy on education as it is same issue for the most developing countries.

Reference
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011, Estimates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Australians, cat. no. 3238.0.55.001, June 2011, viewed 02 June 2015
http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3238.0.55.001
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples
(Indigenous) Profile, cat. no. 2002.0, January, viewed 02 June 2015
http://www.censusdata.abs.gov.au/census_services/getproduct/census/2006/community
profile/0?opendocument&navpos=220
Biddle, N, 2011, Measures of Indigenous Wellbeing and Their Determinants Across the
Lifecourse, Definitions of wellbeing and their applicability to Indigenous policy in
Australia
Davidoff, L & Duhs, A, 2008, ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIA: AN ECONOMIC HISTORY OF
FAILED WELFARE POLICY, University of Queensland, June, viewed on 03 June 2015
http://espace.library.uq.edu.au/view/UQ:151369/econdp_371_0608.pdf
Muir, J & Alford, K, 2004, Dealing with unfinished Indigenous business: The need for
historical reflection, National Council of the Institute of Public Administration, Australia
Reconciliation Australia, Economic benefits of closing the gap in Indigenous
employment outcomes, January 2014, viewed 30 May 2015
https://www.reconciliation.org.au/?s=indigenous+employment+outcomes