NACCHO Aboriginal health alert: Report reveals Aboriginal socio-economic disadvantage

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Picture above NT Chief Minister Adam Giles and new Minister the Indigenous Affairs Senator Nigel Scullion visit bush camps at Utopia North East of Alice Springs a remote area in the NT

In a recent article  in The Australia outlined that Indigenous Australians are more likely to live in neighbourhoods where the rest of the population is relatively disadvantaged.

More than a third of indigenous Australians (36.6 per cent) live among the most disadvantaged 10 per cent of the population and only 1.7 per cent live among the top 10 per cent.

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The paper, by the Australian National University’s Nicholas Biddle, finds that in every area analysed, the Indigenous population had higher levels of socioeconomic disadvantage than the non-indigenous population.

Although disadvantage was generally higher in remote locations, there was wide variation in both urban and remote and regional locations.

The report ranked, in a joint pool, the non-indigenous and indigenous populations of 368 locations around the country based on a socioeconomic measure that incorporated three employment measures, three for education, two for housing and one for income. The non-indigenous and indigenous components of a community were then compared to see whether there was socioeconomic equity.

The average difference was 48.3 percentile places, meaning the non-indigenous population in an area ranked about 48 places (out of 100) higher than the indigenous population in the same area.

The smallest gap between the two populations was in “Sydney — lower north”, where the indigenous population was ranked in the 9th percentile while the non-indigenous population was ranked in the top percentile.

There were three areas where the indigenous population ranked in the 100th (most disadvantaged) percentile while the non-indigenous population ranked in the first (most advantaged percentile): Ramingining-Milingimbi and outstations; Great Sandy Desert; and Kaltukatjara and outstations.

All are in remote Australia, where the gaps between the indigenous and non-indigenous population were greatest.

Between 2006 and 2011, there were eight areas that improved their relative socioeconomic ranking by 20 percentile places or more. Dr Biddle said most of these areas were in remote parts of the country including Bulloo-Quilpie-Barcoo and Nhulunbuy-Gunyangara.

“However, there was also significant improvement in the socioeconomic ranking of the inner suburbs of Darwin,” he said.

There were seven areas that worsened in terms of their socioeconomic rank by 20 percentile places or more.

“The areas that worsened the most tended to be in regional areas, including Atherton in Queensland,” Dr Biddle said. “However, there was also a worsening in the outcomes for the indigenous area of South Perth-Victoria Park.”

Dr Biddle said that possibly the most important finding from the paper was that in every area in Australia, Aborigines had substantially worse outcomes than non-indigenous Australians.

“Indigenous status is only one predictor of disadvantage,” he said.

“However, in every part of Australia indigenous status predicts poorer socioeconomic outcomes and our policy makers, service providers, educators, employers — everyone really — needs to be aware of this.”

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