NACCHO Aboriginal Health What Works Part 7 : Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage 2016 Productivity Commission Report shows some positive trends but…!

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“Data alone cannot tell the complete story about the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, nor can it fully tell us why outcomes improve (or not) in different areas.

To support the indicator reporting, case studies of ‘things that work’ are included in this report. However, the relatively small number of case studies included reflects a lack of rigorously evaluated programs in the Indigenous policy area “

Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage 2016 Report

Download PDF and Word copies of report here

The 2016 Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage (OID) report shows some positive trends in the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, but also shows outcomes have stagnated or worsened in some areas.

Two years on from the previous report there continues to be improvement in many areas of health, economic participation and aspects of education. But areas such as justice and mental health remain concerning, with increases in imprisonment rates and hospitalisations for self-harm.

“It is encouraging to see improvement over the last decade in rates of year 12 completion and post school education. But alarmingly the national imprisonment rate has increased 77 per cent over the last 15 years, and hospitalisation rates for self-harm have increased by 56 per cent over the last decade” said Peter Harris, Chair of the Productivity Commission and of the Steering Committee.

The OID report continues to provide comprehensive reporting, with a ‘strengths-based’ focus. It also includes some case studies on ‘things that work’ to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. “If we are to see improvements in outcomes we need to know which policies work and why. But the overwhelming lack of robust, public evaluation of programs highlights the imperative for Indigenous policy evaluation” said Deputy Chair Karen Chester.

The OID report should be compulsory reading for anyone interested in the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, including those working in service delivery or program design.

It is the most comprehensive report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing produced in Australia. It covers areas including governance and culture, early child development, health, education, economic participation and safe and supportive communities as well as reporting on indicators related to the Closing the Gap targets.

The report is produced by the Productivity Commission for the Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision, with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians involved in its development. This report is the seventh in the series.

The 2016 OID main report, Overview and short video can be found at: http://www.pc.gov.au\oid2016

    • This report measures the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, and was produced in consultation with governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Around 3 per cent of the Australian population are estimated as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin (based on 2011 Census data).
    • Outcomes have improved in a number of areas, including some COAG targets. For indicators with new data for this report
    • Mortality rates for children improved significantly between 1998 and 2014, particular for 0<1 year olds, whose mortality rates more than halved (from 14 to 6 deaths per 1000 live births).
    • Education improvements included increases in the proportion of 20–24 year olds completing year 12 or above (from 2008 to 2014-15) and the proportion of 20–64 year olds with or working towards post-school qualifications (from 2002 to 2014-15).
    • The proportion of adults whose main income was from employment increased from 32 per cent in 2002 to 43 per cent in 2014-15, with household income increasing over this period.
    • The proportion of adults that recognised traditional lands increased from 70 per cent in 2002 to 74 per cent in 2014-15.
  • However, there has been little or no change for some indicators.
  • Rates of family and community violence were unchanged between 2002 and 2014-15 (around 22 per cent), and risky long-term alcohol use in 2014-15 was similar to 2002 (though lower than 2008).
  • The proportions of people learning and speaking Indigenous languages remains unchanged from 2008 to 2014-15.
  • Outcomes have worsened in some areas.
    • The proportion of adults reporting high levels of psychological distress increased from 27 per cent in 2004-05 to 33 per cent in 2014-15, and hospitalisations for self-harm increased by 56 per cent over this period.
    • The proportion of adults reporting substance misuse in the previous 12 months increased from 23 per cent in 2002 to 31 per cent in 2014-15.
    • The adult imprisonment rate increased 77 per cent between 2000 and 2015, and whilst the juvenile detention rate has decreased it is still 24 times the rate for non-Indigenous youth.
  • Change over time cannot be assessed for all the indicators — some indicators have no trend data; some indicators report on service use and change over time might be due to changing access rather than changes in the underlying outcome; and some indicators have related measures that moved in different directions.
  • Finally, data alone cannot tell the complete story about the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, nor can it fully tell us why outcomes improve (or not) in different areas. To support the indicator reporting, case studies of ‘things that work’ are included in this report. However, the relatively small number of case studies included reflects a lack of rigorously evaluated programs in the Indigenous policy area

Indigenous disadvantage getting worse in mental health and incarceration

in Darwin

Australia’s efforts to combat Indigenous disadvantage are continuing to see declining outcomes in mental health, family violence, and incarceration, the Productivity Commission has found.

The commission’s biannual report, Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage, has measured the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people since 2000. The data helps inform Australia’s progress on its closing the gap targets, agreed to by the council of Australian governments (Coag) in 2007 and 2008.

Among the new findings in the 2016 release were continued gains in some indicators, including early childhood health and education but further declines in other areas.

The proportion of Indigenous adults reporting high or very high psychological distress rose to 33% in 2014-15, more than triple the proportion for non-Indigenous adults. Hospitalisation rates for intentional self-harm increased by 56% in the 10 years to 2014-15. The commission’s previous report in 2014 had found the suicide death rate was double that of non-Indigenous Australians.

Advocates have called for a royal commission into the high rates of suicide among Indigenous Australians, which has been labelled a “humanitarian crisis”. Estimates suggest it accounts for at least 5.1% and up to 10% of all Indigenous deaths.

Between 2002 and 2014-15, the rate of family and community violence remained largely unchanged, at 2.5 times the rate for non-Indigenous adults. Risky alcohol use was lower than in 2008 and remained in line with 2002 rates.

In the 10 years to 2014-15 the rate of Indigenous children on care and protection orders increased from 21 per 1,000 to 58, more than nine times the rate of non-Indigenous children.

The report also found the adult imprisonment rate had risen steadily, increasing by 77% in the 15 years to 2015.

While the rate of Indigenous juveniles in detention had dropped, it was still 24 times higher than for non-Indigenous youth.

A separate royal commission into the protection and detention of children in the NT began this year, and last month Indigenous leaders cautiously welcomed the announcement of a federal inquiry into Indigenous incarceration rates. However many including the Labor senator Pat Dodson noted few of the 339 recommendations of the 25-year-old royal commission into Indigenous deaths in custody, had been enacted.

The Productivity Commission also found improvements, including continued declines in the mortality rates of children. Among infants less than a year old mortality rates more than halved from 14 to six deaths per 1,000 live births.

A key closing the gap target is to see the mortality rate of all children under five halved by 2018.

Some educational outcomes also improved, with the proportion of 20 to 24-year-olds having completed year 12 or above rising from 45% to 62% since 2008.

The rate of 17 to 24-year-olds participating in post-school education, training, or employment also increased from 32% to 42% from 2002 to 2014-15.

The report also measured indicators of cultural value, finding more than half of responders reported feeling proud of Indigenous culture, and more than 80% regarded it and Indigenous history as important.

The rates of people learning an Indigenous language remained similar to 2008 levels, with the highest proportion among children aged three to 14. In remote and very remote areas 50% spoke an Indigenous language, compared with 16% overall.

Recent years have seen a concerted push to maintain, revive, and rescue endangered Indigenous languages, of which the vast majority are considered endangered.

Between 2002 and 2014-15 the proportion of Indigenous people recognising traditional homelands increased to 74%. By February 2016 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people collectively owned or controlled 16% of Australian land, the vast majority in very remote areas.

Homeownership rates among Indigenous people also increased, bucking the trend of non-Indigenous Australians, and rates of overcrowding decreased across the board, including from 63 to 49% in very remote areas.

The report included evaluations of “things that work” to support its indicator statistics, but noted a small number of case studies to draw on reflecting “a lack of rigorously evaluated programs in the Indigenous policy area”.

“If we are to see improvements in outcomes we need to know which policies work and why. But the overwhelming lack of robust, public evaluation of programs highlights the imperative for Indigenous policy evaluation,” said the deputy chair of the commission, Karen Chester.

The principles and practises underpinning successful programs included flexibility in design and delivery, community involvement, emphasis on building trust, a well-trained and well-resourced workforce, and continuity and coordination of the services, the report found

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