Aboriginal #CoronaVirus News Alert No 43 : April 21 #KeepOurMobSafe : #OurJobProtectOurMob #Rural #Remote The coronavirus supplement is the biggest boost to Indigenous incomes since the 1970’s . It should be made permanent

It would be misguided to think Indigenous Australians need only temporary relief.

The Indigenous economy has been in crisis since 1788. The unemployment rate in places like Palm Island was 60% before the coronavirus hit.

The average duration of unemployment for Indigenous Australians is 73 weeks.

For Australia as a whole, it is 11 weeks.

The unfavourable job market now facing many Australians for the first time has been the normal state of affairs for many Indigenous people.

For this reason, the temporary increase to income support should be made permanent, and the suspended mutual obligation requirements abolished.

Doing so, and normalising some of the anomalies of the current arrangement (such as the exclusion of disability support pensioners, age pensioners, and temporary residents) would provide all Australians with an income floor below which no one could fall.

For Indigenous Australians, it would lock in the biggest reduction in poverty rates since the 1970s.

It would be affordable — it’s only a question of our priorities.

The crisis has reminded us once again how much we depend on each other. We can use it to rebuild a society which is fairer and in which no one is forced to struggle in deep poverty.:” 

This article draws on the Francis Markam author’s contribution to the collection Indigenous Australians and the COVID-19 crisis: Perspectives on public policy, published by the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at the ANU. From the Conversation 


On March 23 the government effectively doubled payments to the unemployed, single parents and students, introducing a new unconditional Coronavirus Supplement to go on top of existing allowances such as Newstart, Youth Allowance, Parenting Payment, Austudy and Abstudy.

From April 27 single unemployed adults will get around A$557.85 per week in income support, almost double the previous $282.85 per week.

This additional support is time-limited, applying for only six months.

As well as covering the newly unemployed, it’ll extend to existing recipients, meaning it’ll be paid to about 2.3 million Australians.

Read more: Coronavirus supplement: your guide to the Australian payments that will go to the extra million on welfare

At the same time, the onerous requirement for recipients in remote Australia to conduct “work-like activities” or face fines and suspensions, has itself been suspended because work-like activities carry added risk.

The temporary doubling is intended to shield those who find themselves unable to find work at a time when the government has shut down large sections of the economy.

But it will have another (welcome) unintended consequence: it will temporarily cut poverty among Indigenous Australia to new lows.

Most very remote Indigenous Australians live in poverty

Note graphic above added by NACCHO 

The income support system has failed for decades to keep Indigenous people out of poverty. At the time of the 2016 Census, 31% of Indigenous Australia lived below the poverty line of $404 per week.

And while the overall financial situation of Indigenous Australians improved over the decade from 2006 to 2016, in very remote Australia, poverty got worse.

Already alarmingly high in 2006 at 46%, by 2016 the proportion of very remote Indigenous Australians in poverty had climbed to 54%.

Percentage of Indigenous population living in poverty

Indigenous poverty rates using the ‘50% of median disposable equivalised household income’ poverty line. Markham and Biddle, 2018

Since then things have changed, for the worse.

According to Bureau of Statistics survey data, median Indigenous personal incomes fell from $482 per week in 2014-15 to $450 in 2018-19.

In remote Australia the fall was more precipitous.

Over those five years remote median Indigenous personal income fell from $375 per week to $310.

Median Indigenous income, 2014-15, 2019-19

Median gross personal weekly income, Indigenous population aged 15-64. Author’s calculations from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey 2014-15 and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey 2018-19

The Coronavirus Supplement is set to dramatically change things.

Before the coronavirus outbreak about 27% of the Indigenous population aged 16 years or older were receiving payments that make them eligible for the Supplement.

The proportion who will actually get it be much greater, as many more will become unemployed or underemployed as a result of the crisis.

Read more: Three charts on: the changing status of Indigenous Australians

Indigenous workers are likely to be especially hit hard by the downturn due to discrimination and their more-precarious employment status.

The extra $225 per week is well-targeted at the poorest Indigenous Australians.

According to my estimates, around 38% of Indigenous adults in very remote areas will be eligible.

The biggest boost in 50 years

It is likely to be the most substantial increase in aggregate Indigenous incomes since Indigenous people won rights to equal wages and the full range of social security payments between 1969 and 1977.

In very remote areas, total community incomes are likely to increase by one quarter.

Indeed, so significant is the boost that remote community stores may run out of food as incomes start to catch up with people’s everyday needs, a concern expressed by the minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt.

It should be made permanent

NACCHO News Alert: Has Government policy on remote Aboriginal communities failed ?


How much does it cost to change a tap washer in Hermannsburg? Probably nothing if you’re a resident, since most houses are rent­ed from the government and the taxpayers pick up the tab.

Let’s say 25c for the washer, $60 to fit it and $900, or thereabout, for the plumber’s journey to and from Alice Springs, and it comes to the best part of a grand. Hermannsburg, population 650, could support its own tradesmen, but like almost all other remote Aboriginal towns it has none.

Written for the Australian : BY Nick Cater executive director of the Menzies Research Centre and is researching welfare reform.

NACCHO NOTE : Photo :Ntaria School . Hermannsburg ( It is known in the local Western Arrernte language as Ntaria ) is an Aboriginal community in Ljirapinta Ward of the MacDonnell Shire in the Northern Territory , 131 km southwest of Alice Springs. . Wikipedia

That’s how the economy works across much of central and northern Australia where the normal rules of commerce don’t apply. In the separatist, collectivist, command economy of Central Australia, Hermannsburg is a mendicant community that absorbs tens of millions of dollars in welfare each year with no obvious benefit to the residents or the town. Compare Hermannsburg with, say, Jeparit, a town 370km northwest of Melbourne and the birthplace of Robert Menzies. ­Average income in Hermannsburg in the 2011 census was $20 a week higher than in Jeparit and the average weekly rent $60 less.

Jeparit has an IGA supermarket, two cafes, a pub, a newsagent, an electrical goods store, a farming goods supplier, a bank, a motor mechanic and a real estate agent. Hermannsburg has two non-profit community stores that look like ration shops from a down-at-heel Soviet republic. It can be shocking to visit Hermannsburg, a dystopia that embodies what Menzies feared most about socialism.

In 1942, Menzies predicted Australians would never live under “the overlordship of an all-powerful state … where the government, that almost deity, will nurse us and rear us and maintain us and pension us and bury us”.

Yet in the Aboriginal settlements of Central Australia that’s exactly how life is lived — “spineless and effortless”, to use Menzies’ words — under policies that penalise thrift and encourage dependence on the state.

For 40 years we have lived under the delusion Aboriginal Australia needs more government, not less. The Howard government’s 2007 intervention relied on that same flawed assump­tion. People of good heart wanted John Howard’s measures to succeed, if only to put a stop to the abuse and social dysfunction uncovered by this newspaper and others. Visiting the indigenous settlements of the Central Desert eight years on, it is obvious we were kidding ourselves. Much of the grog consumption has migrated to town and there are covered basketball courts courtesy of Kevin Rudd’s stimulus spending.

The verdict, almost unanimous, is the measures encouraged greater dependency. Those who live in the welfare sinkholes of Nyirripi, Papunya, Yuendumu or Kintore still lack the power to alter their impoverished lives for better or for worse. A new work-for-the-dole program in remote communities demands recipients perform “work-like activities” for up to 25 hours a week. The revised Remote Jobs and Communities Program will be a test of the government’s nerve. Even more, it will test the nerves of the RJCP officials on the ground whose thankless task is to cajole welfare recipients into action and snitch on the laggards to Centrelink.

Yet “work-like activities” are not the same thing as work, and while RJCP may be better designed than previous schemes, it faces formidable obstacles. In one community at 10am last Wednesday, a man was raking up rubbish, the only one of dozens of welfare recipients who apparently had bothered to turn up. From another community came reports young women whose dole had been stopped were menacing their elders for cash.

In a community store in another town, Aboriginal shoppers were being served by a backpacker from Argentina while another from England looked after the takeaway counter. Five locals notionally were employed by the store but none had turned up. The pernicious effect of four decades of welfare will not easily be broken. Three-quarters of the people in the remote Northern Territory have no memory of the time when indigenous people were employed. Lifestyles have adapted accordingly.

The local clinic offers no appointments, so a visit takes all day. The same goes for community and royalty meetings. People can be relied on to make logical ­choices even under such illogical circumstances. It is easy to conclude work doesn’t pay. Severing ties with Centrelink means no free health treatment. Getting back on the agency’s books if a job doesn’t work out is a hassle best avoided. Income pushes up the rent while the insidious practice of humbugging means income must be socialised. The loss of the daily freedom that comes with the welfare is another disincentive. It’s a wonder anyone works at all.

What remote Australia needs is not money but enterprise. It lacks the dynamic middle class Menzies identified as the motive power of progress, “the strivers, the planners, the ambitious ones” who seek a margin above average.

The buzzword for the propon­ents of constitutional amendment — recognise — frames a potential blueprint for a new direction. After decades of welfare failure, it is time to recognise the clumsy, self-servicing arm of government is incapable of assisting. If the proposal to remove race powers from the Constitution is to have any practical effect, we must acknowledge the racist assumptions that underpinned the failed policies of separatism and collectivism.

We must recognise the rich and precious Aboriginal culture is not incompatible with individual enterprise, and that the pursuit of self-interest and public benefit go hand in hand.

Above all, we should recognise the social evils destroying traditional culture are, by and large, symptoms of welfare. White public housing ghettos are little different from the ghettos of Central Australia. The pernicious effects of the welfare life are indifferent to ethnicity.

Nick Cater is executive director of the Menzies Research Centre and is researching welfare reform.

NACCHO Welcomes your feedback in comments below

NACCHO Male Health news: Aboriginal Men Heed the Call for Better Health

Male Health Summit - Ross River Resort - July 2013

Outcomes from this summit will follow later this week

About 120 Aboriginal men from across Australia have joined together at a national summit to identify ways to improve the health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males in remote communities.


Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, said today the three-day summit involved men from 29 communities from the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.

“For the first time, we are working closely with the men who live in these areas and asking them for their recommendations and ideas on ways to improve their health and the health of their families and communities,” he said.

“The summit will discuss a number of issues impacting health, including physical, social and emotional wellbeing, culture, employment, incarceration, and access to services in remote Aboriginal communities.

“At the end of the Summit, we hope to have developed some plans for action they can take back to their communities.” 

 The Australian Government’s National Partnership on Remote Service Delivery has identified each of the communities represented at the Summit as a priority area.

Under the partnership, the Government is working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to improve service delivery and facilities, to raise the quality of services, and support community leadership.

“Rather than having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel like they’re part of the problem, we want to encourage and support Aboriginal men to be part of the solution,” Mr Snowdon said.

 The Australian Government has provided $440,000 to support the Aboriginal Health Summit in partnership with the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress and Wurli Wurlinjang Health Service.

The Australian Government has funded a wide range of programs targeting men’s health, following the release of the National Male Health Policy. Including initiatives to prevent and treat prostate cancer, new funding for mental health programs aimed at men, supporting Men’s Sheds and funding organisations that address key male health issues including reproductive health.

There has also been funding committed towards programs to address the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men. Recognising and promoting the positive roles Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males have in managing their own health, and in supporting the health of all members of their communities including women and children.

The Australian Government is also investing in providing better treatment for men with prostate cancer, with about 20,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Abiraterone acetate (marketed as Zytiga®) will be available on the PBS from 1 August 2013, at a cost of $46 million over four years. 

Funding of $7 million over four years was recently announced to the Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia to support up to 13 Prostate Cancer Specialist Nurses to assist and support up to 4,000 men with prostate cancer.

In an effort to address suicide rates particularly among males, the Federal Government is investing $23 million to expand the beyondblue national workplace program, and building on the Info Line for men.

Campaigns are also being developed to address the stigma around depression, anxiety and related disorders.

Through the Strong Fathers Strong Families (SFSF) initiative $6.8 million has been provided to promote the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers, partners, grandfathers and uncles and encourage them to actively participate in their children’s and families’ lives.

More than $300,000 has been provided to establish, equip and promote Men’s Sheds as a positive contributor towards health, wellbeing and community engagement issues within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

White Lion has been granted $275,000 to provide intensive outreach support for young Aboriginal people who are incarcerated or have recently been released from incarceration.

 Media Contact: Marcus Butler  02 6277 7820 or  0417 917 796


Minister Warren Snowdon - Male Health Summit - Ross River Resort