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The economics of indigenous deprivation and proposals for reform

  • Year: 2005
  • Author: Hughes, Helen
  • Publisher: Centre for Independent Studies
  • Published Location: St Leonards, NSW
  • Country: Australia

The author argues that as a result of 30 years of separatist policies, Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in remote communities, fringe settlements and capital-city ghettos, as compared to those integrated into the mainstream economy in capital cities and towns in regional Australia, have been denied the economic opportunities of other Australians so that they are almost entirely dependent on welfare. The paper reviews the geographic and income distribution of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, then discusses the employment and income outlook for remote communities. The remote community, native title, education, housing, health, governance and law policies and their welfare consequences, are then outlined together with the reforms required to end deprivation and bring all Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders to mainstream living standards in the near future. The author argues that separatist policies have created a small but powerful Indigenous elite that benefits from the very policies causing deprivation for the majority of remote, fringe and ghetto dwellers, and that an army of politicians, state, territory and federal public servants, academics, cultural, legal, accounting and other consultants, administrators and service providers to the remote, fringe and ghetto communities has been given a vested interest in the status quo. Indigenous leaders have started to open up a debate on how to reform the policies that are causing deprivation and despite the barriers created by the need for permits, the media are at last reporting on conditions in remote communities and on the debate on how to overcome them. The Commonwealth Governments is taking steps to reduce the welfare dependence impact of transfers to remote communities, but the debate needs to move to cover the whole range of necessary policy reforms so that Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders can access the same choices and living standards as other Australians, with service and private organisations also having a role to play in the transition.

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