The media has been playing the role of intermediary and highlighting the social issues related to the indigenous communities. In this regard, there are several public discussions and public policy debates have been initiated to recognize these problems related to the aboriginals. There are several factors that led to the difference in the Indigenous and non Indigenous people. These inequalities is evident from the disparity in the distribution of income, access to basic necessities of life like food, clothing, shelter, health services, education and other social benefits. The indigenous people of Australia are the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. They are distributed throughout the nation from cities to remote areas comprising of more than one group. They are distinguished on the basis of their culture, histories, languages etc. The indigenous population was calculated by Australia as 669,900 in 2011 which accounted for 3 per cent of the total Australian population. The indigenous people in Australia can be of Aboriginal origin, Torres Strait Islander origin or can even be both. Statistics related to their distribution of origin reveals that around 90 per cent indigenous Australians were of Aboriginal origin, 6 percent were of Torres origin and 4 percent of the population comprises of both types of origins. There is a significant disparity in the ages of the indigenous and non indigenous population depicting indigenous population to be younger. (Australianmuseum.net.au, 2013)
The concept of inequality works simultaneously with social, political and economic factors. These factors include the unequal distribution of income between the two groups, deprivation of the basic human necessities of life like food, education, health and other features of economic well being. The inequalities in the indigenous and non indigenous Australians creep up due to several factors. For instance, there is a significant disparity in the level of education which causes a difference in the professional front. These unequal opportunities available to the indigenous Australians led to widening the gap. (Leigh and Gong, 2009) The indigenous people were considered to be uncivilized and neglected. They were not given proper social benefits and opportunities as a result the non indigenous population of Australia. The non indigenous were educated, civilized and were provided with better opportunities and amenities of life. The inequality in the education, health and other social aspect increased the gap between the indigenous and non indigenous population of Australia. (Aboriginal Economic Participation Strategy 2012-2016, 2015)
Australian economy is characterized as a powerful economy with the least unemployment rates relative to the other OECD member countries. The government of Australia realized the need to recognize the indigenous society in the nation and developed opportunities for the indigenous people to allow them to participate in the functions of life and help them to gain independence and social security for their families. For diminishing the gap between the indigenous and non indigenous groups of the nation, the government has ensured that similar chances and opportunities be given to the indigenous people by providing them with better education, enhance their workforce participation and ensuring that they are financially independent. The government had undertaken an Economic Development Strategy which focuses on the reducing and eliminating the disparity in the two groups of population in the nation. The strategy has made improvements by benefiting the indigenous group by some major disadvantages still prevails within the nation. (Altman, 2015) This strategy mainly emphasizes on the five important arenas that help to improve the social status of the indigenous Australians by initiating developmental approach in the field of education, health, skills and job opportunities and help them to acquire financial security and all kinds of independence. The five priorities are:
• Supporting the economic development by creating an environment that strengthens foundations
• Investment initiate in the field of education
• Improve and enhance participation in the field of development of skills and job opportunities
• Encouraging growth in the field of business and entrepreneurship developed by the indigenous population
• Achieving financial stability, security and independence by utilizing the economic assets to the full
The first strategy encourages the participation of the indigenous group in the economic process so that they can also help to bring about economic prosperity to the nation and enjoy benefits acquired by the nation. The more they participate in the economic activities the more the economy gets developed. The gap between the indigenous and non indigenous people can e closed by encouraging investment in the field of services, infrastructure, health and well being indicators. This strategy focuses on the inequalities in the life expectancy, child mortality, on the disparities in employment and other developmental issues. (Aihw.gov.au, 2015) Other epicenter of the strategy is the Indigenous people must acquire access to habitats, introduction of information technology, tax and welfare system that enhance economic development and incorporating best governance for the nation. It is important to remember that the economy can only flourish if there is growth as well as development in the economy. Now development can be measured by the Indigenous Human Development Index which will include the areas related to income, educational attainment and life expectancy rates. In short it recognizes the income distribution pattern, health indicator and the educational status of the nation. These activities are based on targets that are to be achieved y 2018.
In order to reduce the gap between the two groups of population, the government has realized that for introducing economic development in the economy, proper educational status is required to be maintained. As already discussed about the issue of economic development, the role of education in the prosperity of the economy is diversifying. With better education the people can get hold of better job opportunities which can help to increase or even generate incomes. This in turn has the ability to improve their standard of living. To establish a better education system it is necessary to focus on several aspects like school attendance which must increase. This must be the lookout of the parents to develop school readiness in children and help them to achieve proper outcomes. The strategy focuses on the access of children to higher education with a view to be a relevant resource for the economy. (Hunter and Gray, 2001)
The third strategy of development skills and jobs is a crucial feature of participation of people in the economic process. The aim of this strategy is to generate job opportunities, introduce better training skills, and enhance the vocational training to help the skilled workers. Encouragement of education is very necessary for the readiness of jobs by the young indigenous population who prove to be an integral part of the economy. The priority focuses number four deals with the business and entrepreneurial skills of the young individuals. Initiating and regulating business can prove to strengthen the economy. For the economy to bloom there must be significant investment in business by putting up Indigenous business sectors that will generate employment, income and better standard of living of the people. Now for business to develop, the major factor of production that initiates the production process is capital for which the credit facilities in the country must ensure that the indigenous youths get proper financial support to build business prospects. It is necessary to develop a private public partnership that would help to expand the business sector of Australia. (Kalb et al., n.d.)
Lastly, for the indigenous Australians to be stable and develop own economic stability it is necessary for them to financial independent. This financial stability and independence would give them a sense of future planning of their family lives. The strategy aims to develop jobs in the economy which will help to increase the level of income in the hands of the people which in turn will allow the individuals to increase and expand their assets which can be utilized in the future by them or their future generations and help to remove the concept of welfare dependency in the economy. To acquire house there must be easy availability of home loans and improve the stature of the Australia’s Intellectual Property Rights. (Digital, 2015) (Stewart, n.d.)
We focus on two key areas: health and education. In spite of the strong economic development strategy there remained certain challenges that needed to be catered on. Health is an important indicator of development. (Grypma, 2009) The government of Australia had taken initiative with National Partnership Agreement worth $1.6 million for eliminating the gap between the two groups. $2.2 billion worth of investment for a period of five years on National Mental Health Reform package were undertaken by the government and several other programs and initiatives were taken under the strategy to promote and enhance the health status of the country. In spite of these, the life expectancy rate was estimated to be low for the indigenous population rather than the non indigenous. Also for the year 2008-2012, the infant mortality rate almost doubled for the indigenous relative to the non indigenous people. This means that the death rates for indigenous group is five times higher than that of the non indigenous. Thus, the health scenario still has scope for improvement to eradicate the disparity between the two groups. (Booth and Carroll, 2005)
Considering the educational condition of the country, only 59 percent of indigenous population was able to complete year 12 which is quite low as compared to 88 percent of the non indigenous people. This is followed by the unemployment rates in the economy for the indigenous people are again estimated to be five times more than that of the other group. These result in some way contradict the approaches and programs undertaken by the government like for the year 2009-2012, investment worth $651 billion were made on the Australian schools, a welfare measure was initiated by government allocating funds worth $24.8 million to encourage the parents so that their children attend school daily. (Jackson, 2008) (Lyons and Janca, 2012)
The policy recommendations that must be taken by the government to ensure proper implementation of the goal of the economic development strategy are that the strategy focuses on the development assistance but it did not point out the target of such assistance. An effective policy on analyzing the demography of the indigenous group and pattern of their dwellings is required to distribute the development assistance evenly. Policies also must be taken to enhance the role of the state for initiating economic development so that the strategy and goals can be implemented diversely. The policy making process must be diversified by considering several aspects of the indigenous groups so that it does not get confined to mere consultation.
Thus, we see that the government of Australia had taken proper steps and strategies to develop and eliminate the disparity between the Indigenous and Non indigenous population in Australia. But there still remained certain challenges that need to be rectified and implemented in a proper manner by the government. The essay also recognized some of the policy recommendations that the government can utilize to improve the economic development strategy on Indigenous Australians. (Whelan and Wright, 2013)
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Aihw.gov.au, (2015). Indigenous health (AIHW). [online] Available at: https://www.aihw.gov.au/australias-health/2014/indigenous-health/ [Accessed 9 Mar. 2015].
Altman, J. (2015). ‘Developing the Aborigines’. 1st ed. [ebook] Available at: https://www.austlii.edu.au/au/journals/JlIndigP/2013/37.pdf [Accessed 9 Mar. 2015].
Australianmuseum.net.au, (2013). Introduction to Indigenous Australia - Australian Museum. [online] Available at: https://australianmuseum.net.au/indigenous-australia-introduction [Accessed 9 Mar. 2015].
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