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Dire differences

There are dire circumstances facing Indigenous Australians living in regional and very remote Australia, setting them apart from the rest of the country.

The Closing the Gap plan has done very little to address disadvantage for Indigenous Australians living in remote and very remote communities.

In Worlds Apart: Remote Indigenous disadvantage in the context of wider Australia, I outline the vast gap between communities with a higher proportion of Indigenous population and the rest of Australia in a range of categories, including:

  • life expectancy,
  • school attendance,
  • education levels,
  • employment,
  • health, and
  • crime — especially domestic violence.

Across all states and territories examined, these crimes occur at twice the rate — and higher — for communities that have 50% or more Indigenous population.

Alarmingly, in some states and territories, domestic violence and assault outstrip the rate of all other crimes.

Unemployment sits at around 19% for Indigenous Australians as opposed to just under 7% for non-Indigenous. Unemployment in very remote communities is even bleaker, being 29% as opposed to 3% for non-Indigenous unemployment in those communities.

Nationally, Indigenous Australians experience three times the unemployment rate of non-Indigenous Australians; this has a knock-on effect, given that employment has a direct impact on school attendance and crime rates.

School attendance has declined across all states and territories between 2018-2019 to 82%, compared to the rest of Australia at 92%. In the Northern Territory the Indigenous school attendance rate has declined even further to 63%.

Life expectancy has not improved, with Indigenous women in remote communities living up to 69.6 years compared to Indigenous women in cities at 76.5 years, and Indigenous men in remote communities living to 65.9 years compared to Indigenous men in cities at 72.1 years.

Life expectancy has not improved at all and school attendance has declined across all states and territories.

In 2021, it is unacceptable that in one of the world’s wealthiest nations, such conditions exist. We require effective policies that deal with the dire circumstances in remote communities — not the current raft of policies that are based primarily on Indigeneity.