Are things getting better or worse for Australia's Aboriginals?
ABORIGINAL ISSUES – Progressing or Regressing?
Although often ignored or under-reported in the media problems in the Aboriginal community continue. In fact many of these problems seem to be getting worse.
While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (ATSI) make up only 3% of our total population they represent 27% of the prisoners in our jail. Of juveniles in prison, 60% are Aboriginal. The Australian Law Reform Council is examining the reason for this level of over-representation. (1)
A social survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for 2014-15 showed that one in ten Aboriginals or Torres Strait Islanders had been incarcerated with the rate in remote areas twice that in non-remote areas. Only 4% of females had been incarcerated but with males the figure was 15%. The Indigenous unemployment rate was 20.6% overall, 19.3% in non-remote areas and 27.4% in remote areas. (2)
ABS statistics on crime from 2010 to 2015 show that for most states and in just about every year the homicide rate for the Indigenous was much higher than for the non-Indigenous. Figures on causes of death for 2015 show that the Indigenous are about eight times to die due to “Assault [homicide]” as other Australians. (3) Indigenous murder rates tend to be higher in Queensland than in New South Wales and much higher again in the Northern Territory. (4) And they are twice as likely to die due to “intentional self-harm [suicide]”. (5)
Figures provided by Sydney Morning Herald journalists show that in 2012 the suicide rate for Australia was 10.6 per 100,000 and had actually declined 25% since 1998. Indigenous suicides had on the other hand been rising and reached 20.1 per 100,000. Out of 171 countries surveyed by the United Nations, Australia had the 64th highest suicide rates but if Indigenous Australians were treated as a separate country they would have the 12th highest rate. Worse still the difference in rates between Indigenous and other Australians actually gets much worse the lower the age group. Indigenous children under 14 were nearly eight times more likely to die from suicide than non-Indigenous of the same age group. (6)
Infant mortality rates among both the general population and Indigenous children had been falling for years but in 2015 the Indigenous rate actually rose nationally and in three out of the four states we could get figures for, as well as in the Northern Territory. (7)
To make matters worse there has been an outbreak of syphilis across northern Australia, mainly among Aboriginals in remote communities. (8)
So many things are going wrong that it’s obvious much than has been done, ostensibly for the betterment of the Indigenous, has actually failed to work as expected and probably made things worse. In the name of affirmative action hundreds of millions of dollars in benefits, such as housing loans, business loans, study grants, employment preferences and legal assistance, seem to have had little positive effect. Exclusive native title has been recognised over 851,654 square kilometres and if we add that determined as non-exclusive, native title covers 7,686,850 square kilometres or about 30% of Australia. (9)
Apart from affirmative action and other handouts Aboriginals, and the rest of the country, are subject to constant bleating about racism, dispossession, the massacres carried out against Aboriginals in the 19th century (although not the massacres carried out against settlers by Aboriginals) and of course the so-called “stolen generations”. School children are given a sanitised, if not romanticised, picture of traditional Indigenous culture with matters like the high level of infanticide, tribal warfare or delightful initiation practices that could include circumcision or subincision never mentioned. Similar propaganda comes over the media and a message given is that all problems in the Aboriginal community can be sheeted home to the settlement of the country by whites and subsequent actions by settlers and the government. It’s obvious from the above that those who live in remote areas suffer the worst problems but it is these people who have the most access to their traditional lands and the opportunity to practice their traditional culture – which largely they do not.
Meanwhile birth rates among the Indigenous are noticeably higher than the non-Indigenous. It could be said that we are literally breeding more problems. (10)
SOURCES AND NOTES
1. “Aboriginal Jail Inquiry”, Daily Telegraph, 11 February 2017; Emma Partridge, “Time to Raise the Bar over Kid Laws”, Daily Telegraph, 18 March 2017
2. Australian Bureau of Statistics - 4714.0 - National Aboriginal and Torres Islander Social Survey, 2014-15
3. Australian Bureau of Statistics - 3303.0 – Causes of Death, Australia, 2015
4. Australian Bureau of Statistics – 45100DO004_2014 Recorded Crime – Victims, Australia, 2014. The homicide victimisation rate for ATSI averaged over the years 2010 to 2014 was 1.96 per 100,000 in NSW, 3.6 in Queensland and 13.44 in the Northern Territory.
5. Australian Bureau of Statistics - 3303.0 – Causes of Death, Australia, 2015
6. Inga Ting, Fergus Hunter, “Indigenous Suicide Rate 12th Highest in the World”, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 July 2015
7. Australian Bureau of Statistics, Infant Mortality Rates: (Deaths per 1,000 live births)
Year 2013 2014 2015
Australia 3.6 3.4 3.2
Indigenous - Australia 6.1 6.0 6.5
Indigenous – NT 13.6 12.5 13.0
Indigenous – WA 5.1 5.1 5.6
Indigenous – NSW 3.9 4.4 4.7
Indigenous – Qld 6.6 6.2 7.2
Indigenous – SA 8.0 7.2 5.9
Note: The infant mortality rate in China is 9 deaths per 1,000.
8. Shanni Wellington, “Syphilis Outbreak in NT ‘massive’, Doctors Urge Awareness in Remote Communities”, www.abc.net.au 28 February 2017
The number of reported cases of syphilis in the NT jumped from 14 cases in 2012 to 229 last year.
9. Keith Windschuttle, “The Break-Up of Australia”, Quadrant Books, Sydney, 2016
10. ABS – 3301.0 Births, Australia, 2015. Total fertility rate is 1.81 in 2015. For Indigenous it rises to 2.27.