ACOSS is committed to the reduction of Indigenous poverty and inequality. As a non-Indigenous organisation, we do not claim to speak for, or represent, the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations. We work closely with the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and have signed a Supporters Accord to recognise this commitment. Read the Supporters Accord
ACOSS’ advocacy to alleviate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander poverty and disadvantage is based on the principles of self-determination, non-discrimination and respect for human rights, respect for diversity, cultural appropriateness and community capacity building. ACOSS has also been involved in developing a set of a set of Principles for a Partnership-Centred Approach for NGOs Working with Aboriginal Organisations and Communities.
ACOSS’ recent federal budget submissions have made recommendations to increase funding to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services, especially primary and preventive health, expand Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child and family services and establish an employment assistance scheme that is responsive to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community needs and priorities.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are disproportionately affected by poverty and disadvantage. Median incomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households are just 65% of those of non-Indigenous households. Employment rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are lower than for non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in all age groups, states and territories and remoteness areas, though the gap has narrowed slightly in recent years.
The gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous life-expectancy at birth is 12 years for males and 10 years for females. Mortality rates for Indigenous infants and young children remain 2-3 times higher than for all infants and young children.
The COAG working group on Indigenous Reform, in 2008, set a number of reforms to address this disadvantage:
- to close the life-expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians within a generation
- to halve the mortality gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and other children under age 5 within a decade
- to halve the gap in literacy and numeracy achievement between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and other students within a decade
- to halve the gap in employment outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within a decade
- to at least halve the gap in attainment at Year 12 schooling (or equivalent level) by 2020
- to provide all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 4-year-olds in remote communities with access to a quality preschool program within 5 years.
The focus of federal government Indigenous policy and funding in recent years has been on remote communities, particularly those in the Northern Territory. This focus is reflected in the weight of funding directed to remote communities in recent Federal Budgets.
Joblessness among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in remote areas is entrenched, with limited skills and few opportunities for regular employment locally. The Government has set a target to halve the employment gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade.
Government commitments and actions to close the gap in life expectancy, child mortality, literacy and numeracy, employment outcomes, Year 12 schooling and access to pre-school education are welcome as are increased resources for maternal and child health, early childhood development services and parenting support. Yet, greater resources are still required to meet the health needs of Indigenous people