Closing the gap in inequities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as compared to other Australians in income, employment, education, housing, justice, health and wellbeing and other areas of life should be a priority of the Australian Government. The legacy of colonisation, continuing impacts of racism and a range of social determinants of health results in many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living well below an 'acceptable standard of living’. Dispossession from land and resources has made the rest of the nation rich while many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities are impoverished.
Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia do not experience what this Inquiry refers to as an ‘acceptable standard of living’. Compared to other Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have higher unemployment rates, earn lower household incomes and are more likely to receive a government allowance as their main source of income. In 2015, the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with incomes in the bottom 20 per cent of weekly household incomes was 37 per cent (twice as high as other Australians).
- This submission supports the call led by Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) for a $75 per week increase to Newstart Assistance to better help recipients meet daily living expenses and to create an estimated 12,000 new jobs in regional communities, and for people in rural and remote communities and who experience vulnerabilities (outlined in this submission) payments should be even higher—according to individual circumstance, opportunity and need.
- Greater consideration needs to be given to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a disability. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are twice as likely to have a disability than other Australians, with 9 per cent (compared to 4 per cent ) having a severe condition.12 Around 60,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a significant disability that could make them eligible for National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) support, which represents 13 per cent of the potential 460,000 NDIS participants. However, they comprise only 5 per cent of current NDIS participants,13 and of these many have plans but do not receive assistance due to appropriate services not being available
- Community Development Programs (CDP) does not benefit Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities. The program does not achieve the goals it set out to do, and is discriminatory against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who comprise more than 80 per cent of participants across Australia. Fining members for missing a session, with no consideration at all to the complexities of the social determinants and cultural obligations facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, is unacceptable and directly discriminates against them.
- Particular consideration should be given to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with barriers to finding and keeping work, particularly those: with a disability; caring for people with a disability and/or young children (parents and other care-givers); living in rural and remote regions where jobs are scarce and costs are high; youth; and the elderly.
ACCHOs are best placed to reach Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities as they are community controlled (operated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through a locally elected Board of Management). However, there remains great unmet need due to restricted funding and tight resources to reach into very remote regions. Greater funding for ACCHOs and other Aboriginal community controlled organisations (ACCOs) is required to further close the gap in disparities in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing as compared to other Australians. ACCHOs and other ACCOs must be involved in determining appropriate payments, given their expertise in working closely and collaboratively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.