Working paper

The dynamics of services, housing, jobs and mobility in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in central Australia

2 Jun 2015

The mobility of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has long been seen as posing challenges for policymakers, by being a factor that contributes to inferior educational, employment and housing outcomes and that generally frustrates mainstream models of service delivery. However, in empirical terms, very little is actually known about the nature of this mobility. Based on the initial 751 responses to a survey being conducted in remote Aboriginal communities centred around Alice Springs, this paper provides unique evidence on the extent of temporary mobility for this population and its links to demographic factors, the labour market, housing circumstances and access to services. Adopting a re-conceptualisation of mobility as a means to access things that promote wellbeing, it highlights the enduring importance of attachment to country, culture and kinship networks as drivers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mobility and, by implication, their wellbeing. Limitations to mobility, and notably the low proportion of people with a driver’s licence, are found to substantially limit employment outcomes. Lower employment outcomes are also identified for those living in more crowded housing. The findings suggest moves to rationalise smaller and more remote communities are likely to negatively impact on the wellbeing and socio-economic outcomes of the people displaced. These and other results will be explored in more detail as follow-up surveys are conducted through to the end of 2016.

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