“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” Albert Einstein
As a nation, we have failed to deliver on Closing the Gap for Indigenous Australians because we were unable to provide quality affordable housing, infrastructure, and educational outcomes.
There is no doubt the current service delivery model is failing Indigenous people. Despite spending billions of dollars, there has been little improvement in outcomes, particularly for remote Indigenous Australians.
The 2016 Centre for Independent Studies Report by Sara Hudson, ‘Mapping the Indigenous Program and Funding Maze,’ outlines the failure of spending to alleviate chronic poverty, particularly among those who live in rural and remote areas. Hudson highlights, ‘there is much goodwill in Australia to improve Indigenous outcomes. However, too many programs implemented because of their perceived benefit, rather than a rigorous assessment of a priori evidence.’
Hudson’s research examined spending on Indigenous programs and estimated it to be at least $5.9 billion annually. Less than 10 percent or only 88 of these 1082 programs had been evaluated either during or after implementation. Hudson outlined numerous issues including multiple service providers and NGOs operating with overlapping priorities within the same parameters with little evidence of success.
Overcrowding has also been associated with poor health among Aboriginal people. It is estimated that overcrowding has been responsible for 30% of the health quality deficit between Aboriginal adults living in remote areas and their non-Aboriginal counterparts.
Overcrowding among Aboriginal people has also been associated with poor housing quality, higher levels of stress in individuals and families, alcohol overuse and associated household problems, and greater incidences of neighbourhood unrest.
Australians living outside remote Indigenous communities enjoy an enabling environment for themselves and their families. A 2015 infrastructure audit of the 73 largest remote Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory found that less than 50% had mobile and data services. Only 26% had standard town planning regimes, less than 50% had a permanent police presence, and housing met only 60% of demand. Nearly all had no sealed transport services, ensuring that those in the north are inaccessible by land for half the year due to flooding.
The average outcomes for Indigenous Australians living in remote areas are poorer than those living cities and regional areas. Indigenous Australians living in remote areas have poorer reading, writing and numeracy results. In Year 3 it is at less than 55% and student performance declines with increased remoteness.
In 2011 the proportion of Indigenous Australians aged 20–24 years with a Year 12 education or higher was greater in less remote areas, ranging from 64.1% in major cities to 30.7% in remote areas.
In 2014–15, 38% of Indigenous Australians in remote areas aged 15 years or more were living in overcrowded conditions. This rate is almost three times that of Aboriginal people living in more accessible areas at 13%. Younger Aboriginal people are also significantly more likely to be living in overcrowded households. In 2014–15, 24% of Indigenous Australians aged 0–14 years and 25% of those aged one year were living in overcrowded households as compared with 17% of Indigenous Australians aged 45–54 years and 10% of those aged 55 or more. Homeownership also declined with increased remoteness for Indigenous Australians in 2012–13, decreasing from 38.4% in major cities to 38.1% in inner regional areas, 29.7% in outer regional areas, 19.7% in remote areas, and only 5.1% in remote areas.
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Big River Impact Foundation acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the lands we visit through the course of our work and recognise the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders both past, present and future.