facts about parliamentary democracy
There are many structures by which countries can run a government, ranging from democracy to totalitarianism. Parliamentary democracy is a specific form of democracy that originated with the parliament and has been evolving ever since. In order to better understand this form of government that is different than the one the United States possesses, here are seven facts about parliamentary democracy.

7 Facts About Parliamentary Democracy

  1. The structure differs from a presidential democracy. In a presidential democracy (such as the one the United States operates under), the chief executive (president) and legislature (congress) undergo separate elections. Conversely, in a parliamentary democracy, the elected legislature (parliament) chooses the chief executive (prime minister). The parliament can remove the prime minister at any time by a “vote of no confidence,” which is a less laborious task than removing a president.
  2. People refer to the British Parliament as the “Mother of Parliament.” This is because Britain developed the Westminster System of parliamentary democracy: a specific system founded on centuries of traditions. Other colonial states adopted the system, such as Australia, and many of them still operate under some variation of the Westminster System today.
  3. Fifty-one countries currently operate under a parliamentary system. Among these countries are Canada, India, Japan and Spain. Most of these countries function in combination with other systems, such as a constitutional monarchy, in which a monarch may share political power with the parliament.
  4. Prime ministers’ powers vary. There are variations in a lot of the parliamentary systems around the world. A prime minister’s power can change depending on the country and allocated duties in the constitutions. The strong prime minister model exists in the United Kingdom and most other countries that were once part of the British Empire. Some of the prime minister’s powers in these countries include the power to change the structure of ministries and the ability to call for elections at any time. Countries in which several political parties must work together to maintain a legislative majority, such as Australia, Italy and Belgium, usually possess weak prime ministers.
  5. There are a few semi-presidential systems. These are systems in which a president and prime minister rule together. The powers between the two seats can vary, with one having more power than the other or both having equal influence. Most countries that operate under this system do so to put checks in place to avoid presidential dictatorships. Examples of countries with this system include Ireland, Portugal and Russia.
  6. There is often less gridlock. Along with the facts about parliamentary democracy, there are some pros and cons. Because the parliament elects the prime minister, people often observe that these two branches function better together than in a presidential democracy in which the public elects the president. Oftentimes legislation passes with less resistance, whereas the United States has faced government shutdowns when legislation was at a standstill.
  7. There can be a quick overturning of leaders and inconsistency. While legislation can pass more efficiently, a negative consequence of the parliamentary structure is the rapidity with which things can change. Because the parliament can remove the prime minister anytime he or she falls out of favor, this can lead to a lot of restructuring and inconsistent leadership. This happened during the Brexit process, in which three separate prime ministers received the appointment to deal with the aftermath of the vote.
Many believe it is important to know about the different forms of government structures so that one can examine their own country and evaluate its relative effectiveness. Hopefully, these basic facts about parliamentary democracy have provided a foundation to understand the structure and some of the pros and cons of the system.

 – Lindsey Shinkle
Photo: Pixabay

 

Homelessness in AustraliaHomelessness is one of the biggest problems that the Australian government is trying to solve. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), there were approximately 116,427 homeless Australians in 2016. What was even more worrying about this data was that homelessness in Australia seemed to be on the rise. Compared to the ABS’s census in 2011, in which there were 102,439 homeless, there was a 13.7 percent rise in homelessness in 2016. What is the cause of homelessness in Australia? What is being done to alleviate this issue? Here is the current reality of homelessness in Australia.

Defining Homelessness

The ABS’s, criteria for defining homelessness doesn’t simply end at someone sleeping out on the streets. Instead, the ABS states that a person is homeless if they are living in accommodations that are inadequate or in housing that has no long-term tenure. This broad definition of homelessness means that if a person is couch surfing with friends to relatives, they are considered homeless.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2016 report found that “58 percent of homeless people were male, 21 percent were between the ages of 25 and 34 years-old and 20 percent of homeless people were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.” The last finding is especially troubling since Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders only made up about 3 percent of the population. For women who are homeless, domestic violence was one of the main causes of their homelessness.

Causes of Homelessness

The main causes of homelessness in Australia seem to be unaffordable housing, poverty and domestic violence. All of these three causes seem to be linked to high housing prices in Australia. More specifically, the lack of affordable rental housing that is plaguing the country seems to be at the core of the problem.

In 2018, a property survey discovered that only 485 rental homes out of 67,365 homes “were affordable for a single person on the Disability Support Pension.” This meant that only 0.72 percent of rental homes were affordable for someone with disabilities. Many people in Australia believe that the current state of housing was caused by the Australian government’s mismanagement of the housing market.

Homeless Youth

What distinguishes homelessness in Australia from those of other countries is how young the homeless population is. Youth between the ages of 12 and 24 made up 27,680 of the 116,427 homeless people in Australia in 2016. However, these estimates may not fully reflect the state of youth homeless in Australia since the youth who are couch surfing will put down their host’s address as their place of residence.

A 2016 research study found that there is an average cost of $15,000 to the country’s economy for every young homeless person. The study also found that an additional $15,000 per person must be spent on “health and justice costs.” The young homeless are especially vulnerable to the current housing crisis in Australia. Reports show that about 54 percent of all single people who look for aid from homelessness services and shelters were young people.

Assistance for the Homeless

The Australian government and many other Australian organizations are taking active measures to combat homeless in the country. In 2018, the Australian government created the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. This agreement aims to alleviate homelessness in Australia by providing affordable housing and homeless shelters for the homeless. In this pursuit, the Australian government invested more than “$6 billion in housing support and homelessness services.” At least $78 million is supposed to go to women and minors who are victims of domestic violence.

Other Australian organizations such as the Melbourne City MissionSydney Homeless Connect and Home for Good provides numerous services and programs for the homeless. These organizations not only provide immediate needs of the homeless, such as food and shelter, but many of them also provide programs that are aimed to provide the homeless with job opportunities and long-term physical, social and emotional needs of the homeless.

The effect of Australia’s undermanaged housing market created an environment where the low-income earners couldn’t afford a home. Since many of the homeless in Australia suffer from mental illnesses, alcoholism or other physical disabilities, these homeless are further marginalized from the Australian housing market. The number of Australian youth without a stable home and shelter also paints a grim picture. However, the Australian government and the people of Australia are taking active measures to alleviate the issue. With this continuous support, many hope that homelessness in Australia will be a story of the past.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Poverty In Australia
When looking at poverty around the world, people often overlook the developed nations. These countries are much better off than many others, but that does not mean that their impoverished people are any less poor. Many consider Australia to be one of the leading developed nations, but one in eight Australians and one in six Australian children live in poverty. Here is some information about the issue of poverty in Australia.

How to Measure Poverty

The definition of poverty is different worldwide. One component that the world generally agrees upon, however, is that it is utterly unacceptable for people to live in extreme poverty. In addition, there is the understanding that every human should be born with fundamental rights such as housing, food, clothes and health care.

In Australia, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) set a more Australia-specific way to measure poverty. It does this by comparing what people make to the median income. As a result, Australia considers people who fall below the median impoverished. However, the organization Compassion has reported more specific information for measuring poverty. For example, it stated that the poverty line for single adults is $433 per week before housing costs. Meanwhile, the poverty line for a couple with two children is $909 before housing costs.

The Numbers

Approximately 3 million Australians are suffering from poverty. Additionally, every one in eight people or 13 percent of the country suffers from poverty. Of the 3 million people, 739,000 are children living below poverty.

Who Hurts the Most?

While there is the blanket term “impoverished,” some suffer more than others. For example, those who hurt the most are often unemployed. This includes people over the age of 65, people from non-English speaking backgrounds and single parents. Among those above, poverty in Australia routinely consists of those who fall lower in the chain of importance. Hence, people like minorities and foreigners are much more susceptible to falling into poverty. According to Compassion, 30 percent of single, elderly women live in poverty. This means that poverty impacts single, elderly women at a disproportionate rate.

According to the Child Fund, children who come from low-income backgrounds are likely to have lower test scores than children above the poverty line. From an early age, children living below the poverty line are already at a disadvantage, but the problems do not often stop in grade school. Low test scores frequently result in low self-esteem and a lack of self-worth, both of which potentially lead to ongoing mental health issues. Among impoverished people, the rates of finishing high school are significantly lower than their counterparts. In addition, the rates of going to college are much lower than even the odds of finishing high school. These low rates of higher education lead to lower-paying jobs, thus creating a cycle of poverty.

Disproportionate Health Issues

Those who fall below the poverty line often experience increased rates of health issues. Millions of impoverished people are more susceptible to health issues because their lack of money sometimes prevents a hygienic lifestyle. After falling ill or experiencing infection, impoverished people are often last on the priority list of Australia’s universal health care system. Obesity is a big issue among impoverished people similar to other developed nations around the world. Furthermore, fast food restaurants can often be much cheaper than healthier options in grocery stores.

Cheaply priced menus are commonplace in the modern world and they pose a drastic threat because people below the poverty line must make a tough decision. As such, they can either spend more money on healthier items and get less or spend less money on unhealthy food and get more. Consequently, this decision might be why the issue of poverty in Australia typically leads to increased rates of obesity among impoverished people.

Solutions

Fortunately, some are recognizing that poverty in Australia is an issue that requires solving. For example, Save the Children is an organization working towards eradicating poverty. The charity’s fight consists of improving access to education for underprivileged children. When the charity receives donations, 73 percent of the funds go towards programs benefitting children and 10 percent go towards fundraising. Additionally, 9 percent goes to administration and 8 percent goes to commercial activity.

Care is another nonprofit organization that is similarly fighting the issue of poverty in Australia. The organization’s efforts consist of programs that empower poverty-ridden women, improving access to education for impoverished children and promoting healthier lives among underprivileged families. Care assisted 2.7 million people throughout 25 countries as of 2019. For every dollar it fundraised and received as donations, 90 cents went to humanitarian programs.

While poverty in Australia remains an issue, there are some attempting to correct the problem. Hopefully, the continued support of organizations like Save the Children and Care will make impoverishment a thing of the past in the country.

Cleveland Lewis
Photo: Flickr

Develop telecommunication technology
The Solomon Islands has reached a deal with Australia to help develop telecommunication technology in the country. Only about one-sixth of the country’s 660,000 people are currently connected to the Internet, with most of that population concentrated in the Solomon Islands’ urban areas and relying on satellite connections to use it. The Solomon Islands tech deal with Australia will allow the country to connect to outside servers and develop telecommunication connections within. Australia had also previously helped the Solomon Islands quell civil unrest between various indigenous militias between 2003 to 2017.

The Giant Undersea Cable Project

The Australian communications company Vocus is in charge of the construction of a major underwater cable known as the Coral Sea Cable System. Australia granted it in 2017 with a grant of $137 million, and Australia, the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea agreed to the deal to build the cable in 2018. The Coral Sea Cable System is a 4,700 km (2920 mi) underwater cable that will link Sydney to Port Moresby and Honiara, with the latter also connecting to Solomon Islands Domestic Network linking the archipelago. The cable will transfer over 40 TB of data to all three ports in the network, which would allow for 300,000 new jobs and growth of $5 billion in GDP for Pacific countries such as the Solomon Islands by 2040. As noted previously, only a small percentage of the population that uses the Internet use satellite to connect to it. As such, the underwater cable should grant the island nation more reliable and stable connections in part for the Solomon Islands tech deal which has helped to develop telecommunication technology significantly.

Since making the deal official, the project has made much progress in building its undersea cable network. The project installed landing sites at Port Moresby and Honiara in July 2019, symbolized by a golden buoy marking the occasion. In August 2019, it installed the landing site in Sydney and the final splice in September 2019. The Solomon Islands Domestic Network planned to finish in time for the December 2019 activation. Once complete, the Solomon Islands, alongside neighboring Papua New Guinea, can connect to a more reliable broadband connection and reliable Internet access.

Other Developments

Before the Solomon Islands tech deal with Australia, the Solomon Islands’ fisheries brokered a deal with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) for training tech. Beginning in May 2018, the WWF provided funds for new tech such as tablets that allow for training of observers to monitor and observe fishing levels in the Solomon Islands and currently has 85 percent of electronic reporting by satellite commutation with the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR). This efficient approach also lets observers electronically report between fishing boats out at sea and stations back on land. While the deal occurred before the Coral Sea Cable system deal, the e-reporting will benefit greatly from the system implementation upon its completion in 2019.

The Solomon Islands tech deal with Australia will build the internal infrastructure and bolster the Internet connection in the country by connecting the Solomon Islands with not only neighboring Papua New Guinea and Australia but the archipelago as well. The project also will bolster existing tech programs with improved infrastructure once completed. The project should complete by the end of 2019. Continuing to develop telecommunication technology is important for the global population.

–  Henry Elliott
Photo: Pixabay

Image result for nauru

Nauru‘s Economic Relationship with Australia has been an essential part of its economy since it gained its independence in 1968. Australia has continued to aid Nauru in many ways. Its partnership with Nauru has been extremely useful because Australia uses Nauru for “offshore processing” for refugees seeking asylum and protection. This was meant to be a temporary solution until 2008, but it became more of a permanent policy in 2012. Recently, Australia has been implementing aid programs to help improve Nauru’s economy.

History of Nauru’s Economic Status

In the 1980s, the country was known for its large amounts of phosphate and quickly became one of the wealthiest countries per capita. When the supply of phosphate began to run low, however, the government quickly ran into debt. The unemployment rate of Nauru is about 90 percent. This leaves the average national income at about $6,746 a year. In order to bring some income back to the island, the government “started selling passports to foreign nationals for a fee and taking in war refugees.” That is where Australia got the idea to use Nauru as a detention center in 2001.

At that same time, Nauru was also listed on the international blacklist due to a concern that the country had been money laundering. For this reason, licenses for Nauru-registered banks were revoked. This forced the government to shut down the Bank of Nauru in 2006. Since the people of Nauru were not allowed to hold money in the banks anymore, the country was forced to become a cash-based economy. To keep their money safe, residents came up with tactics like burying their money in order to ensure that their money was safe from theft. As a result, Nauru opened to negotiations with Australia to process the refugees.

Nauru’s Economic Relationship with Australia

Australia has been an important financial resource for Nauru for many years. In the 2017-2018 fiscal year, Australia provided development assistance for 25 percent of Nauru’s gross domestic product. The Australian Government plans to provide $25.8 million in aid to Nauru during the 2019-2020 fiscal year. With the help of the Australian government, Nauru has been able to increase its employment rates as many households begin to earn higher incomes. However, external challenges such as energy and clean water have hindered the progression of Nauru’s reducing debt. This is due to the lack of skilled and qualified personnel to ensure that these problems are effectively dealt with.

Australia’s aid program has three objectives that have been outlined in the program’s Aid Investment Plan from 2015-16 to 2018-19. These three objectives include improving public sector management, investing in nation-building infrastructure and supporting human development. In 2017-18, Australia’s aid program was able to help Nauru in many ways including the funding support for the installation of two new 2.8MW diesel generators and switchgear. These installations lead to improvements in the supply and stronger electricity and water desalination services.

Nauru’s economic relationship with Australia has been essential to keeping the country going. Australia has benefitted by maintaining an offshore processing center for refugees. Though the offshore processing centers are not a perfect solution to Nauru’s economic hardships, they have helped its economy. Hopefully, Australia’s Aid Investment plans will help strengthen Nauru’s economic future.

Emilia Rivera and Jenna Chrol
Photo: Britannica

poverty among Aboriginal AustraliansAboriginal Australians have faced discrimination, genocide and marginalization within their own lands since the British began their initial colonization of the continent in 1788. Aboriginals did not receive any credence in the eye of the Australian government until 1967. Because of this, poverty among Aboriginal Australians skyrocketed.

By simply removing the words “…other than the Aboriginal people in any State…” in section 51(xxvi) and the whole of section 127 of the constitution, the country finally saw Aboriginals as their own individualized people. They are now part of the census and the government can make laws specifically concerning Aboriginal issues. However, even with the government’s recognition of these peoples did not eliminate the discrimination and inequality they often face from the government and society. Here are eight facts about aboriginal Australians’ quality of life.

8 Facts About Aboriginal Australians’ Quality of Life

  1. Today in Australia, a mere 3.1 percent of the Australian population is indigenous. Even though they make up so little of the population, however, 19.3 percent of Aboriginal Australians live in poverty compared to 12.4 percent of other Australians.
  2. Only 4.8 percent of Aboriginal peoples have employment within the upper salary levels in Australia. This low percentage may link to pervasive racism within the country. Nineteen percent of Australians believe they are casual racists but refuse to change. Twenty-six percent of Australians have anti-Aboriginal concerns. Meanwhile, eleven percent of Australians do not think all races are equal. There does seem to be a changing tide, however, as 86 percent of Australians believe that Australia needs to do something to fight the pervasive racism in the country.
  3. There have been significant improvements and money allocations towards the betterment of the indigenous communities in Australia in recent years. In 2017, $33.4 billion went toward government expenditure on indigenous Australians, a 23.7 percent increase since 2009 (taking into account inflation). That is $44,886 per indigenous person or two times the amount of direct government expenditure on non-indigenous peoples. However, Aboriginal peoples are still more than twice as likely to be in the bottom 20 percent for equivalized gross weekly household income. High unemployment and lasting impacts from colonialism have caused low income in Aboriginal homes.
  4. Today, people often find that Aboriginal communities in non-rural areas live off welfare in crowded housing. About 20 percent of Aboriginal Australians living in non-rural areas were living in overcrowded accommodations in 2014 and 2015. In remote or very remote areas of Australia, the overcrowding was almost 40 percent. Overcrowding can often lead to a faster spread of illness in these communities. The proliferation of disease in overcrowded spaces creates a significant financial burden on families who must then seek treatment for their ailing loved ones. However, Australia has put multiple initiatives into place to address and resolve these issues. In 2008, the Federal government started and funded the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing.
  5. From 2014 to 2015, three in 10 Aboriginals (29 percent) 15 and over experienced homelessness for a portion of time. Homelessness prevents individuals not only from human, tribal and societal interaction but can also often prevent them from being active members in the workforce, and therefore, the economy. Aboriginal peoples 15 and over in remote or very remote areas experienced homelessness in their lifetime at a 3 percent increase from non-remote Aboriginals (32 percent).
  6. Aboriginal Australian children between the ages of 5 to 17 are committing suicide at a five times higher rate than non-indigenous peoples in Australia. There is a direct link between the suicide rate and the crushing poverty in these communities and failing government-funded aid services. People have called upon the Australian government to either increase spending on indigenous peoples’ aid or to even wholly reconsider its tactics. As of 2019, the Australian government has implemented restrictions on takeaway alcohol, broadening education initiatives and developing further cultural healing projects.
  7. More than 28 percent of Australia’s prison population was Aboriginal in 2016, which is a shocking fact as less than 3 percent of Australia’s population identifies as indigenous. This widespread incarceration significantly impacts rates of poverty in the Aboriginal community. When one removes a person from a home–that statistically is likely to suffer overcrowding and have underprivileged individuals–they remove supporting income from an already disadvantaged family.
  8. People widely acknowledged that limited completion of education, and more specifically, secondary education, have close ties to poverty for Aboriginal Australians. In previous years, Aboriginal peoples were less likely to obtain a Year 12 or equivalent level of education; 45 percent of Aboriginals achieved this level of education in 2008. However, the gap is closing fast, and as of 2014-2015, records indicate that that percentage has risen to 62 percent of Aboriginal peoples obtaining their Year 12 level of education.
Though the gap between non-indigenous and Aboriginal people ages 20 to 24 with post-school qualifications has not changed, the number of indigenous peoples in this age range who have received a secondary education has doubled since 2002.

NASCA

NASCA, or the National Aboriginal Supporting Chance Academy, is a nonprofit that works directly within indigenous communities doing mentoring, education and development programs. Its initiatives seek to create empowerment and movement from within these communities and alleviate poverty among Aboriginal Australians. Each year, over 1,200 indigenous youths directly benefit from the organization’s work.
In 2018 alone, the program delivered a total of 6,006 educational and health program hours, and attendance in its northern territory program schools saw a 33 percent increase in school attendance. Its work is seeking to create pride in communities and put into motion change that will bleed into the higher political and social sphere of Australia.

Australia has so long ignored its Aboriginal community on both a social and governmental level, so it is a welcome and pleasant change to see so much work on behalf of an underprivileged group of people. Though there is still far to go, some are taking steps both within and outside of the community to build up the visibility and civil rights of the Aboriginal peoples and their needs. Poverty among Aboriginal Australians has set them back long enough. Though they are undeniably Australian, they are fiercely and independently Aboriginal peoples with a right to civil liberties, native land and socioeconomic equality.

– Emma Hodge
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous health in Australia
As of 2012, life expectancy for Indigenous Australians was 10 years lower than that projected for non-Indigenous Australians. Between 2008 and 2012, two-thirds of Indigenous deaths occurred before age 65 whereas less than a quarter of non-Indigenous deaths occurred before age 65 during the same time period. In an effort to improve conditions surrounding Indigenous health in Australia, the Australian government launched Closing the Gap in 2008. The goal of Closing the Gap is to improve the lives of indigenous peoples through better healthcare, education and employment opportunities.

Closing the Gap

In 2008, Closing the Gap set six targets for success for pursuing Indigenous health in Australia: 1) close the gap in life expectancy within one generation (by 2031) 2) cut the mortality rate in half for Indigenous children under 5 3) ensured within five years that all Indigenous children had access to early childhood education 4) cut by 50 percent the gap in reading, writing, and numeracy achievements within a decade 5) narrow the gap in dropout rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and 6) reduced the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations by 50 percent in 10 years.

Examination of health gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians requires a holistic approach. To understand health, socioeconomic factors such as homeownership and education, behavioral drivers like rates of smoking and diet, along with environmental triggers like overcrowding and history of institutionalized discrimination all contribute to the relatively poor health of Indigenous Australians.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, ischemic heart disease was the leading cause of death, accounting for 11.5 percent of total deaths, among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in 2017.  Data show that Indigenous people in Australia die from cardiovascular disease at 1.5 times the rate of non-Indigenous people. As of 2017, Diabetes mellitus was the second leading cause of death among Indigenous populations in Australia; in fact, Indigenous Australians were four times more likely to have type 2 diabetes as non-Indigenous Australians.

Major Factors of Indigenous Health in Australia

Indigenous Australians struggle significantly more with poverty than non-Indigenous Australians. Less than 50 percent of Indigenous Australians are employed as compared to 75 percent of non-Indigenous Australians. Furthermore, the median equivalized gross weekly household income is $550 for Indigenous and $850 for non-Indigenous peoples. Factors like income affect the quality of food and housing which has direct ramifications on the health of those involved.

Diseases eliminated in the non-Indigenous population such as trachoma, a bacterial eye infection, and rheumatic heart disease persists with “high occurrence” in Indigenous populations. Nearly one-third of Indigenous Australians reported struggling with a chronic respiratory condition in 2012-2013. Compared to non-Indigenous Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are hospitalized for respiratory complaints at 2.4 times the rate.

Upon arrival in Australia in the late 1700s, European colonization introduced diseases like smallpox to the Indigenous population. Additionally, the assumption of European superiority over Indigenous Australian has impacted Indigenous health in Australia for hundreds of years. Indigenous peoples in Australia did not get the right to vote until 1962 and were not counted in the national census until 1967. Up to 1992, when the High Court of Australia denied the correctness of the term terra nullius (land belonging to no-one), Australia effectively had denied the presence of an Indigenous population pre-European arrival.

Like the USA, Australia pursued aggressive assimilation policies such as the Australian Aborigines Act of 1905 which established the position of Chief Protector to be the legal guardian of each and “‘every aboriginal and half-caste child’ to the age of 16”. This well-established history of separating families has had deleterious effects on Indigenous mental and physical health across generations.

In the 1970s, Indigenous people began to fight back as they established their own councils of leadership, health clinics, and advocacy bodies such as the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organization (NACCHO) in 1975.

The Good News

The 2019 Closing the Gap report issued by the Australian government celebrates the emerging partnerships between states and territories with Indigenous Australians and the Australian government but acknowledges that many of the target goals are not on track. However, steps are being taken. The implementation of the National Indigenous Australians Agency on July 1, 2019, suggests the Australian government is beginning to get serious about improving Indigenous health in Australia.

As Closing the Gap moves into its next phase, it promises to provide increased accountability on both the state and national levels for including Indigenous people in the process and implementation of initiatives. Prime Minister Scott Morrison argues, “The Australian Government is committed to working in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, a partnership which is critical to progress towards Closing the Gap.”

– Sarah Boyer
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Papua New Guinea

While primary school enrollment rates in Papua New Guinea are low for girls and boys, there is a significant disparity between the two. Several factors contribute to the worse girls’ education in Papua New Guinea, some of which governments and organizations are working to change.

Factors Contributing to Gender Inequality

  • Political Factors – Women’s social status in Papua New Guinea is below men’s, limiting female positions of leadership. To combat some of this inequality, the country attempted to create legislation that would reserve seats for women, but it was defeated in parliament. As a result of this, initiatives to promote gender equality often have difficulty in receiving funding.
  • Economic Factors – School fees dissuade parents from enrolling their daughters, as they feel it is more beneficial to enroll their sons. Although, many boys do not receive an education as well: about 64 percent of boys and 57 percent of girls attend primary school. Hunger also contributes, as starving students are less likely to attend school. In urban areas, food shortages are common because of less gardening land. Malnourished children often develop illnesses, also causing them to miss school. Additionally, a lack of appropriate water and sanitation facilities negatively impacts girls’ education in Papua New Guinea. They are often not private enough, and sometimes there isn’t even running water. Once girls reach puberty, they often leave school because they cannot maintain menstrual hygiene at school.
  • Social and Cultural Factors – Girls do not enroll in school because they are required to take care of their younger siblings while their parents work. Child marriage also contributes to poor girls’ education in Papua New Guinea. Married girls do not continue to attend school, and approximately 22 percent of girls in Papua New Guinea get married before the age of 18.

Safety is another serious concern for girls. Gender-based violence and harassment are prevalent in schools. Just under 50 percent of girls reported feeling safe at school, with 31 percent feeling unsafe. These feelings were strongest near toilets, sports fields and school gates, with only 2 percent of girls feeling safe around toilets.

Girls are harassed by male students and teachers, thereby afraid of physical and sexual assault. The high number of male teachers contributes to low enrollment rates, with male teachers out-numbering female teachers in primary schools. While the number of female teachers doubled between 2002 and 2012, there is still a significant lack of them.

Efforts to Decrease Gender Inequality in Education

World Vision launched a project targeting girls’ education in Papua New Guinea. They established community learning centers (CLCs), which provide early childhood care for girls and boys between three and six. Education improvement classes for children under 14 are also offered. The goal is to make it easier for children to succeed in school, as well as encourage parents to take a more active role in the children’s education. Between 2014 and 2017, approximately 6000 children attended classes at CLCs and 4o00 people were involved in community awareness efforts. After attending CLCs, 90 percent of children were prepared to begin primary school, significantly higher than the baseline of 80 percent.

The National Education Plan (NEP), developed in 2015, is also aiming to improve education, with a focus on gender equality. In their most recent $7.4 million grant, their goal is to better student achievement in math and science by improving pre-service and in-service teacher education, especially for women, and increasing access to textbooks.

Notable Progress

Due to these projects being implemented, some advancements have been made. A study by the National Research Institute found that the number of girls enrolled in school increased by almost 150 percent between 2001 and 2012. Additionally, primary school completion rates for girls rose by approximately 5 percent between 2014 and 2016.

While there is still a long way to go, Papua New Guinea has begun to decrease the differences between male and female education.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

7 facts about living conditions in australia
In 2015, Australia was ranked as the second-best country in the world in terms of quality of life. This report was based on a number of living condition factors, including financial indicators, like average income, and health standards, education and life expectancy. The following 7 facts about living conditions in Australia further illustrate what life is like in the Land Down Under. Many of these facts are based upon data retrieved from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), comprised of 36 member countries and founded to stimulate world trade.

7 Facts About Living Conditions in Australia

  1. Children Are an Impoverished Group: As of 2018, 13.2 percent of Australians (around three million people) were living below the poverty line, 730,000 of which are children under the age of 15. According to the Poverty in Australia 2018 report, a large reason for the overwhelming number of impoverished children is the high poverty rate among single-parent families relying on a single income. In terms of money, living below the poverty line in Australia translates to earning $433 per week for a single adult, or $909 per week for a married couple with two children. Most individuals experiencing poverty in Australia rely on Government allowance payments, like Youth Allowance and Newstart.
  2. Sanitation is Good: The percentage of homes in Australia that have access to an indoor flushing toilet is more than 95.6 percent, which is the OECD average. Additionally, more than 90% of Australians report satisfaction with their water quality. Access to running water and the high quality of water makes Australia above average in relation to the other 36 OECD member countries.
  3. A Wage Gap Exists: The gap in income between the rich and poor in Australia is quite large; the wealthiest 20 percent of Australians earn almost six times as much as the poorest 20 percent of Australians. This income inequality has been steadily rising since the mid-1990’s. One attempt to remedy income inequality in Australia is a progressive system of income tax, meaning that as an individual’s income increases, they will pay a higher amount of their income in tax. Additionally, social welfare payments account for around 35 percent of the Australian government’s budget. In 2017-2018, this translated to a $164 billion budget for social security and welfare.
  4. Australians Are Staying Employed: Seventy-three percent of Australians aged 15 to 64 have paid jobs, while the percentage of Australians who have been unemployed for one year or longer is 1.3 percent. The percentage of employed Australians is higher than the OECD average. Though the Australian job market thrives, Australians have a below-average ranking in work-life balance.
  5. Strong Education: The average Australian citizen will receive 21 years of education between the ages of 5 and 39, which is the highest amount of education in the OECD. Roughly 64 percent of children in Australia attend public schools, while 34 percent attend private or Catholic schools. Additionally, not only is the education system strong for Australian citizens, but international education offered to foreign students is Australia’s third largest export, valued at $19.9 billion.
  6. Rising Crime Rates: Over the past 2 decades, the number of reported crimes has risen dramatically; for example, from 1977-1978, the number of reported break-ins was 880 per thousand. From 1997-1998, this number rose to 2,125 per thousand. In the same period, assaults have risen from 90 to 689 per thousand of population and robberies have risen from 23 to 113 per thousand. While many of these 7 facts about living conditions in Australia indicate increasing quality of life for citizens, rising crime rates affect feelings of security, which has a negative effect on standards of living in Australia.
  7. Improving Health Standards: Health standards in Australia have risen substantially since 1947. From 1947 to 1989, the life expectancy of women increased by 10.9 years, while the life expectancy of men has risen by 9.8 years. Since 1990, life expectancy has risen even more, increasing by another 1.4 years for women and 2 years for men.

With one of the strongest performing economies in the world, Australians experience thriving, stable financial conditions. The education system is well organized and accessible, and health standards have increased and driven the life expectancies of Australians up over the last 70 years.

Yet, despite the tremendous growth and development in Australia, there are areas in standards of living that demand improvement. Perhaps most importantly, income inequality in Australia is alarmingly high, and poverty rates of citizens, and especially children, plagues the strength of Australian society. These 7 facts about living conditions in Australia indicate a thriving and desirable country with a need for concentrated focus on income inequality to eradicate staggering poverty in the lower class.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

Epilepsy, Indigenous
Epilepsy represents an important public health issue, particularly in low-income communities where significant disparities are present in the care available to patients with epilepsy.

Where there is annually between 30 to 50 per 100 thousand people in the general population in high-income countries who suffer from epilepsy, this figure could be two times higher in low- and middle-income countries. Up to 80 percent of people with epilepsy live in low- and middle-income communities.

Due to the higher incidence of psychological stress, nutritional deficiencies and missed medication, poverty-stricken countries are prompted with greater seizure triggers, situations that precipitate seizures. Mortality associated with epilepsy in low-income countries is substantially higher because of untreated epileptic seizures.

According to a study by The World Bank, indigenous peoples are more likely to be poor as opposed to the general population due to their likelihood of living in rural areas and lack of education. Therefore, what can be said about their epilepsy rates?

Epilepsy in Indigenous Populations

Within the indigenous populations of Bolivia, the prevalence of this non-communicable disease is 12.3 persons out of 1000. This prevalence is also reflected within Canada’s First Nations, wherein 122 per 100,000 persons were found to have epilepsy, twice more than the non-indigenous populations. The numbers were even greater among the Australian Aboriginals, with over 44 percent of patients who were admitted to hospitals identifying as indigenous.

Despite the similarity in epilepsy syndromes among the indigenous and non-indigenous populations, the former presents with more serious degrees of the disease when diagnosed. Research has stated this is related to the inequitable access of healthcare resulting from geographic isolation and cultural issues to treatment.

Geographic Isolation and Epilepsy

The Bolivian Guaraní live in the Bolivian Chaco, a hot and semi-arid region of the Río de la Plata Basin. This area is sparsely populated, but of the 49 percent of indigenous persons, 68.9 percent of them live in conditions of poverty, with everyday issues of energy and sanitation.

Nevertheless, in 2012, an educational campaign directed to the Bolivian Guaraní has been implemented by general practitioners to teach the population about the main causes of epilepsy, its diagnosis, treatment and first aid. They also target the social stigma that exists around the disease.

With the help of programs like Bono Juana Azurduy, Programa Mi Salud, Ley de Gratuidad and Seguros Departamentales, there has been an increase in the social security and improvement in the treatment for epilepsy among the geographically isolated community.

Cultural Issues

Apart from geographic isolation, indigenous populations such as the Aboriginals of Australia also have traditional health beliefs about the causes of epilepsy. For instance, environmental factors like the moon are seen as an epileptic precursor. They also associate a connection with the supernatural due to transgressions as causes of the diseases, making it more difficult to find treatment for the neurological condition.

When such cultural issues arise due to a difference in beliefs, it is important for general practitioners and patients to find a suitable course of treatment that is acceptable for both parties. Various clinics in Far North Queensland, where many Aboriginals reside, have assessed and managed the situation through gathering as much information as possible about the person’s original function and the impact of the disease on them.

They also advise other hospitals treating Aboriginal people to identify and implement strategies, whether they be medication, behavioral, environmental or social, to be developed in conjunction with the patient, their families and communities. In time, it is believed that this will lead to the best interim solution for all parties in the support network and the patient themselves.

Within the Aboriginals living in Canada, the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) has also successfully delivered treatment for epilepsy patients by working as a liaison between service agencies and clients to find the best possible treatment. Their services extend to alleviate anxiety from patients who have previously had negative experiences with healthcare.

Moving Forward

Knowing that epilepsy is a neurological condition that receives substantial stigma in indigenous communities, there is a barrier for patients to have access to biomedical treatment and have it become integrated within the society they live in. Therefore, in order to reduce the burden of epilepsy in poor regions of the world, and especially within indigenous populations, hospitals, non-governmental organizations and the government have much to do. Aid can come in the form of risk factor prevention, offering check-up clinics in rural areas, stigma-reducing educational programs, improving access to biomedical diagnosis and treatment as well as providing a continuous supply of good quality anti-epileptic drugs to patients who need it, irrespective of their background.

– Monique Santoso
Photo: Pixabay