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

op 10 Facts About Hunger in Australia
Australia, home to more than 25 million people, is often regarded as a regional power with one of the strongest economies in the world. However, a significant portion of Australia’s population suffers from food insecurity. Many are unable to afford enough food to feed both themselves and their families. Here are the top 10 facts about hunger in Australia to know:

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in Australia:

    1. More than four million people in Australia suffer from food insecurity. According to Foodbank Australia’s 2018 Hunger Report, more than four million Australians suffer from food insecurity, approximately 18 percent of the population.
    2. One in five children is hungry in Australia. Foodbank Australia reports that 22 percent of children in Australia suffer from food insecurity, and of that 22 percent, nine percent go at least one day a week without a single meal. Additionally, 29 percent of parents report they go a full day without eating at least once a week so their child has something to eat. In order to fight this, some schools provide breakfast programs. Charities such as Helping Hands provide families with weekly access to fresh food for a small donation.
    3. Women are more likely to suffer from hunger. Often due to living on low incomes or pensions, women are at a higher risk of hunger. Women are 31 percent more likely to suffer from food insecurity than men. Women with low incomes have a 49 percent chance of experiencing food insecurity while the rate for men is 38 percent.
    4. Indigenous Australians suffer disproportionately. Food insecurity affects roughly 30 percent of Indigenous Australians, both in remote and urban areas. In cities, Indigenous Australians often experience low incomes and lack of access to cooking facilities, making them more susceptible. In the country, options for purchasing food are limited. On average, Indigenous Australians spend at least 35 percent more of their income on food than Non-Indigenous Australians. However, the Australian government has worked to fight hunger with its Close the Gap campaign. Close the Gap was established in 2008 and focuses on achieving health equality for Indigenous Australians.
    5. Hunger is a greater issue in remote areas. Australians who live in remote areas are 33 percent more likely to suffer from food insecurity than those in cities. In cities, 17 percent of the population suffers from food insecurity. In remote areas that rate is significantly higher at 22 percent.
    6. Hunger negatively impacts mental health. Of Australians impacted by food insecurity and living in remote areas, 65 percent report feeling stressed, and 60 percent say that their situation makes them feel depressed. Australians living in urban areas report similar feelings: 54 percent report they felt stressed and 48 percent report food insecurity makes them feel depressed. Foodbank Australia found that 42 percent of those who receive aid say it helps improve their mental health and wellbeing.
    7. Australia’s high cost of living contributes to hunger. Wage growth has stagnated in recent years while Australians experience heavy cuts to welfare payments. Electricity prices have simultaneously skyrocketed. Consumer spending has plummeted, as increases in wages are unable to sufficiently match increases in costs. As a result of either an unexpected expense or expensive bills, 49 percent of Australians who suffer from food insecurity report being unable to afford food.
    8. Single-Parent Households are more vulnerable. Food insecurity impacts 39 percent of single-parent households in Australia, meaning they are the household type most likely to be hungry. Nearly two-fifths of all single-parent households struggle to put food on the table compared to 23 percent of single person households and 22 percent of family households with children.
    9. The task of providing food to the hungry is placed into the hands of nonprofits. The Australian government has yet to establish a government program that focuses on fighting food insecurity. Australia’s state welfare agency, Centre, does provide a one-time payment to those in crisis but has yet to establish additional support. Feeding the hungry has been placed in the hands of charities and private donors.
    10. Charities are unable to meet the demand for food. Only 36 percent of charities are able to fully meet the food needs of those they serve. This means 64 percent of food needs are still not being met. Additionally, these statistics do not account for those suffering from food insecurity who have not approached a charity. Furthermore, charities are completely unable to provide for seven percent of those who approach them each month.

These are the top 10 facts about hunger in Australia that illuminate the challenges many Australians face every day. Many factors contribute to food insecurity in the country and all too often put the most vulnerable at risk. However, programs such as Close the Gap and the work of nonprofit organizations illustrate how the country is taking powerful steps to end hunger in Australia.

– Nicholas Bykov 
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Australia
Australia is a sovereign country located “down under” in the Southern Hemisphere and is the largest country in Oceania which homes the Australia mainland continent, Tasmania and a variety of other small islands. Australia was first inhabited by indigenous Australians until the British arrived in the late 18th century where they then split the country into six colonies including New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. These colonies eventually united to form the Commonwealth of Australia. Although Australia still lacks a growth in wages and salaries and has limited affordable housing, it has other highly developed aspects of living. These are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Australia.

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Australia

  1. Education is High-Quality – The average student scored a 502 in subjects such as reading literacy, math and sciences in the Programme for International Student Assessment, an impressive score above the OECD average of 486. The average Australian will spend 21 years in school compared to the OECD average of 17 years. Of note, 80 percent of adults have completed upper secondary education.
  2. Life Expectancy is Continuously Increasing – Thanks to improvements within the public health care sector and progressions in medical care, life expectancy is improving with a significant increase over the past few decades. Life expectancy stands at 83 years of age, three years higher than the average of 80 years in the Southern Hemisphere. Notably, the country provides mental health interventions and headspace centers to adolescents for a more healthy upbringing to decrease the number of suicides.
  3. Air Quality Ranks High – Australia’s government has taken drastic measures to reduce air pollution, implementing the National Clean Air Agreement. The country’s livability has increased and impacted health and produced a positive environment despite a few concerns of high peaking airborne pollutants in some cities.
  4. Water Quality is Sufficient in Some Areas – In urban areas, 90 percent of Australians have access to acceptable water quality but in the regional areas, only 70 percent of households have access to clean sources. Due to the continuous change in climate, local water utility companies have to make a few accommodations on account of quality resulting in some areas failing acceptable water standards, such as Southern and Western Australia.
  5. Home Affordability is Declining – In Australia, owning a home is a main priority, but the number of homeowners has had a significant decrease since the 1980s due to high interest rates and an increase in housing prices in areas like Sydney. Due to this, there is an increase in household renters from 26 percent to 31 percent.
  6. Wages and Salaries are Declining – Australia measures wages and salary by average weekly earnings. Since the mid-70s, there has been a decline in reported earnings because of higher tax brackets and an increase in unemployment rates which suppress wages. There are also more people who are willing to work part-time jobs versus full-time employment.
  7. Crimes are Increasing – There are more crimes being reported in Australia than before. This ultimately affects the standard of living considering people do not feel as safe and secure. Burglary and assault are the main crimes that have increased dramatically with robberies increasing from 23 to 113 per 1,000 people and assaults increased from 90 to 689 per thousand of the population. Communities are addressing crimes by implementing situational crime prevention interventions by strengthening locks and improving surveillance.
  8. The Economy is Growing – As one of the wealthiest Asian-Pacific countries, Australia is an attractive place for investment considering the government is helping with the entrepreneurial development. Australia’s economic freedom score is 80.9 making it the fifth highest in 2019 for factors such as labor freedom and trade freedom.
  9. Quality of Life is High – Australia’s HDI is the second highest in the world behind Norway. Because it is a liberal and democratic nation along with its warm climate, 43 percent of Australians aged 18 and over are mostly satisfied with their standard of living.
  10. High Poverty Rates for Children – In 2018, three million Australians were living below the poverty line of a 50 percent median income including 17.3 percent children. Those that are living deep in poverty are surviving with $135 less a week than the median income and are relying on Government Assistance payments.

Living conditions in Australia compared to the rest of the world rank high. Education is abundant and most Australians find their standards of living satisfying. However, these 10 facts of living conditions in Australia portray the need for improvement in water quality and poverty rates that are affecting the everyday lives of Australian citizens.

– Jessica Curney
Photo: Flickr

Disparity Affecting Australia's Indigenous

Australia is the largest landmass in Oceania. This place was once home to 750,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who made up more than 500 indigenous groups. Today, Australia’s total population is just over 25 million. But, only approximately 3 percent of the population consists of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Overall, Australia’s indigenous population faces widespread disparity in comparison to its non-indigenous counterpart. Below are ten facts about disparity affecting Australia’s indigenous population.

  1. Socioeconomic disadvantages Socioeconomic disadvantages contribute to developmental vulnerability among indigenous children. In 2015, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimated that 42 percent of Indigenous children in their first year of full-time schooling was considered developmentally vulnerable in one or more of the five key areas of early childhood development. These key areas are physical health, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, communication skills and general knowledge. In comparison, 21 percent of non-indigenous children were considered developmentally vulnerable.
  2. Poor test performance – Indigenous students have lower literacy and numeracy scores than their counterparts. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students achieve lower test scores throughout primary and secondary schooling on the National Assessment Program than their non-Indigenous peers. This certainly highlights educational disparity affecting Australia’s indigenous population. The farther away indigenous children live from cities and regional areas, the lower the test scores.
  3. Negative over-representation –There is over-representation of the indigenous population in the child-protection and justice systems. Indigenous children between the ages of 10 and 17 make up less than 6 percent of the population within that age range. However, 48 percent of those under youth justice supervision and 59 percent of those in youth detention centers are indigenous youths. Indicators of prior familial involvement with the criminal justice system, such as unemployment, can increase the chances of an indigenous child going into one of these two systems.
  4. Indigenous adults in the justice system – The adult justice system over-represents Indigenous individuals. For instance, 27 percent of the prison population in Australia consists of indigenous peoples, but only contribute to 3 percent of Australia’s total population. Socioeconomic factors and institutional discrimination are key factors that contribute to more 25 percent in the adult justice system being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Island descent.
  5. High unemployment and low wages – Aboriginal and Torres Islander Strait populations face higher rates of unemployment and lower wages. In fact, just under 50 percent of Australia’s indigenous population is employed. However, over 70 percent of the non-indigenous population is employed. Lower income is associated with poor health, crime and violence, poor education and substance abuse. Consequently, these associations reflect a cycle of poverty and lack of opportunities.
  6. Increased risk of poor health – Indigenous populations are more likely to have poor health than their non-indigenous counterpart. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are approximately two times more likely to have a high risk of complications such as long-term hearing problems, passing away before the age of 50, being born underweight, experiencing high levels of psychological distress or having a disability or long-term health condition.
  7. Poor living conditions – There are regional disparities affecting Australia’s indigenous population. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islands who live in remote areas are more likely to live in overcrowded communities or having substandard living accommodations. This is compared to those who live in major cities or regional areas.
  8. Beneficial cultural impacts – Although there are detrimental factors with living removed from cities and regional areas, indigenous communities living remotely experience beneficial cultural and communal impacts. They are more likely to speak an indigenous language, identify with a specific clan or tribe, be involved with cultural events and ceremonies. In addition, they are less likely to abuse substances (excluding alcohol and tobacco) and less likely to experience homelessness.
  9. Closing the education gap – There has actually been an improvement in recent years to close the gap in education. For example, indigenous individuals between the ages of 20 and 24 with a 12-year education (or equivalent) increased from 45 percent to 62 percent between the years of 2008 and 2015. Although the statistics for the non-indigenous population is higher at 86%, this is a great start at tackling educational disparity affecting Australia’s Indigenous population.
  10. NACCHO – The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organization (NACCHO) is dedicated to representing Australia’s Indigenous population in regard to their needs and interests. The NACCHO’s main goals are to alleviate poverty, advance spirituality, provide constructive educational programs and deliver holistic and culturally appropriate health services to Aboriginal populations.

Though unfortunate, the history of Australia’s indigenous population includes foreign disease, massacres and violation of rights to their land. The present situation of educational, income and other types of disparity affecting Australia’s indigenous communities stems from the complex colonial history of the continent. Despite centuries of inequity, the Council of Australian Governments and other organizations have committed themselves to raise this marginalized group and decreasing disparity affecting Australia’s Indigenous population.

– Keeley Griego
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Sub-Saharan AfricaIn accordance with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Australia will spend $121 million in 2018-2019 in Official Development Assistance (ODA) to poverty-stricken areas including sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The amount of assistance includes investment priorities in areas such as health, building resilience, education, infrastructure and trade. Australia sees economic benefits in investing in SSA, such as future potential trade with Africa. Through the help of many nongovernment organizations, Australia seeks to eradicate poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

Agricultural Productivity

Two major areas of investment in SSA include agricultural productivity and food security. There is a spillover effect from achieving these two goals; as health improves from improving farming productivity, income increases as well. Due to a higher income, those in extreme poverty would be able to afford education, better food, clean drinking water and sanitation.

The livelihood of Africans would increase and that is one reason Australia has its focus on agribusiness. From 2009, Australia has awarded at least $31 million to small- and medium-sized agribusiness companies, the technology and renewable energy sector and the financial service sector. The $31 million is part of the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund, which is promoting resilient rural communities, helping eradicate poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa and creating jobs through the private sector.

Humanitarian Assistance

Australia’s humanitarian program in Africa focuses on economic downfalls, natural disasters and conflict, all of which contribute to food scarcity and poverty. Australia’s goal is to alleviate suffering from these shocks, save lives and bring stability and dignity to those affected. In the last few years, Australia focused on the crises in South Sudan and Somalia. In line with the Foreign Policy White Paper, its focus is on working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in supporting refugees.

Australia Awards

Australia’s method of improving Sub-Saharan Africa’s livelihood is through the Australia Awards Scholarship Program. Wealth generation and job creation are two areas that have developed from recipients of this award. Courses teaching hydroponic farming, macroeconomic development and professional development give awardees the knowledge and skills needed to drive economic growth and sustainable development. Awardees also learn leadership, negotiation, project management, public speaking and other soft skills.

One such awardee, Edmore Masendeke from Zimbabwe, works as an economist at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. In 2018, Masendeke began an accessible housing project for people with disabilities. He helped the bank start a loan facility for Zimbabweans with disabilities. He is only one awardee that has accomplished positive change in underrepresented individuals.

Success

  • Over 12 million Africans have better healthcare, improved access to food security and better water and sanitation thanks to the collective work of 27 nongovernmental organizations funded by the Australian NGO Cooperation Program in 2017-18.
  • Through its humanitarian effort, Australia helped over 1 million vulnerable women, men and children in 12 countries by giving life-saving assistance.
  • Australia increased crop production by improving agricultural productivity that resulted in advanced farming techniques and better food security.
  • There were 479 Australia Awards Scholarship awardees in 2018.

Future

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade stated that its strategic direction aligns with the Foreign Policy White Paper. Its main focus areas in the future include the following: agricultural productivity, humanitarian assistance, leadership and human capacity development and gender equality and women’s empowerment. Australia will continue to support the initiative to eradicate poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and collaborate with nongovernment organizations, the United Nations and its subsidiaries to improve agriculture, food security, water and sanitation and hygiene programs in order to achieve the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous PopulationThere are 370 million indigenous people in the world today. The majority live in China, where 36 percent of the population is indigenous. This is followed by South Asia at 32 percent, Southeast Asia at 10 percent and Latin America at 8 percent. The United States is 1.5 percent indigenous. Indigenous populations account for about 5 percent of the world’s population but more than 15 percent of the world’s poor. What is the connection between indigenous people and poverty, and how can it be broken?

Who Is Indigenous?

There is such a wide variety of indigenous cultures that it makes creating a common definition challenging. The United Nations refers to them as the descendants of the inhabitants of a country or geographic regions prior to the immigration of a second ethnic group. The second ethnic group then became dominant through conquest and settlement, marginalizing the original inhabitants. Examples include Native Americans, the Saami of Northern Europe, the Maori of New Zealand and the Maasai of Eastern Africa.

Many people prefer to be called by the name of their individual group or tribe, such as “Navaho” or “Inuit.” However, the blanket term, “indigenous,” is gaining popularity since it links together different peoples and provides a legitimate status for special rights in many countries.

What Problems Do They Face?

It is difficult to find data for countries in Asia because most governments deny the existence of indigenous populations. For example, China has officially stated that there are no indigenous people within their borders despite having the highest concentration in the world. In areas like the Philippines and Vietnam, there are indigenous populations as well as “ethnic minorities,” who are indigenous but do not come from the country in which they are currently living. Often these “ethnic minorities” were forced to leave their native lands.

The best data came from Latin America in 2010 where indigenous people made up 8 percent of the population, but 14 percent of the poor and 17 percent of the extreme poor. Part of the reason for the disparity is the fact that indigenous populations are more likely to live in rural or remote areas. In cities, there is better access to electricity, clean water and education. This is also evident if they are living in an urban slum where indigenous people can outnumber nonindigenous two-to-one.

There is also a significant pay gap for indigenous populations. In Mexico, native people earn 12 to 14 percent less than non-native people. In Bolivia, the gap is 9 to 13 percent and in Peru and Guatemala, it is about 6 percent. In Australia, aboriginals have 30 percent less disposable income than their non-aboriginal counterparts, and in Canada, the wage gap can be as high as 25 percent. This is a large part of the connection between indigenous people and poverty.

How Can This Be Solved?

Approximately half the poverty gap can be accounted for by differences in employment type, education level, living in a rural area and family size. The other half is the “unexplained” gap, which is a result of direct discrimination or racism. This creates a unique challenge for bringing indigenous people out of poverty. Reducing the gap in education rates is widely regarded as the first step and has been steadily improving in the past few years.

In Ecuador, Mexico and Nicaragua, indigenous children attend primary school at the same rate as non-indigenous children. However, in many communities, primary education is still strongly associated with assimilation to the majority culture. The best way to fight this belief is to offer bilingual language and a curriculum sensitive to cultural differences, which is slowly gaining popularity in many countries.

Indigenous peoples often have their own ideas of what improvement should look like; therefore it is important to increase their power to advocate for their own needs. The United Nations Declaration of Indigenous People’s Rights in 2007 brought together groups from all over the world. This put them in a better place to negotiate for further rights and land privileges on their terms.  Worldwide, native peoples are asserting their political power to bring long-needed changes to their communities. If governments are willing to listen, indigenous people will have a better chance of breaking the connection between indigenous people and poverty.

Jackie Mead

Photo: Flickr

Immigration in Australia
Australia welcomed 208,000 immigrants in 2017, most of whom came from India, China and the U.K. This number was significantly higher than the 85,000 in 1996. Australia’s openness to accepting immigrants can be traced back to when prime minister John Howard was first elected in 1996. Howard emphasized accepting skilled migrants, rather than family migrants as a way to boost the economy. The number of permanent migrants from India was 3,000 in 1996 and 40,000 by 2013. The ration of family migrants to skilled migrants has now been reversed to where two-thirds of Australia’s immigrants are skilled migrants and only one-third are family migrants. Immigration in Australia is changing, and here are some reasons why.

The “Pacific Solution”

In 2001, John Howard implemented an immigration policy known as the “Pacific Solution.” The new immigration policy changed the requirements about where a noncitizen could apply for Australian protection. Previously, one could apply from any of Australia’s migration zone, which is comprised of thousands of islands off the coast of Australia. Under the change, Australia had made it so only people who reached the mainland could claim asylum. Australia’s navy was also given the power to stop migrant boats in the ocean, and the country officially started offshore migrant-processing camps in Nauru and Papua New Guinea (PNG).

In 2013, under the new Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Australia extended the “Pacific Solution” to include the mainland, which basically meant migrants could be sent to the offshore detention facilities regardless of where their ships landed. Until then, those who reached mainland Australia could not legally be sent to Nauru or PNG. Now, asylum-seekers are held in the camps while their claims are processed. Even if they are found to have valid asylum claim, they are not allowed to settle in Australia. Instead, they may settle on Nauru or PNG. Australia even paid Cambodia $42 million to take four asylum-seekers.

Further Restrictions in Immigration

This immigration policy has had its critics, with some organizations claiming that the policy violates human rights. Howard claimed that the program protects Australia from the continuous number of boats and ships trying to land in the country.  However, Australia did grant 13,800 visas between 2013 and 2014 to Syrian refugee who had legally applied through its Humanitarian Programme, so the country is clearly open to housing refugees who enter the country legally. In 2017, Australia had received 35,170 new requests for asylum, with most refugees coming from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.

In March of 2018, the 457 visas were replaced by the Temporary Skilled Shortage (TSS) visa. The number of primary visas granted for sponsored workers had decreased by 35 percent from July to September in 2017 compared to the same time frame in 2016. This can be attributed to the fact that the employers wanting to sponsor a 457 worker declined, resulting in a one-third reduction in available jobs.

This new policy will also require workers to have two years work experience to be eligible. Jobs deemed to fall under the Medium or Long-Term Strategic Skills list will give workers a four-year, renewable visa with a pathway to citizenship. However, jobs that fall under the Short-Term Skilled Occupation list will be restricted to a two-year, once refundable visa with no pathway to permanent residency.

Clearly, immigration in Australia is changing. It is unclear to what extent Australia will benefit or suffer from these newly implemented restrictions. One thing is for sure, immigrants seeking asylum are going to have a harder time finding it in Australia.

Casey Geier
Photo: Flickr