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

Natural Disasters and Impoverished Countries
Just when one might think that impoverished people are facing enough difficulties, they become enlightened about other tragedies that make life more dismal for these people. According to Britain’s Overseas Development Institute, there is an overlap between countries already facing extreme poverty and countries that are more likely to be devastated by natural disasters.

Fortunately enough, this combination has occurred before so future governments and organizations will know what to do when such tragedies strike again. Countries have recovered. There is hope that these other countries will not face travesty forever. In the text below, some cases of natural disasters and impoverished countries who were able to recover are presented.

Myanmar

In 2008, Myanmar was struck by Cyclone Nargis that left a total of 138,000 people either dead or missing. Cyclones are not the only natural disaster that Myanmar is prone to. Earthquakes, floods, droughts, tsunamis and landslides also affect the country. Since 2012, climate change has affected the country greatly.

The organization Give2Asia has been present in Myanmar in previous years. Give2Asia is a network of charitable communities from over 25 countries throughout the continent. Their work in the country consists of breaking down the components that affect Myanmar’s economy and people the most and improving the situation in these fields.

The population most affected by natural disasters are the urban and rural poor, the agriculture population and communities that live on the coasts. The Give2Asia states that poverty is both the cause and result of natural disasters. Majority of the population depends on agriculture and fishing livelihoods to survive, so when a natural disaster hits and destroys all of their hard work, it is understandable that this cycle continues.

Because of this, many nongovernmental organizations and the Myanmar government began implementing disaster and risk reduction measures. Some of the measures are as following: early warning systems, adapting agriculture to climate change and creating disaster-proof buildings.

An example of an organization that has helped Myanmar in the past is Ar Yone Oo (AYO), that was put together shortly after Cyclone Nargis. The group targeted vulnerable and poor areas of Myanmar that were affected. After helping in the aftermath of Nargis, the group stressed the importance of implementing educational programs in poor communities aimed at learning these people what to do in the face of disaster. AYO was able to increase emergency preparedness in two townships as well as the entire Chin state of Myanmar.

Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004

The tsunami of 2004 affected 10 countries in South Asia. The death toll was over 200,000, over a million people were injured, and tens of millions of people were displaced. Relief Web calls this natural disaster “the single biggest challenge ever faced” by international aid, especially from nongovernmental organizations. This tsunami was an example of how natural disasters and impoverished countries are often connected.

Australian nongovernmental organizations and aid were able to prevent the suspected second wave of death, usually caused by disease, due to their quick response time and ability to provide clean water to the injured. By June 2005, Australia had committed and spent around $34 million on disaster relief in Indonesia alone. Australian organizations such as the Australian sectors of Red Cross, CARE, Caritas, Oxfam and World Vision were all publicly funded by the country and gave further aid to the affected countries. Due to this grand effort by just one continent, reconstruction was possible. The organizations consulted local communities on how they wanted to be restored so that the communities could build back better.

Work of the Indonesian Government

The Indonesian government also valued community input, which was a bold step at the time. Because they prioritized what the people wanted, they were able to create jobs and homes for the community and lessen the poverty rate. The government created programs that aimed to provide the best recovery for the whole population.

The Indonesian Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Agency (also called BRR in the country) was a group that worked for four years to rebuild Indonesia, specifically Aceh. During this time, the organization constructed over 140,000 houses, 4,000 kilometers of roads, 1,700 schools, 1,100 health facilities and 13 airports. Not only that, but the organization provided jobs for 40,000 teachers and gave out 7,000 fishing boats. Through caring for the livelihoods in the communities, this and other organizations were able to help these countries recover.

These stories are important to remember when looking to the future of disaster recovery and how to help already impoverished countries. By looking at the correlation between natural disasters and impoverished countries, and seeing what can be done to prevent total devastation, the terrifying future of repeated natural disasters might not be as bad predicted. Other countries can learn from the nongovernmental organizations in these cases, as well as Australia’s incredible effort.

– Miranda Garbaciak
Photo: Flickr

Financial Inclusion in Australia
Recent reports estimate that globally, nearly two billion adults do not have access to a bank account. As a result, services such as loan credit and financial planning advice are denied to people all over the world. The primary reason that people do not have access to bank services is the lack of accessibility and affordability, especially as major banks all but dominate the entire market share regarding financial services.

However, there has been a global movement to make financial services more readily available to people who could not normally afford them. Financial technology (fintech for short) is an industry that uses technology to offer premium financial services at much more affordable costs and sometimes even for free. While fintech companies do not aim to compete with large banks, they do offer specific services, such as loan credit or financial planning advice. 

Fintech is used to describe new tech that seeks to improve and automate the delivery and use of financial services. In achieving this goal, fintech allows access to financial services to more people and helps fight poverty.

Financial Inclusion in Australia through Fintech

There has been a rise of fintech in Australia. Over the past 12 months, the financial technology sector of Australia has been rapidly evolving. An estimated 600 financial technology companies are currently being operated in Australia and this number has doubled since 2015. In fact, fintech is the largest startup sector in the country, with one in every five startups targeting fintech.

Some of the most successful startups in Australia include Prospa, Zip Money, and AfterPay Touch.

Prospa is Australia’s leading online lender to small businesses. This company has funded over $500 million, allowing small businesses to receive funding in a short period, as little as twenty-four hours. By making these funding more accessible, small and medium business owners will have the proper financial means to expand their businesses.

Zip Money provides microloans to people, free of fees. With over 700,000 users, ZipMoney allows consumers to make important purchases without any delays.

AfterPay Touch is a digital payment service that targets consumer-facing organizations. With over 800,000 customers and 6,000 retail merchants onboard, AfterPay Touch provides payment security, compliance, and fraud services at much more affordable costs.

Fintech Advantages

Although these companies provide vastly different services, they all have a common goal: to make financial services more convenient, accessible and affordable. These companies allow people to absorb unexpected losses, be financially mobile and save for the future. They are very helpful in achieving financial inclusion in Australia and in other countries as well.

Additionally, because these fintech companies are increasing financial inclusion for small and medium business owners, they are allowing business owners more opportunities to grow and expand their businesses. As a result, more jobs will be created and more people will be lifted out of unemployment and poverty. 

The Impact of Fintech in Australia and Other Countries

The impact of fintech in Australia and its booming economy is not just felt domestically, but globally as well. For instance, Australian fintech startups are also working together with the Indonesian government to increase financial inclusion in Australia and Indonesia.

Indonesia has 49 million unbanked micro-enterprises. Australia has a new $1 billion New Payments Platform (NPP) that allows people to make real-time payments over the digital economy. This platform has the potential of advancing financial inclusion for both businesses and individuals in Indonesia. Increased financial inclusion will allow people not just to have access to a banking account, but also to escape poverty and recover from financial setbacks.

Recognizing that financial inclusion reduces inequality and helps millions of people lift themselves out of poverty is key to the development of fintech startups around the globe. As more governments start working together with the private sector, the impact of this new technology can be monumental.

– Shefali Kumar
Photo: Flickr

Advocating for People with Disabilities in AustraliaWhile Australia is considered akin to The United States and The U.K. in terms of development and opportunity, a large portion of its population is often disregarded and forgotten. Although native to the land, indigenous Australians are extremely disadvantaged and disempowered in terms of monetary power and the care they are afforded.

The high level of poverty among the indigenous populations is mirrored by inadequate health resources, particularly regarding physical and cognitive disabilities, both of which are disproportionately common in indigenous communities.

Focusing in on Disabilities in Indigenous Communities

Approximately 45 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Islander people live with a disability or long-term health condition and more than 7 percent of Aboriginal and Torres Islander people live with a profound or severe disability. Indigenous Australians (also called First Peoples) are over two times more likely to be living with a disability than their non-indigenous counterparts, and five times more likely to experience mental illness.

Such high levels of disabilities among the Aboriginal and Torres Islander communities can only be attributed to the high levels of poverty found within said communities. While urban indigenous poverty rates have been steadily declining over the past decade, dropping from 33.9 percent in 2006 to 24.4 in 2016, poverty rates both stagnated and rose in more remote regional areas between 1.2 and 7.6 percent depending on the area.

According to census data analyzed by Australian National University, while median disposable household income among indigenous families rose by $57 weekly in urban areas, it fell by $12 in remote rural areas over the same time period. As a result of such poverty, indigenous Australians face a myriad of issues that cyclically disadvantage their communities further.

In 2012-13, 24 percent of non-indigenous people were unemployed, but over half of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were not employed. only 19 percent of disabled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people currently participate in Australia’s workforce.

 A Cycle of Poverty

Disability is innately connected to poverty, as it can result in significant barriers in education and skill development, job loss and reduced earning, additional monetary and time expenses and a variety of other factors that lead to economic hardship and disempowerment. Lack of economic resources limits access to primary health care services and preventive services, increasing the likelihood that a person works and lives in a physically and mentally detrimental environment.

A 2009 study conducted by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that half all working-age adults who experience one year of poverty are disabled, and almost two-thirds of those who experience long-term extreme poverty have either a physical or cognitive disability.

People with disabilities are also more likely to experience food insecurity and an inability to make or pay rent due to lack of employment opportunities. In 2014, the overall poverty rate was 15 percent; however, the poverty rate by disabled status ranged between 12 and 29 percent. Although disabled people only make up 8 percent of America’s population, they account for 17 percent of its impoverished population.

Similarly, those experiencing extreme poverty are more likely to become disabled due to limited access to adequate sanitation, food security, safe drinking water and primary health services. They are also more likely to pursue high-risk areas of work.

First Peoples Disability Network Australia

First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDN) is governed and run by people who have experienced and continue to experience life with a disability, following the framework of The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The organization was established in 2010, working within the social construct of disability (as opposed to diagnosis) to create community networks for disabled indigenous Australians and link them to affordable care while simultaneously working to dismantle stigmas surrounding both First Peoples and disabilities.

Gisela Rosa, a future intern at the Federal Public Defender for Western Washington, understands the gravitas of the change this organization is making, as her younger brother has Autism. “Accessible care is so incredibly important to people with disabilities and their families and caretakers can have the best quality of life possible,” she said. “It’s kind of a game of luck and can be near impossible for underprivileged people with disabilities to get the care they need.”

The work FPDN is doing sets an example for organizations to follow, paving the way in terms of how disabled people receive care, giving underprivileged citizens a chance to live the way they hope to.

– Katherine Anastas

Photo: Flickr

humanitarian aid to LaosLocated in Southeast Asia, Laos is regarded as the world’s most heavily bombed country, polluted with loaded ordnance. Vulnerable to extreme climate change, devastating impacts have been marked in this country in rural areas caused by flash floods, landslides, river floods and annual human and animal epidemics.

In 2017, Laos and Australia celebrated 65 years of diplomatic relations. Through its Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian government will provide about $42.3 million in humanitarian aid to Laos from 2017 to 2018. Through this humanitarian aid to Laos, Australia aims to establish prosperity and decrease poverty while assisting with the economic integration with the region.

For 2016 to 2017, the total official development assistance from Australia is an estimated $44.2 million. Results from aid given in 2015 to 2016 had a tremendous impact on schools within Laos. Aid supported 217 new teacher trainees in completing their first year of teacher training, 140 being women. Scholarships were provided to 20 teacher educators and assisted 259 schools located in five provinces to acquire school lunches.

Research shows that in 2014 Laos received a total of $472.4 million in development aid. Although other countries, such as Japan and Germany, have contributed humanitarian aid to Laos, Australia has been most consistent.

Caritas Australia, a Catholic Agency for International Aid and Development, has left its mark on Laos as well. With a focus on developing women and children, Caritas is providing stability.

From 2010 to 2011, more than 40 Laotian mothers received livelihood and business training that helped pay for their children’s education. Without this opportunity, schooling funds would come from panhandling. Around 50 children living with a disability were provided education. Workshops were held to train and support caregivers, teachers and parents of children with disabilities.

Although Australia is the main donor of aid to Laos, the nation could use assistance from other countries as well. Through more aid, Laos can develop at a faster rate and create more opportunities for its citizens, leading to a better quality of life.

– Tara Jackson

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in AustraliaMore than 730,000 children live in poverty in Australia. Thirteen percent of Australians, three million people, fall below the line. What is causing this high prevalence of poverty?

Despite multiple decades of economic growth, the poverty rate has not wavered. There are 320,000 public housing dwellings in the country, and 150,000 applicants are still waiting on listings. Very few people get access to the minuscule supply of social housing in Australia. In fact, social housing accounts for less than five percent of the entire housing sector. As a result, many people living in poverty are excluded from affordable housing and the unaffordability of housing in the market directly contributes to their poverty.

A spike in single parentage contributes to poverty in Australia. According to a report by The Guardian, a rise in poverty was recorded for children in one-parent families from 2012 to 2014. That’s four percent in two years.

There is also a historic relation of inequality and poverty in Australia, with Aboriginal populations being much more likely to suffer from poverty. Aboriginal people are still rebounding from an era of discrimination and oppression.

Furthermore, many residents in Australia are feeling the negative effects of the reduction of social welfare payments such as Newstart, the parenting payment, and the Disability Support Pension. The majority of people below the poverty line rely on social security as their main source of income, although around a third subsist on actual wages.

Recent reports by charity Foodbank SA indicate more than 102,000 South Australians needed help to get food in the past year, compared to 85,000 in 2016. Foodbank SA chief executive officer Greg Pattinson says this growth is the worst the organization has seen and is largely attributed to rising electricity prices. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) today released a report that found the average power bill for South Australian households had increased by 48 percent from 2007 to 2008. ACCC chairman Rod Sims says these increased prices are due to a clean energy target. Sims said the ACCC’s report showed the gold-plating of Australia’s power grid as the biggest factor behind the power price increases.

It is evident that the prevalence of poverty in Australia is caused by a multiplicity of factors and solutions will need to take into account this complexity.

– Sam Bramlett

Photo: Flickr

How the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Australia Helps Protect Aboriginal and and Torres Strait Islander PeoplesIn 2007, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a new declaration sourced from existing international human rights law. This time, though, the organization focused on a specific marginalized group: indigenous peoples. The strong support of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was a major step toward increasing communication between indigenous peoples all over the world and the U.N. Member States.

Across the globe, indigenous peoples are often marginalized by the law and face harsh discrimination. A large contributor to the increased vulnerability of indigenous peoples to violence and human rights abuses comes from their displacement. Indigenous groups tend to share a common key value based on their land. When they are taken away from that land, many groups find it much more difficult to fully exercise their human rights.

The declaration, though legally nonbinding, is significant because of the participation of indigenous peoples in its drafting. The document recognizes that all of the human rights outlined in previous United Nations declarations apply to indigenous peoples. While the declaration was supported by most countries, Australia, New Zealand the United States and Canada voted against it.

However, two years later in 2009, Australia voiced its support for the law, signaling progression toward advancing human rights for all of its citizens, and closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. The country has already been considering constitutional changes based on the document.

Following the formal endorsement of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Australia, the government took crucial steps in implementing the core values outlined in the document. In order to educate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples about their rights, the Australian government distributed a comprehensive guide to the U.N. document.

The guide to understanding the declaration in Australia specifically addresses rights to country, resources and knowledge, as well as self-governance and more. The document has received a large degree of legitimacy, due to support from not only the Australian government but also countries all across the world, making it an important tool for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to invoke when addressing the human rights violations and discrimination to which they may be subjected.

The adoption of the declaration, after its initial rejection, does not create legal obligations for the countries that support it. What it does do, however, is allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to use the language of human rights to influence government policies. The Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples sends a clear message that governments cannot avoid international scrutiny for mistreatment of and violations against their indigenous groups.

Richa Bijlani

Photo: Flickr