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In recent years, there has been an apparent growth of the Indigenous

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In recent years, there has been an apparent growth of the Indigenous population of Australia driven, in part, by an increasing willingness on the part of many Australians to acknowledge/assert their Aboriginality (ABS, 2003). As at 30 June 2001, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (ATSI) population of Australia was estimated to be 458,520, or 2.4 per cent of the total population. Persons identifying as 'Aboriginal origin' comprised about 90 per cent of this estimated resident Indigenous population; persons of 'Torres Strait Islander origins' comprised 6 per cent, and those with both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin comprised 4 percent (ABS & AIHW, 2003). This growth is occurring despite the fact that, by any social indicator, including education, employment, income, housing and contact with the justice system (Departmental of Aboriginal Affairs, 2004), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are the most disadvantaged sub-population in Australia (O'Donoghue, 1992; National Aboriginal Health Strategy Working Party, 1989). Non-indigenous Australians have gradually reduced the racist treatment of indigenous over the 230 years since colonization, as the initial policy of attempted genocide was replaced by paternalistic control and then by laissez faire neglect. Much racist treatment is now illegal though racist attitudes may not have reduced as quickly and continue to effect many aspects of indigenous life today. Demographic characteristics with important effects on social and economic status include household structure and age distribution. ...read more.


The enforcing of equal wages for Aboriginal stock-workers in 1968, led to stations reducing their work force and families who were no longer employed on the station were required to leave what was often their ancestral lands and find somewhere else to live. They drifted to artificial Aboriginal townships and fringe settlements. This dislocation had a major social impact which Sutton describes as "the most destructive in living memory" (Sutton, 2001). Deprived of meaningful labour, boredom and will-sapping welfare dependency combined with the "psychological legacy of past discrimination, forced assimilation, the devaluing of traditional male roles [including by the supporting mothers' benefit] and the mourning that followed the often brutal initial conquest" (Sutton, 2001) to foster an epidemic of alcohol and drug misuse following the extension of drinking rights to Aborigines in the early 1970s. Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons, particularly those living in more remote areas, do not have access to a basic level of housing and essential infrastructure, such as the supply of power and safe drinking water, and effective sewerage systems (ABS& AIHW, 2003). The number of residents in Indigenous dwellings is, on average, higher than in non-Indigenous dwellings, and this disparity increases with remoteness (with large increases occurring in very remote areas) (FaCS, 1999). Indigenous households are everywhere far less likely to own or be buying their own home that non-Indigenous ones (FaCS, 1999). ...read more.


Eye/vision problems were the most commonly reported conditions (29%), followed by asthma (16%), back problems (15%) and ear/hearing problems (15%). Figures for 1998-2000 show that babies born to Indigenous mothers are twice as likely to be low birth-weight (13% of births, compared to 6%) and twice as likely to suffer pre-natal death (20 per thousand births), compared with where the mother was non-Indigenous (10 per thousand births). According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, research suggests that further adverse influences contributing to such differences in health include: a. Early childhood and development problems, b. Substance use/misuse, c. Economic participation and development (low incomes and education levels), d. Greater disposition to behave in ways which increase the risk of ill-health (such as smoking, drinking, poor diet and lack of exercise), e. Lack of access to clean water and inadequate sanitation, and f. Inadequate access to suitable housing and health services. Within Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples do not enjoy the level of well-being enjoyed by the wider community. They consistently experience lower levels of health, education, employment and economic independence than those enjoyed by Australians. To grow as a nation, this difference in experience must be addressed. As Indigenous disadvantage is overcome, the economy grows and the need for government expenditure is decreased. At the same time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples will be better placed to fulfil their cultural, social and economic aspirations. ...read more.

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