University of Tasmania
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Is Closing the Gaps a useful approach for overcoming Indigenous disadvantage?

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posted on 2023-05-27, 06:32 authored by Hicks, DJE
Currently there is considerable disparity in terms of socioeconomic status between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. There is not a single indicator within the domains of education, employment, income, housing and health where Indigenous Australians have better or equal outcomes compared to non-Indigenous Australians (Biddle, 2013c). Since the inclusion of Indigenous Australians as a separate cultural entity within the Census, and the consequent availability of comparative statistics, the extent of this disadvantage has been known. Consequently, it has formed the basis of numerous policies and interventions (Altman, Biddle, & Hunter, 2008). However, it has been acknowledged that these policies have been largely a failure (Australian Public Service Commission, 2007). As of 2008, the Closing the Gaps policy came to the forefront as a means by which to remedy the situation. However, this policy has come under considerable criticism as it is argued that it largely fails to account for cultural difference and difficult to measure factors such as discrimination. In light of this criticism, the current study aimed to empirically determine the potential impact of such factors on Indigenous socioeconomic disadvantage. To achieve this it used the difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous mean incomes as a way in which to measure Indigenous socioeconomic disadvantage. It used the explanatory variables of educational attainment, health, remoteness of residence, age and gender to ascertain the percentage of this income difference which could be attributed to demographical differences between the two populations. Findings inferred that only 31% of the difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous incomes could be attributed to demographic differences in the explanatory variables between the two groups. These findings suggested that 69% of the income difference could be potentially attributed to other variables not observed by the study and, as Altman (2009) argues, largely ignored by Closing the Gaps.


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