Discuss the Range of Measures of Indigenous Disadvantage - Assessment Answers

December 03, 2017
Author : Julia Miles

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Discuss the range of measures of Indigenous disadvantage. Is cultural bias a serious problem in measuring the well being of Indigenous people?

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The council of Australian Governments in April 2002 launched the steering committee to come up with a regular report focusing on the key indicators of indigenous disadvantage Department on (Prime Minister and Cabinet 2016). One of the report is “The overcoming indigenous disadvantage” which did measure the well-being of indigenous peoples of Australia. This report provided information on outcomes, cutting across a range of measures or strategic segments such as education and training, home environment, early childhood development, safe and supportive communities as well as economic participation. The report basically examines whether programs and policies are generally achieving positive outcomes with a focus on indigenous Australians (Altman et al. 2008). The council of Australian Governments also released another report in 2014 that touches on the indigenous specifically the Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal. The report indicated that the economic outcomes for the indigenous have generally improved with higher incomes, but lower reliance on government income support, improved home ownership as well as improved access to professional employment on a full time basis. Secondly, there has been improved health outcomes such as improved health status or life expectancy with lower mortality rates among children and infants. However, rates of chronic disease and disability remains relatively high as well as a decline in mental health. Thirdly, the post-secondary education outcomes have generally increased but numeracy results at school and literacy level has not changed much especially in the remote areas of Australia. Lastly, justice outcomes continued to be on the decline with imprisonment rates among adults worsening. However, there has been no change in the rates of community violence, family violence and juvenile retention which still remains high as before

Is cultural bias a serious problem in measuring the well-being of indigenous people?

It is worth to note that whatever happens among the non-indigenous Australians could be the unlocking key of success of the policy known as “closing the gaps”. In other words “closing the gaps” policy relies heavily on the occurrences and activities happening among the non-indigenous Australians and how such activities impact on the indigenous population. The implication is that cultural bias is not a serious problem in determining the well-being of indigenous people (Manning et al. 2003). For example, it is very obvious that “the gap” between the natives/indigenous and non-indigenous directly becomes affected if the benchmark for non-indigenous changes. However, the capacity of indigenous outcomes to generally attain such high benchmarks normally changes due to variations in economic and social conditions attributed to cultural bias. In fact cultural bias can be used to measure the well-being of indigenous people by focusing on the following:


To start with, macroeconomic growth is an important factor in regards to cultural bias since it varies across the entire business cycle. That is, indigenous people are composed of workers with low skills and minimal experience unlike the non-indigenous people who are highly-skilled, with more experience when considered on the same platform of job qualification or evaluation. The implication is that the indigenous people are the last categories of workers to be hired when there is economic boom or macroeconomic growth and equally the first employees to be retrenched in case of an economic downturn. Most business organizations always rationalize or support this behaviour of hiring the indigenous people when there is economic growth and shedding them off during an economic downturn on the basis that they want to reduce turnover of staff they consider as highly valued and most experienced. It is significant to note that the capacity to generally close the gap between the indigenous and non-indigenous cannot be indefinitely sustained since it relies on macroeconomic growth that is considered as a business cycle that oscillates or goes up and then down periodically. Therefore, sustained periods of economic growth can result in relative indigenous outcomes. However, in a constant economic growth relative indigenous outcomes tend to worsen or stagnate in periods of economic downturn in the business cycle.

Income status

Normally improved ability to access a country’s economic resources or higher income is among the significant benefits drawn from employment. Reports have shown that median personal incomes in Australia have gradually increased since 1981 in the indigenous population. However, this trend is inconsistent for the non-indigenous people. The median personal incomes for non-indigenous population has stagnated since 1981 and then declined in the year 1996 but later increased overwhelmingly since then. On the other hand the relative income measure plummeted or declined since the year 1996. Moreover, there has been an increase in employment of indigenous population in the private sector resulting in improved financial benefits due to the last 10 years macroeconomic growth. The trend observed was generally disproportionate in relation to the non-indigenous people. These findings show consistency with the Australian inequality literature did establish that there was substantial profits for organization resulting in improved income among employees.

Household size, household ownership and income

Research has shown that the average household is getting smaller and smaller with time like in Australia for the last 10 years. However, the indigenous households in Australia had remained substantially bigger than the non-indigenous but declined and fell below non-indigenous since the year 1991. The demographic change in Australia is attributed to the relative decline of household size of the indigenous population in comparison with the non-indigenous households. Therefore, the indigenous household stock is likely to experience less pressure as compared to non-indigenous that it has occurred previously or historically. This will continue to occur unless the population growth, offset the historic decline hence outstripping the development of new housing stock. The indigenous household size is significant because it is the main determinant of poverty. The implication is that, the more people occupying the same household, the higher the tendency of pooling together resources to cater for living expenses. Studies on poverty index usually consider household size as well as the composition of the household to generally determine changes in the living standards and welfare of the occupants (Biddle 2011). Additionally, the trend in home ownership observed between the non-indigenous populations of Australia has been stable and approximately 70% for many years. Moreover, the proportion of the population considered as indigenous in Australia living in a number of homes owned by non-indigenous has substantially declined since 1971. Therefore, the indigenous population is now seen to be owning homes than it was before 1970s.


Generally, both indigenous and non-indigenous population of Australia is likely to access formal education than ever before. However, the indigenous population has slowly tried to accept and acquire formal education as compared to the non-indigenous Australians, especially in relation to post-high school qualifications. The type of post-high school qualifications are also dependent on grades obtained earlier in high school which determines the degree an individual to get from the university. The type of degree has an impact on the economic benefits associated with employment and income. It is quite unfortunate that fewer indigenous people obtain relevant degrees as compared to non-indigenous people. Therefore, the trend in obtaining qualifications does not seem positive for the indigenous population.


Life expectancy is considered as the best measure of health status of an individual or population. However, it is quite difficult to present the updated health status, trends of people, especially in Australia since the method used officially to estimate indigenous health status or life expectancy has recently been changed. By taking into account the weaknesses and strength of the official method used to estimate indigenous health status, researchers have found out that non-indigenous male life expectancy has generally improved at a slightly higher rate than the indigenous male particularly after the year 1991. However, the life expectancy or health status for indigenous females did vary greatly. For example, the life expectancy for indigenous females improved between 1971 and 1981. However, this life expectancy for indigenous females gradually declined after 1981 as compared to the life expectancy of non-indigenous females which steadily increased after 1981.


Based on the above discussions, it can be concluded that cultural bias is not a serious problem and can be used positively to measure the well-being of indigenous people by focusing on the rates of employment, income, house size and household ownership as well as health comparison between the indigenous and non-indigenous population. Such statistics would give a clear picture of the level of well-being of indigenous and if there is any policy the government can implement to improve their status. However, the different government regime has different policies and therefore it will be wrong to conclude that prolonged improvements of the socioeconomic status of the indigenous population can easily be achieved.

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