Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in all parts of Australia

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in all parts of Australia
Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander peoples in Australia
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people live in all parts of Australia;
from large cities to small country towns and very remote communities.
They speak approximately 250 languages and identify with distinct
cultural groups.
This diversity is acknowledged by the Australian Bureau of Statistics
(ABS) and the organisation is committed to improving the quality and
comprehensiveness of the available data on Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander people.
(Source: ABS Topics at a Glance)
Defining who is Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander?
• In 1983 the High Court of Australia defined an Aboriginal or Torres
Strait Islander as
"a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who
identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted
as such by the community in which he or she lives".
• The ruling was a three-part definition comprising of:
1. Descent: was genetic descent and unambiguous, but led to cases
where a lack of records to prove ancestry excluded some.
2. Self-identification: consider themselves as Indigenous
3. Community identification: self- and community identification were
more problematic as they meant that an Indigenous person
separated from her or his community due to a family dispute could
no longer identify as Aboriginal.
Busting some myths!
‘Myths are powerful: they influence the way we think
about things we might not have direct experience of.
Because relatively few Australians have direct
relationships with Indigenous Australians, myths have
become one of the main ways of ‘knowing’ about
Aboriginal people. As Aboriginal academic Marcia
Langton says, the most difficult relationship is not
between black and white people ‘but between white
Australians and the symbols created by their
predecessors. Most Australians do not know and relate
to Aboriginal people. They relate to stories told by former
colonists.‘ (Generation One Website)
Most Indigenous people live in the
bush (rural or remote areas).
The highest proportion of Indigenous
Australians live in Sydney. In 2006, 31% of
Indigenous people in Australia lived in major
cities; 22% lived in inner regional Australia;
23% in outer regional Australia; 8% in remote
Australia and 16% in very remote Australia.
Not as many Indigenous people live in the
bush compared to urban and regional areas. It
is important to remember that a person does
not stop being Aboriginal because they have a
western lifestyle; the two cultures do not
cancel each other out.
How Indigenous are you?
• One of the biggest myths about Aboriginality is that if you
have white skin you can’t be Indigenous - you’ve got to
be black to be ‘a real’ Aboriginal - or that Aboriginality is
attributed to the degree of ancestry, such as "she is 1/8th
Aboriginal" or a varying combination of "white-bits and
• Ideas of genetics and culture are often mistakenly
collapsed together so that if someone’s skin is lighter,
they are thought to have lost that equivalent of Aboriginal
culture. Identity is tied to the cultures that a person is
raised in, and how they identify with that culture.
Indigenous people are alcoholics
who can’t handle their grog.
• Drinking alcohol is a well-entrenched Australian tradition. In fact,
settled Australia began as a rum-colony and rum was the currency
that paid for our hospitals and built our churches. Alcohol abuse is a
thread throughout Australian colonial history and remains a problem
for many communities, black and white. But it is the notion of the
‘drunken black’ that remains one of the most pervasive stereotypes
of Indigenous Australians.
• As a proportion of each population, more Indigenous (37%) than
non-Indigenous (22%) people do not drink alcohol at all. Though it
has been found that those Indigenous people who do drink, do so in
more dangerous quantities than non-Indigenous Australians.
Lending weight to the perception of high levels of Indigenous alcohol
use is the fact that Indigenous social drinking, unlike non-Indigenous
drinking, is also often highly visible, conducted in public places like
Indigenous people are lazy and
don’t want to work.
• The Indigenous jobless rate has fallen from 18.3 per cent in 2002,
when the bureau of statistics first began its survey, to 14.3 per cent
in 2006. The figures also show that, despite common stereotypes,
the proportion of the Indigenous community working or looking for
work is not much different to the national average. Between 1994
and 2002, there was an increase in the number of employed
Indigenous people aged 15 years or over (from 36% to 46%). There
was an increase in both mainstream and Community Development
Employment Project scheme (CDEP) employment.
• Patterns of employment were different between remote and nonremote areas, with the majority of Indigenous people in remote
areas having jobs with the CDEP scheme (63%). In non-remote
areas 90% of employed Indigenous people had jobs in mainstream
Indigenous people get free houses,
cars and undeserved special
• Indigenous people are subject to the same
social security laws and entitled to no more (and
no less) government sponsorship than any other
Australian. There has never been a government
program that distributes free houses or cars.
• It is incorrect to say that Indigenous people
receive undeserved special treatment. Tailored
solutions are necessary to overcome the unique
problems that confront Indigenous Australians.
Violence/Abuse against women and children
is part of traditional Indigenous culture.
• Sexual assault, particularly child sexual assault, forms no part of
Indigenous culture and a multitude of authoritative national reports
have shown this to be a myth. While there used to be systems of
punishment for people who contravened community regulations,
including physical punishment, violence and sexual abuse against
women and children has never formed part of traditional cultural
practices and it is considered abhorrent by Indigenous men and
women of all generations.
• Such behaviour is learnt and has been found to be generational and
cyclical; abusers have often been victims of abuse themselves. The
literature on abuse is clear - that the trauma suffered by one victim
will often manifest in that victim being a perpetrator of similar crimes
to others later in life.
• The recent report on abuse in the Northern Territory by Pat Anderson
and Rex Wilde states: 'sexual abuse of children is not restricted to
those of Aboriginal descent, nor committed only by those of
Aboriginal descent. The phenomenon knows no racial, age or gender
borders. It is a national and international problem.
Indigenous people are doing nothing about
their own problems and expect government to
do everything.
• Despite the effort and commitment of most Indigenous
Australians to overcome problems confronting their
communities, there is a pervasive myth of Indigenous
• Since settlement, Indigenous leaders and communities
fought long and hard for citizenship rights, land rights
and the right to be counted in the census of the
population; rights that non-Indigenous people take for
• A recent example of communities fighting to overcome
their problems is the strong leadership of the
Pitjantjatjara communities of South Australia in
combating the scourge of petrol sniffing.
There is no Indigenous leadership.
• “Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage comes at a price but let’s
stop pretending that there’s ever been an investment in Indigenous
Australia based on need, let alone on a vision of success."
Professor Mick Dodson
• Most Australians have heard the myth about “too much money is
thrown at Indigenous affairs". The reality is that Indigenous-specific
funding represented 1.58% of total Australian Government spending
in 2006-2007.31 As a percentage of GDP, Indigenous-specific
spending is about a third of one percentage point,32 which is about
the same amount as Australia spends on aid to foreign countries.
• In the 2007 federal budget, $748.3 million33 is the identifiable
amount being spent on Indigenous affairs - based on an Indigenous
population of around 500,00034 this calculates to $1500 per person.
Traditional marriage systems promote
sexual abuse of children
• The recent Northern Territory Little Children are Sacred Report
debunked this myth noting, ‘the media has highlighted a few cases
where sexual abuse of a child has occurred in the context of an
Aboriginal traditional marriage in the Northern Territory’.42 The
Inquiry did not come across any evidence to show that children were
being regularly abused within, and as a result of, traditional marriage
practices. This was despite the fact that in many places such
practices still existed.
• These practices do not exist to provide young women for the sexual
gratification of old men, but are a part of a complex system that has
had many practical aspects. These include preventing inter-family
marriage, and providing a system of custodianship to land,
information and ceremonies.
Self-Determination was tried, and it
• Self-determination is the principal right identified in the
two major international human rights charters. Selfdetermination is the ability of peoples to determine their
own future and is gauged by the amount that people feel
they have control over the political processes that affect
them. There was a brief period that Indigenous affairs in
Australia had the title of ‘self-determination’ but has since
been officially abandoned by the Australian Government.
• Throughout the administrative history of Indigenous
affairs, even during the so-called period of ‘selfdetermination’, the approach has been one of ‘top-down’
decision making where governments have controlled the
major actions to be taken.
• Self-determination is about effective decision
• Self-determination has not been properly tested
in Australia despite the fact that previous
governments have adopted the term. This has
created the myth that self-determination has
been tried, and failed.
1. POPULATION and location
3. Cultural Diversity
• Religious demography among Indigenous Australians is
not conclusive because the methodology of the census
is not always well-suited to obtaining accurate
information on Aboriginal people. The 1996 census
reported that almost 72 percent of Aboriginals practised
some form of Christianity; 16 percent listed no religion.
4. Income/socio-economic status
• Estimates of household income are adjusted by
the ABS according to 'equivalence factors' in
order to recognise the impact of different
household compositions and different household
• In the 2006 Census, the mean equivalised
gross household income for Indigenous
persons was $460 per week, which amounted
to 62% of the rate for non-Indigenous
Australians ($740 per week).
• For Indigenous persons, income levels generally
decline with increased geographic remoteness.
In the 2006 Census, in major cities the average
equivalised incomes for Indigenous persons was
69% of the corresponding income for nonIndigenous persons. This declined to
approximately 40% in remote areas.
• Between 2001 and 2006 the average
equivalised gross household income for
Indigenous persons increased by 9% (after
adjustment for inflation) which was the same
increase for non-Indigenous people.
• In 2006, the median weekly gross individual
income for Indigenous peoples was $278, this
represented 59% of the median weekly gross
individual income for non-Indigenous peoples
5. Relationship with the
• Aboriginal landowners continue to be reliant on the
natural environment for both spiritual, social and
economic well-being.
• Creation ancestors form part of a living landscape and
practices such as hunting and foraging have an
important place in contemporary Aboriginal life.
• Throughout Aboriginal land in the Northern Land
Council area, there remains a strong belief in the land
as sentient, or that ancestral spirits imbue the landscape,
creating a situation in which spiritual and physical
aspects cannot be altogether separated.
Syllabus: Examine ways to reduce inequality
• • legislation introduced to reduce
inequality – local, national and global
• • affirmative action policies
• • community initiatives
• • welfare systems
‘The intervention’ 2007-today
The Northern Territory National Emergency Response (also referred to
as "the intervention") was a package of changes to welfare provision, law
enforcement, land tenure and other measures, introduced by the Australian
federal government under John Howard in 2007 to address claims of
rampant child sexual abuse and neglect in Northern Territory Aboriginal
communities. Operation Outreach, the intervention's main logistical
operation conducted by a force of 600 soldiers and detachments from the
The package was the Federal government's response to the Territory
government's publication of Little Children are Sacred, but implemented
only two out of ninety-seven of the report's recommendations. The response
has been criticised, but also received bipartisan parliamentary support. The
current Prime Minister Julia Gillard has and continues to support the
response, though her predecessor Kevin Rudd did make some adjustments
to its implementation. The Emergency Response has since been lapsed,
and is being replaced.
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