Demographic and Socio-Economic Outcomes Across the Australian Indigenous Lifecourse: Evidence from the 2006 Census

Demographic and Socio-Economic Outcomes Across the Australian Indigenous Lifecourse: Evidence from the 2006 Census Report

Research Monograph

  • Author(s): Biddle, N., Yap, M.
  • Published: 2010
  • Publisher: Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, College of Arts and Social Sciences, The Australian National University,

Abstract: Across almost all standard indicators including employment, education, housing, income and health, the Indigenous population has worse outcomes than the non-Indigenous population (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (SCRGSP) 2009). In his apology to the stolen generations in early 2008, Australia’s then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd outlined a ‘new partnership on closing the gap’. The focus of this partnership, from the government’s point of view, was a number of explicit targets aimed at eliminating or at least substantially reducing these disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The statistics on Indigenous disadvantage are well-known by both researchers and policy-makers. Furthermore, keen attention is paid to how the relevant outcomes are trending through time with a major report to parliament every two years on ‘Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage’ (SCRGSP 2009) as well as a smaller report every year that documents progress made against the six Closing the Gap targets (Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) 2009). Despite the abundance of statistics and a plethora of government reports on the degree of disadvantage faced by Indigenous Australians, there is very little information on how Indigenous disadvantage accumulates or is mitigated through time at the individual level. Particular outcomes for the Indigenous population as a whole may be getting better or worse through time, but whether this represents substantial change for individual Indigenous Australians is not known. Furthermore, research on other population groups would suggest a correlation between disadvantaged circumstances as a child and poor outcomes as an adult. However, the extent to which this holds for the Indigenous population is unclear. It is perhaps not surprising that there is a dearth of research on these issues, as the longitudinal data sets that are increasingly being mined for such information on the total population do not contain a sufficient sample for detailed analysis of the Indigenous population. The Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey and the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children both have small Indigenous samples.1 The Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children has the potential to provide some information on the developmental pathways of two cohorts of children aged 6–18 months and 3½–4½ years respectively. However this study is only in its infancy, with the most relevant longitudinal information still a number of years away. Although a relative lack of longitudinal information on the Indigenous population precludes answering a number of key research questions, there is much that can still be learned from a detailed analysis of single or repeated cross-sections. In particular, by focusing on the current age distribution of outcomes, it is possible to gain insight into the timing of key life stages and the extent to which they differ for the Indigenous compared to the non-Indigenous population. Furthermore, by looking at the demographic and socioeconomic correlates of these outcomes and whether they vary by age and/or Indigenous status, it may be possible to identify key points of policy intervention across the Indigenous lifecourse.

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Suggested Citation
Biddle, N., Yap, M., 2010, Demographic and Socio-Economic Outcomes Across the Australian Indigenous Lifecourse: Evidence from the 2006 Census, Report, viewed 19 August 2022,

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