Worlds Apart: Remote Indigenous disadvantage in the context of wider Australia

Worlds Apart: Remote Indigenous disadvantage in the context of wider Australia Report

CIS Policy Paper

  • Author(s): Price, Jacinta Nampijinpa
  • Published: 2021
  • Publisher: Centre for Independent Studies

Abstract: A ‘wicked’ problem is one that is difficult or impossible to solve, often due to varying views, contradictory knowledge, knowledge gaps, an economic burden, and the problem’s interconnection with other problems — such as alcoholism contributing to domestic violence. For decades State, Territory and Commonwealth governments have been trying (and failing) to solve the wicked problems besetting remote Indigenous communities. Billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent with very little improvement. In some communities, the situation has regressed, with alcohol abuse, domestic violence and truancy plaguing townships that are on the verge of breaking point. Regional and Remote Indigenous Communities are unique outliers in a nation otherwise known for its wealth, education and safety. Due to high Indigenous populations, these communities are immensely challenging to understand, and their challenges hard to address. Some critics argue that the nature of Indigenous cultures is inextricably linked to the social breakdown plaguing places like Tennant Creek, Ceduna and Aurukun. Others argue that such aspersions are unfair and racist. Conditions in these towns are often more comparable to the third world than to one of the most prosperous countries on earth. The Productivity Commission estimates that governments spent approximately $33.4 billion on Indigenous peoples in 2015-16. Approximately $4.1 billion (12.23%) of this was spent on public order and safety alone. At $6,300 per person, this is ten times the amount spent on the typical Australian. The purpose of this report is to demonstrate the wicked problems Regional and Remote Indigenous communities face. While no single cause can explain Indigenous disadvantage, the severe socio-economic disadvantage experienced by these communities can be demonstrated. This undoubtedly contributes to the astronomically high rates of alcohol abuse, crime, and domestic violence.This paper will first map the socio-economic factors that shape many Regional and Remote Indigenous communities and compare them to wider Australia. It will then look at the nature of crime and domestic violence — factors that all combine to make these communities so very different to the typical Australian suburb. It will use data to highlight the severe conditions in these locations, pointing to the fact that these places are experiencing extremes that would not be tolerated anywhere else in Australia. Ultimately, as the data will demonstrate, the situation in these communities is in dire need of a radical solution. A solution that targets communities based on evidence, rather than assertions about race and culture, and focuses on establishing the safe communities that any Australian would rightfully expect on their doorstep.

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Suggested Citation
Price, Jacinta Nampijinpa, 2021, Worlds Apart: Remote Indigenous disadvantage in the context of wider Australia, Report, viewed 03 December 2023,

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