Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage: What works?

Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage: What works?

18 June 2015
Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage: What works?

A sustained focus on what works to improve wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is key to overcoming Indigenous disadvantage

In late 2014, the Steering Committee for the Review of Government Services issued the sixth edition of the Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage (OID) report. To date, it’s the most comprehensive series of reports available on Indigenous disadvantage. Based on a framework of indicators, the report aims to measure the wellbeing of Indigenous Australians over time, using measures such as life expectancy and valuing Indigenous Australians and their culture.

Despite some gaps closing, the OID report revealed that, overall, Indigenous Australians continue to experience greater disadvantage compared to non-Indigenous Australians.

Where reliable data exists, improvements in outcomes have occurred in areas such as life expectancy, household income and post-secondary education. Outcomes have worsened in other areas, such as mental health and suicide.

There are higher levels of disadvantage in remote areas of Australia, which also have a greater population of Indigenous Australians1 For example, in 2012–13, less than 40% of Indigenous Australians aged 20–24 living in very remote areas completed Year 12 compared to over 60% of Indigenous Australians living in non-remote areas.2 Similarly, 53% of Indigenous Australians in very remote areas lived in crowded housing – a key variable negatively affecting other outcomes, such as education and family violence. Around seventeen per cent of Indigenous Australians residing in major cities also lived in crowded housing.3

What works to improve wellbeing?

Following an independent review and increased consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples since the previous OID report, the 2014 edition included for the first time a focus on “what works” in tackling disadvantage and improving the lives of Indigenous Australians. Where available, the report provides case examples of promising practices that work towards improving the wellbeing of children, families and communities.

A range of promising practices highlighted in the report are also available on the Knowledge Circle website. Some of the promising practices include, among others:

Beyond specific programs, the OID report highlighted some basic factors that the former Closing the Gap Clearinghouse identified as being essential to programs that improve wellbeing. These include:

  • program flexibility that accounts for local needs and context;
  • community involvement and engagement;
  • trusting relationships;
  • a well-trained and well-resourced workforce; and
  • continuity and coordination of services.4

The OID report also highlighted the need for greater attention to what works to improve wellbeing. For summary information or to access the full OID report, visit the Productivity Commission website.

The Knowledge Circle website, hosted by AIFS, provides information including Promising Practice Profiles, discussion articles and a range of culturally appropriate practice and evaluation resources. Knowledge Circle is a resource for policy makers, practitioners and service providers to find useful information and engage in discussion about what works.

1. For the overall Indigenous Australian population, 8 per cent live in remote areas and 14 per cent live in very remote areas, compared to less than 2 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians living in remote or very remote areas, see page 8 of the Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2014 Overview Report (OID Overview Report).

2. OID Overview Report, p.8.

3. OID Overview Report, Figure 10.1.2 "Proportion of Indigenous people (all ages) living in overcrowded households, by remoteness".

4. OID Overview Report, p.13.

The feature image is by Rusty Stewart, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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Adam Dean

Adam is a Senior Research Officer with the Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) information exchange.

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