While the East Kimberley is rich in natural resources, its Aboriginal population experiences significant disadvantage, particularly relative to its non-Aboriginal population. The figures below come from the 2011 Census:
|East Kimberley||National rate|
|Completed Year 12||17.5%||54%||54%|
|Bachelor or post-graduate degree||1%||19%||15%|
|In a real job*||25%||87%||58%|
|Not in the labour force||60%||12%||35%|
|≥ 8 residents in house||14%||0%||0.3%|
|Homes owned or mortgaged||10%||41%||68%|
|Median person income/week||$280||$1050||$577|
*This does not include people engaged in Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP)
Other sources reveal that relative to the region’s non-Aboriginal population and overall Australian population, the Aboriginal population in the East Kimberley experiences significantly higher rates of: chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes; foetal alcohol spectrum disorders; incarceration; substance abuse; and suicide. Consequently, the median Aboriginal male in the region dies up to 30 years earlier than his non-Aboriginal counterpart.
While Aboriginal wellbeing has improved over the last decade, the disadvantage experienced by many Aboriginal families in the region remains unacceptable and pace of change is too slow. With 55% of the Aboriginal population in the East Kimberley aged under 25 years, it is critical that more effective action is taken now to improve Aboriginal wellbeing.
The complex, inter-related causes of this situation are well documented elsewhere and include the intergenerational legacy of colonisation, dispossession, dislocation, racism, inadequate infrastructure and services, and introduction of alcohol and welfare. Wunan is conscious of these factors but focused on pragmatic initiatives that enable Aboriginal success into the future.
You can download here a more detailed analysis of the 2011 Census figures and progress on “Closing the Gap” in the East Kimberley.
The following extract from the ANU Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research report, “Aboriginal Population Profiles for Development Planning in the Northern East Kimberley” (Taylor, 2003), succinctly puts forward the case for the role of Wunan Foundation:
“If social and economic conditions for Aboriginal people remain the same as currently experienced, then the cost to government in providing income support and other welfare payments, as well as program support in areas of health, housing and CDEP in particular, will escalate over time…
..in line with the growth in the working age population. On the other hand, if Aboriginal people had more jobs at higher occupational levels, then, from their own incomes, they would be able to meet many of the basic needs that governments now provide for. Some estimate of the opportunity cost to government of simply continuing business as usual is provided here (in the report) in the form of welfare dependency rates and associated estimates of dollar amounts. What is not costed, though, is the potentially greater public impost of excess disease burden, infrastructure replacement, and foregone educational outcomes due to the continued and growing marginalisation of Aboriginal people within the regional economy. It is important to recognise that the policy options for addressing this situation are not cost neutral – expenditure will grow either in response to declining economic status, or in order to enhance it. Whatever the case, a fiscal response is unavoidable.”