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The Australian National University

Tracking change in the relative economic status of Indigenous people in New South Wales

Discussion Paper 277 / 2005


Since its formation in 1990, CAEPR has produced a series of research papers tracking progress in the relative economic status of Indigenous people in New South Wales using mostly census data. Viewed in sequence, the findings have indicated a rise over time in the Indigenous employment rate and a slight decline in the unemployment rate, but with both of these remaining substantially below equivalent rates for the State’s non-Indigenous population. Also of note is a lack of improvement in income relativities, with one reason being a growing reliance on jobs in the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme. Outputs from the 2001 Census can now be augmented by the increased availability of administrative data from government services as well as data from the 2002 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS). Collectively, these data reveal a population that has barely gained in recent times against key indicators of relative economic progress, such as income and labour force status. The Indigenous population of New South Wales needs to maintain at least the level of recent absolute gains simply to keep up with the demands of an expanding working age group. The likelihood of this occurring is severely limited by continuing deficits in the crucial area of education together with sustained high interaction with the criminal justice system. Alongside low income, the outcomes are ultimately manifest in low levels of asset accumulation in the housing market.

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