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The Australian National University

A regional analysis of Indigenous participation in the Western Australian labour market

Working Paper 45 / 2008


Western Australia sits poised to reap huge benefits from a super-cycle of resource exploitation. Labour demand is at an all-time high and challenges in securing an adequate labour supply are already evident. It is ironic then, that the very people whose land base is exploited to generate much of this wealth, who are often located in regions of high labour demand, and who have sizeable cohorts moving into working-age groups, are so poorly situated to share in the benefits of economic growth for want of adequate capacities to participate.

The recent release of 2006 Census data provides the basis for an update of the economic position of Indigenous people across different regions of Western Australia. This paper focuses on recent change in the fortunes of Indigenous people in the labour market and analyses these alongside changes in other population, social and economic outcomes. The findings show a continuation of regional diversity in outcomes with regions away from the south west faring worst, although overall there is little evidence of a closing of the gaps in key indicators. The indications are that strategies aimed at overcoming Indigenous disadvantage in the labour market will need to address structural issues at different formative stages in the life cycle, as well as assume a broad scope for economic inclusion and participation to cope with the growing need for employment from an expanding Indigenous working-age population in very diverse locational settings.

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