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The Australian National University

Changing patterns of income support receipt among Indigenous Australians, 1994-2015


Friday, 15 September 2017
12.30 - 2.00pm

Indigenous people receive a greater proportion of their income from government income support payments than non-Indigenous Australians. Among those on income support, Indigenous people are also more likely to receive working age payments than the non-Indigenous population. Many of the changes to income support policy since the 1990s are likely to have had a disproportionate impact on the Indigenous population. Those payments that have decreased in generosity (at least in relative terms) are those that Indigenous Australians have a greater exposure to. In addition, there has been an increased emphasis on mutual obligation and work incentives with a particular focus on working age payments. This paper examines trends in income support receipt among Indigenous Australians using data from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social surveys for 1994, 2002, 2008 and 2014/15. We find that the proportion of Indigenous adults relying on government payments as their main source of income fell significantly over the period. These trends were evident in both remote and non-remote areas and for most demographic groups, with the exception of lone parents and the elderly. Among the population receiving income support payments, there has been a shift towards age pension and disability payments and away from payments for unemployment. Income support recipients increasingly have other sources of income, mainly from employment. Despite this, median income levels for income support recipients in remote areas have stagnated in real terms.  

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