Source: The Australian, 25 June, 1995, p.4
By AMANDA MEADE THE annual average income of indigenous women is just $12,700 and $15,400 for men, according to Australian Social Trends 1996. While the overall income of non-indigenous people was $20,000, indigenous Australians received just $14,000. Most indigenous people told the Australian Bureau of Stat- istics in 1994 they had low personal incomes, especially in rural areas, where 65 per cent of Aborigines had gross annual incomes of $12,000 or less. The main source of income for 55 per cent of the indigen- ous population is welfare, although many Aborigines work for the dole under a scheme called the Community Development and Employment Program. While 88 per cent of Aborigi- nes reported their health as ranging between good and excellent, the overall health status of the indigenous popu- lation is still far worse than the wider community. Despite the efforts of community-controlled medical services, Aboriginal health is not improving significantly and whites can expect to live between 15 and 20 years longer than blacks. Living in remote areas, with no access to bulk billing GPs and Medicare services, Aborigi- nes continue to suffer from preventable diseases and report the same low health status found only in developing countries. In 1994, 41 per cent reported they had been ill recently and the most common conditions were diseases of the respiratory system. Half of all indigenous people over 13 said they smoked ciga- rettes, and 30 per cent said drug use was the biggest health problem in their area. Nearly 60 per cent reported alcohol as the biggest risk fac- tor and 20 per cent said a poor diet was the most detrimental part of their lifestyle. Aborigines are still more likely to live in rented houses than whites and usually in crowded conditions: 70 per cent of houses in which blacks live were rented compared to 28 per cent of all dwellings in Aust- ralia. More than half of the 303,000 Aborigines in Australia live in Queensland and NSW. According to the National Aborifinal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, the quality of the housing exacerbates the poor health of the occupants. In 1994, 20 per cent of indigen- ous people lived in the 8 per cent of dwellings which had more than eight people under one roof. In the same year, 18 per cent of indigenous people who were not attending school had com- pleted a post-school qualifi- cation compared to 41 per cent of all Australians.
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