are the original
inhabitants of the Australian
and nearby islands, and these peoples' descendants. Indigenous
Australians are distinguished as either Aboriginal people
or Torres Strait Islanders
currently together make up about 2.6% of Australia's
Strait Islanders are indigenous to the Torres Strait Islands which are at the northern-most tip of
Queensland near Papua New Guinea. The term "Aboriginal" has traditionally been
applied to indigenous inhabitants of mainland Australia, Tasmania, and some of
the other adjacent
The use of the term is becoming less common,
with names preferred by the various groups becoming more
The earliest definite human remains found to date are that of
which have been dated at about
40,000 years old, but the time of arrival of the ancestors of
Indigenous Australians is a matter of debate among researchers,
with estimates ranging as high as 125,000 years ago.
There is great diversity among different Indigenous communities and
societies in Australia, each with its own unique mixture of
cultures, customs and languages. In present day Australia these
groups are further divided into local communities.
Although there were over 250-300 spoken languages with 600 dialects
at the start of European settlement, fewer than 200 of these remain
in use – and all but 20 are considered to be endangered. Aborigines
today mostly speak English
Aboriginal phrases and words being added to create Australian Aboriginal
population of Indigenous Australians at the time of permanent
European settlement has been estimated at between 318,000 and
750,000, with the distribution being similar to that of the current
Australian population, with the majority living in the south-east,
centred along the Murray
Though Indigenous Australians are seen as being broadly related as
part of what has been called the Australoid race
, there are significant
differences in social, cultural and linguistic customs between the
various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups.
The word aboriginal
was used in
Australia to describe its Indigenous
as early as 1789. It soon became capitalised and
employed as the common name to refer to all Indigenous Australians.
At present the term refers only to those peoples who were
traditionally hunter gatherers. It does not encompass those
Indigenous peoples from the Torres Strait, who traditionally
The word Aboriginal has been in use in English
since at least the 17th century to
mean "first or earliest known, indigenous," (Latin
, from ab
: from, and origo
origin, beginning), Strictly speaking, "Aborigine" is the noun and
"Aboriginal" the adjectival form; however the latter is often also
employed to stand as a noun.
The use of "Aborigine(s)" or "Aboriginal(s)" in this sense, i.e. as
a noun, has acquired negative, even derogatory connotations in some
sectors of the community, who regard it as insensitive, and even
offensive. The more acceptable and correct expression is
"Aboriginal Australians" or "Aboriginal people," though even this
is sometimes regarded as an expression to be avoided because of its
historical associations with colonialism. "Indigenous Australians"
has found increasing acceptance, particularly since the
The broad term Aboriginal Australians includes many regional groups
that often identify under names from local Indigenous languages.
These larger groups may be further subdivided; for example, Anangu
(meaning a person from Australia's central desert region)
recognises localised subdivisions such as Pitjantjatjara
. It is estimated that
prior to the arrival of British settlers, the population of
Indigenous Australians was approximately 318,000–750,000 across the
Torres Strait Islanders
The Torres Strait Islanders possess a heritage and cultural history
distinct from Aboriginal traditions. The eastern Torres
Strait Islanders in particular are related to the Papuan peoples of
Guinea, and speak a Papuan
Accordingly, they are not generally included
under the designation "Aboriginal Australians." This has been
another factor in the promotion of the more inclusive term
"Indigenous Australians".Six percent of Indigenous Australians
identify themselves fully as Torres Strait Islanders. A further 4% of Indigenous Australians
identify themselves as having both Torres Strait Islanders and Aboriginal heritage.
Strait Islands comprise over 100 islands which were annexed by
Queensland in 1879.
Many Indigenous organisations
incorporate the phrase "Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander" to
highlight the distinctiveness and importance of Torres Strait
Islanders in Australia's Indigenous population.
Eddie Mabo was from Mer or Murray Island in the Torres Strait, which the famous Mabo decision of 1992
The term "blacks" has often been applied to Indigenous Australians.
This owes more to superficial physiognomy
, as it categorises Indigenous
Australians with the other black
. In the 1970s, many Aboriginal activists, such
as Gary Foley
proudly embraced the term
"black", and writer Kevin
's ground-breaking book from the time was entitled
. The book included interviews with several
members of the Aboriginal community including Robert Jabanungga
contemporary Aboriginal culture.
In recent years young Indigenous Australians – particularly in
urban areas – have increasingly adopted aspects of Black American,
African and Afro-Caribbean
creating what has been described as a form of "black
of mainland Australia and Tasmania have not been shown to be related to any languages
There were more than 250 languages spoken
by Indigenous Australians prior to the arrival of Europeans. Most
of these are now either extinct or
, with only about fifteen languages still being spoken
by all age groups.
Linguists classify mainland Australian languages into two distinct
groups: the Pama-Nyungan
and the non-Pama Nyungan. The Pama-Nyungan languages
comprise the majority, covering most of Australia, and are a family
of related languages. In the north, stretching from the Western
Kimberley to the Gulf of Carpentaria, are found a number of groups of languages which
have not been shown to be related to the Pama-Nyungan family or to
each other; these are known as the non-Pama-Nyungan
While it has sometimes proven difficult to work out familial
relationships within the Pama-Nyungan language family, many
Australianist linguists feel there has been substantial success.
Against this some linguists, such as R. M. W. Dixon
suggest that the Pama-Nyungan group – and indeed the entire
Australian linguistic area – is rather a sprachbund
, or group of languages having
very long and intimate contact, rather than a genetic
It has been suggested that, given their long presence in Australia,
Aboriginal languages form one specific sub-grouping. Certainly,
similarities in the phoneme
Aboriginal languages throughout the continent suggest a common
origin. One similarity of many Australian languages is that they
display mother-in-law languages: special speech registers used in
the presence of only certain close relatives. The position of
Tasmanian languages is unknown, and it is also unknown whether they
comprised one or more than one specific language family.
among scholars for the
arrival of humans in Australia is placed at 40,000 to 50,000 years
ago, with a possible range of up to 70,000 years ago. The earliest
human remains found to date are that of Mungo
which have been dated at about 40,000 years old. It is
generally believed that the indigenous Australians are the
descendants of a single migration into the continent, although a
minority propose that there were three waves of migration.
Aborigines lived as Hunter-gatherers
. They hunted and foraged
for food from the land. Aboriginal society was relatively mobile,
, moving due to the changing
food availability found across different areas as seasons
It has been estimated that at the time of first European
contact, the absolute minimum pre-1788
population was 315,000, while recent archaeological finds suggest
that a population of 750,000 could have been sustained.
The population was split into 250 individual nations, many of which
were in alliance with one another, and within each nation there
existed several clans, from as little as 5 or 6 to as many as 30 or
40. Each nation had its own language and a few had several. Thus
over 250 languages existed, around 200 of which are now extinct or
on the verge of extinction.
The mode of life and material cultures varied greatly from region
to region. The greatest population density was to be found in the
southern and eastern regions of the continent, the River Murray valley in particular.
Since British colonisation
colonisation of Australia began with the arrival of the First Fleet in Botany Bay in 1788.
An immediate consequence of
colonisation was a pandemic
of Old World
diseases, including smallpox
which is estimated to have killed up to
90% of the local Darug people
the first three years of white settlement.
Smallpox would kill around 50% of Australia's Indigenous population
in the early years of British colonisation.
A second consequence of British settlement was appropriation of
land and water resources, which continued throughout the 19th and
early 20th centuries as rural lands were converted for sheep and
In 1834 there occurred the first recorded use of Aboriginal trackers
, who proved very
adept at navigating their way through the Australian landscape and
During the 1860s, Tasmanian
sought internationally for studies into craniofacial anthropometry
, the last Tasmanian Aborigine,
had her skeleton exhumed within 2 years of her death in 1876 by the
Royal Society of Tasmania
and was later placed on display. Campaigns continue to have
Aboriginal body parts returned to Australia for burial.
In 1868, a group of
toured England, becoming the first
By 1900 the recorded Indigenous population of Australia had
declined to approximately 93,000. During the first half of the 20th
century, many Indigenous Australians worked as stockmen
Despite efforts to bar their enlistment, around 500 Indigenous
Australians fought for Australia in the First World War.
1930s, the case of Dhakiyarr V The
King saw the first appeal to the High
Court by an Aboriginal Australian.
Dhakiyarr was found to have been wrongly convicted of the murder of
a white policeman and the case focused national attention on
Aboriginal rights issues. Dhakiyarr disappeared upon release. In
1938, the 150th anniversary of the arrival of British First Fleet
was marked as a Day of Mourning
and Protest at an Aboriginal
meeting in Sydney
Hundreds of Indigenous Australians served in the Australian armed
forces during World War Two - including with the Torres Strait Light
and The Northern
Territory Special Reconnaissance Unit
, which were established
to guard Australia's North against the threat of Japanese
The 1960s was a pivotal decade in the re-assertion of Aboriginal
rights. In 1962, Commonwealth legislation specifically gave
Aborigines the right to vote in Commonwealth elections. In 1966,
led a famous
walk-off of indigenous employees of Wavehill Station, in protest
against poor pay and conditions (later the subject of a Paul Kelly Song
referendum called by Prime Minister Harold Holt allowed the Commonwealth to make laws with respect
to Aboriginal people, and for Aboriginal people to be included when
the country does a count to determine electoral
The referendum passed with 90.77% voter
In the controversial 1971 Gove
land rights case
, Justice Blackburn ruled that Australia had
been terra nullius
British settlement, and that no concept of native title
existed in Australian law. In
1971, Neville Bonner
as a Senator for
Queensland for the Liberal
, becoming the first indigenous Australian in the Federal
Parliament. A year later, the Aboriginal
Tent Embassy was established on the steps of Parliament House in Canberra.
In 1976, Sir Douglas Nicholls
was appointed as the 28th
Governor of South Australia, the first Aboriginal person appointed
to vice-regal office.
1982, Mark Ella
became Captain of the
Australian National Rugby Union
. In 1984, a group of Pintupi
people who were living a traditional hunter-gatherer desert-dwelling life were
tracked down in the Gibson
Desert in Western Australia and brought in to a settlement.
believed to be the last uncontacted
. 1985, the Australian
government returned ownership of Uluru (named Ayers Rock in Colonial times) to the local Pitjantjatjara
the High Court
of Australia handed down its decision in the Mabo Case, declaring the
previous legal concept of terra nullius to be
A Constitutional Convention which selected a
Republican model for the Referendum in 1998 included just six
indigenous particpants, leading Monarchist delegate Neville Bonner
to end his contribution to the
Convention with his Jagera Tribal Sorry Chant in sadness at the low
number of indigenous representatives. The Republican Model, as well
as a proposal for a new Constitutional Preamble which would have
included the "honouring" of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders
was put to referendum but did not succeed
In 1999 the Australian Parliament passed a Motion of Reconciliation
Prime Minister John Howard
consultation with Aboriginal Senator Aden
naming mistreatment of indigenous Australians as the
most "blemished chapter in our national history".
In 2000, Aboriginal sprinter Cathy
lit the Olympic flame
the opening ceremony of the 2000
in Sydney. In 2001, the Federal Government dedicated
Reconciliation Place in Canberra.
In 2004, the Australian Government abolished the Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Commission
, the abolition of Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Commission
occurred soon after rape
allegations were brought against its chairman.
On 13 February 2008, Prime Minister Kevin
issued a public apology to members of the Stolen Generation
on behalf of the
There are a large number of tribal divisions
and language groups
in Aboriginal Australia
correspondingly, a wide variety of diversity exists within cultural
practices. However, there are some similarities between
Religious demography among Indigenous Australians is not conclusive
because the methodology of the census is not always well-suited to
obtaining accurate information on Aboriginal people. The 1996
census reported that almost 72 percent of Aborigines practised some
form of Christianity
; 16 percent listed
no religion. The 2001 census contained no comparable updated data.
There has also been an increase in the number of followers of
among the Indigenous
Australian community. This growing community includes high-profile
members such as the boxer, Anthony
In traditional Aboriginal belief systems, a creative epoch known as
stretches back into a remote
era in history when the creator ancestors known as the First Peoples
traveled across the land,
creating and naming as they went. Indigenous Australia's oral tradition
and religious values are based
upon reverence for the land and a belief in this Dreamtime
. The Dreaming is at once both the
ancient time of creation and the present-day reality of Dreaming.
There were a great many different groups, each with its own
individual culture, belief structure, and language. These cultures
overlapped to a greater or lesser extent, and evolved over time.
spirits include the
, and Bunjil
The various Indigenous Australian communities developed unique
musical instruments and folk styles. The didgeridoo, which is widely thought to be a
stereotypical instrument of Aboriginal people, was traditionally
played by people of only the eastern Kimberley region and Arnhem Land (such as the Yolngu), and then by only the
men. Clapping sticks
probably the more ubiquitous musical instrument, especially because
they help maintain rhythm for songs.
Contemporary Australian aboriginal music is predominantly of the
genre. Most Indigenous
radio stations – particularly in metropolitan areas – serve a
double purpose as the local country-music station. More recently,
have branched into rock and roll
, hip hop
. One of the most well known modern
bands is Yothu Yindi
playing in a style
which has been called Aboriginal
Amongst young Australian aborigines, African-American
and Aboriginal hip hop
music and clothing is popular. Aboriginal
boxing champion and former rugby league player Anthony Mundine
identified US rapper
as a personal inspiration,
after Mundine's release of his 2007 single, Platinum
Australia has a tradition of Aboriginal art which is thousands of
years old, the best known forms being rock art and bark painting
. These paintings usually consist
of paint using earthly colours, specifically, from paint made from
ochre. Traditionally, Aborigines have painted stories from their
Modern Aboriginal artists continue the tradition, using modern
materials in their artworks. Aboriginal art is the most
internationally recognisable form of Australian art. Several styles
of Aboriginal art have developed in modern times, including the
watercolour paintings of Albert
; the Hermannsburg
, and the acrylic Papunya
"dot art" movement.
Australian Aboriginal poetry - ranging from sacred to everyday - is
found throughout the continent.
Australian Aboriginal domestic scene
from 1857 depicting traditional recreation, including a football
game which may be Marn Grook.
Popular with Indigenous Australian
The Djab wurrung
people of western Victoria once
participated in the traditional game of Marn
, a type of football
played with a
ball made of possum
hide.The game is believed
by some to have inspired Tom Wills
inventor of the code of Australian rules football
popular Australian winter sport. The Wills family had strong links
to Indigenous people and Wills coached the first Australian cricket
side to tour England, the Australian
Aboriginal cricket team in England in 1868
the High Court
of Australia defined an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander as
"a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who
identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is
accepted as such by the community in which he or she
The ruling was a three-part definition comprising descent,
self-identification and community identification. The first part -
descent - was genetic descent and unambiguous, but led to cases
where a lack of records to prove ancestry excluded some. Self- and
community identification were more problematic as they meant that
an Indigenous person separated from her or his community due to a
family dispute could no longer identify as Aboriginal.
As a result there arose court cases throughout the 1990s where
excluded people demanded that their Aboriginality be recognised. In
1995, Justice Drummond ruled "..either genuine self-identification
as Aboriginal alone or Aboriginal communal recognition as such by
itself may suffice, according to the circumstances."
Judge Merkel in 1998 defined Aboriginal descent as technical rather
than real - thereby eliminating a genetic requirement. This
decision established that anyone can classify him or herself
legally as an Aboriginal, provided he or she is accepted as such by
his or her community. As there is no formal procedure for any
community to record acceptance, the primary method of determining
Indigenous population is from self-identification on census
There is no provision on the forms to differentiate 'full' from
'part' Indigenous or to identify non-Indigenous persons accepted by
Indigenous communities, but who have no genetic descent.
The Australian Bureau of
showed that the Indigenous population had grown at twice the rate
of the overall population since 1996 when the Indigenous population
stood at 283,000. As of June 2001, the Australian Bureau of
Statistics estimated the total resident Indigenous population to be
458,520 (2.4% of Australia's total), 90% of whom identified as
Aboriginal, 6% Torres Strait Islander and the remaining 4% being of
dual Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parentage. Much of the
increase since 1996 can be attributed to greater numbers of people
identifying themselves as Aborigines and to changed definitions of
In the 2006 Census, 407,700 respondents declared they were
Aboriginal, 29,512 declared they were Torres Strait Islander
, and a further
17,811 declared they were both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
adjustments for undercount, the indigenous population as of end
June 2006 was estimated to be 517,200, representing about 2.5% of
Based on Census data at 30 June 2006, the preliminary estimate of
Indigenous resident population of Australia was 517,200, broken
down as follows:
The State with the largest total Indigenous population is New South
Wales. Indigenous Australians constitute 2.2% of the overall
population of the State. The Northern Territory has the largest Indigenous population in percentage
terms for a State or Territory, with 31.6% of the population being
All the other States and Territories have less than 4% of their
total populations identifying as Indigenous; Victoria has the
lowest percentage at 0.6%.
As of 2006 about 31% of the Indigenous population was living in
'major cities' (as defined by the Australian Bureau of
Statistics/Australian Standard Geographical Classification) and
another 45% in 'regional Australia', with the remaining 24% in
remote areas. The populations in Victoria, South Australia, and New
South Wales are more likely to be urbanised.
The proportion of Aboriginal adults married (de facto or de jure)
to non-Aboriginal spouses was 69% according to the 2001 census, up
from 64% in 1996, 51% in 1991 and 46% in 1986. The census figures
show there were more intermixed Aboriginal couples in capital
cities: 87% in 2001 compared to 60% in rural and regional
Groups and communities
Throughout the history of the continent, there have been many
different Aboriginal groups
each with its own individual language
, culture, and
belief structure.At the time of British settlement, there were over
200 distinct languages.
There are an indeterminate number of Indigenous communities,
comprising several hundred groupings. Some communities, cultures or
groups may be inclusive of others and alter or overlap; significant
changes have occurred in the generations after colonisation.
The word 'community' is often used to describe groups identifying
by kinship, language or belonging to a particular place or
'country'. A community may draw on separate cultural values and
individuals can conceivably belong to a number of communities
within Australia; identification within them may be adopted or
An individual community may identify itself by many names, each of
which can have alternate English
spellings. The largest Aboriginal communities - the Pitjantjatjara
, the Arrernte
, the Luritja
- are all from Central Australia
Tasmanian Aborigines are thought to have first crossed into
Tasmania approximately 40,000 years ago via a land bridge
between the island and the rest of mainland Australia during the
last glacial period.
original population, estimated at 4,000 to 6,000 people, was
reduced to a population of around 300 between 1803 and 1833 due to
the introduced diseases
and actions of
A woman named Truganini
, who died in 1876,
is generally considered to be the last first-generation
(full‐blooded) tribal Tasmanian Aborigine, while Fanny Cochrane
Smith, who died in 1905, is recognised as the last of the Tasmanian
Aborigines. This conflict is a subject of the Australian history wars
The Indigenous Australian population is a mostly urbanised
demographic, but a substantial number (27% as of 2002) live in
remote settlements often located on the site of former church
. The health and economic
difficulties facing both groups are substantial. Both the remote
and urban populations have adverse ratings on a number of social
indicators, including health, education, unemployment, poverty and
In 2004 former Prime Minister John
initiated contracts with Aboriginal communities, where
substantial financial benefits are available in return for
commitments such as ensuring children attend school. These
contracts are known as Shared Responsibility Agreements. This saw a
political shift from 'self determination' for Aboriginal
communities to 'mutual obligation', which has been criticised as a
"paternalistic and dictatorial arrangement".
The "Mutual Obligation" concept was introduced for all Australians
in receipt of welfare benefits and who are not disabled or elderly.
Notably, just prior to a federal election
called, John Howard in a speech at the Sydney Institute
on October 11, 2007
acknowledged some of the failures of the previous policies of his
government and said "We must recognise the distinctiveness of
Indigenous identity and culture and the right of Indigenous people
to preserve that heritage. The crisis of Indigenous social and
cultural disintegration requires a stronger affirmation of
Indigenous identity and culture as a source of dignity, self-esteem
The Stolen Generations were those children of Australian
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
were forcibly removed from their families by the Australian
and State government
agencies and church mission
, under acts of their respective parliaments
removals occurred in the period between approximately 1869 and
1969, although, in some places, children were still being taken in
On February 13, 2008, the federal government of Australia, led by
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
, issued a formal apology to the
Indigenous Australians over the Stolen Generations
. They are still
awaiting compensation for their displacement.
Under Section 41 of the Australian Constitution Aboriginals always
had the legal right to vote in Australian Commonwealth elections if
their State granted them that right. This meant that all Aborigines
outside Queensland and Western Australia had a legal right to vote.
The right of indigenous ex-servicemen to vote was affirmed in 1949
and all Indigenous Australians gained the unqualified right to vote
in Federal elections in 1962.
It was not until 1967 that they were counted in the population for
the purpose of distribution of electoral seats. Only two Indigenous
Australians have been elected to the Australian Parliament,
(1999–2005). There are
currently no Indigenous Australians in the Australian Parliament,
however a number of indigenous people represent electorates at
State and Territorial level, and South Australia has had an
Aboriginal Governor, Sir Douglas
. The first indigenous Australian to serve as a
minister in any government was Ernie
, who entered the West Australian Parliament in 1980. The
first woman minister was Marion
, who was appointed to the Northern Territory ministry
in 2002 (she became Deputy Chief Minister in 2008).
, the representative body of Aborigine
and Torres Strait Islanders, was set up in 1990 under the Hawke
government. In 2004, the Howard government
disbanded ATSIC and
replaced it with an appointed network of 30 Indigenous Coordination
Centres that administer Shared Responsibility Agreements and
Regional Partnership Agreements with Aboriginal communities at a
In October 2007, just prior to the calling of a federal election
, the then
Prime Minister, John Howard, revisited the idea of bringing a
referendum to seek recognition of Indigenous Australians in the
Constitution (his government first sought to include recognition of
Aborigines in the Preamble to the Constitution in a 1999
referendum). His 2007 announcement was seen by some as a surprising
adoption of the importance of the symbolic aspects of the
reconciliation process, and reaction was mixed. The ALP initially
supported the idea, however Kevin Rudd
withdrew this support just prior to the election - earning stern
rebuke from activist Noel Pearson
Critical sections of the Australian public and media meanwhile
suggested that Howard's raising of the issue was a "cynical"
attempt in the lead-up to an election to "whitewash" his handling
of this issue during his term in office. David Ross of the Central
Land Council was sceptical, saying "its a new skin for an old
snake", while former Chairman of the Reconciliation Council
support, saying: "I think it's a positive contribution to the
process of national reconciliation...It's obviously got to be well
discussed and considered and weighed, and it's got to be about
meaningful and proper negotiations that can lead to the achievement
of constitutional reconciliation."
The Indigenous population of Australia is much younger than the
non-Indigenous population, with an estimated median age
of 21 years (37 years for
non-Indigenous), due to higher rates of birth and death. For this
reason, age standardisation
used when comparing Indigenous and non-Indigenous statistics.
Indigenous life expectancy is difficult to quantify accurately.
Indigenous deaths are poorly identified, and there is some
uncertainty about the size of the population at risk. In 2009, the
ABS estimated life expectancy at 67.2 years for Indigenous men
(11.5 years less than for non-Indigenous) and 72.9 years for
Indigenous women (9.7 years less than for non-Indigenous). Previous
figures published in 2005 had indicated a widely-quoted gap of 17
years between indigenous and non-indigenous life expectancy, but
the ABS does not consider the 2005 figures to be reliable.
Students as a group leave school earlier, and live with a lower
standard of education, compared with their peers. Although the
situation is slowly improving (with significant gains between 1994
- 39% of indigenous students stayed on to year 12 at high school,
compared with 75% for the Australian population as a whole.
- 22% of indigenous adults had a vocational or higher education
qualification, compared with 48% for the Australian population as a
- 4% of Indigenous Australians held a bachelor degree or higher,
compared with 21% for the population as a whole. While this
fraction is increasing, it is increasing at a slower rate than that
for Australian population as a whole.
The performance of indigenous students in national literacy and
numeracy tests conducted in school years three, five, and seven is
also inferior to that of their peers. The following table displays
the performance of indigenous students against the general
Australian student population as reported in the National Report on
Schooling in Australia 2004.
Percent achieving 2004
In response to this problem, the Commonwealth Government formulated
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy
number of government initiatives have resulted, some of which are
listed by the Commonwealth Government's page.
Indigenous Australians as a group generally experience high
unemployment compared to the national average. For instance, in
August 2001, the (non-age-standardised) unemployment rate for
Indigenous Australians was 20.0%, compared to 7.2% for
non-Indigenous Australians. The difference is not solely due to the
increased proportion of Indigenous Australians living in rural
communities, for unemployment is higher in Indigenous Australian
populations living in urban centres than for non-Indigenous
populations in the same regions (Source: ABS
). As of 2002, the average household income
for Indigenous Australian adults (adjusted for household size and
composition) was 60% of the non-Indigenous average.
Due to lack of access to medical facilities, Indigenous Australians
were twice as likely to report their health as fair/poor and
one-and-a-half times more likely to have a disability or long-term
health condition (after adjusting for demographic
Health problems with the highest disparity (compared with the
non-Indigenous population) in incidence Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
outlined in the table below:
||Comparative incidence rate
||2 to 10-fold
||5 to 10-fold increase in rheumatic heart disease and hypertensive disease, 2-fold increase
in other heart disease, 3-fold
increase in death from circulatory
system disorders. Circulatory system diseases account for 24%
||2 to 3-fold
||2 to 3-fold increase in listing on the dialysis and transplant registry, up to 30-fold increase
in end stage renal disease, 8-fold
increase in death rates from renal
failure, 2.5% of total deaths
||10 to 70-fold
||10-fold increase in tuberculosis,
Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C virus, 20-fold increase in
Chlamydia, 40-fold increase in
Shigellosis and Syphilis, 70-fold increase in Gonococcal infections
||3 to 4-fold
||11% incidence of Type 2
Diabetes in Indigenous Australians, 3% in non-Indigenous
population. 18% of total indigenous deaths
||2 to 3-fold
||Over the period 1999–2003, in Queensland, Western Australia,
South Australia and the Northern Territory, the national cot death rate for infants was three times the
||2 to 5-fold
||5-fold increase in drug-induced mental disorders, 2-fold increase in
diseases such as schizophrenia, 2 to
3-fold increase in suicide.
||A 2-fold increase in cataracts
||60% increase in death rate
||60% increased death rate from neoplasms. In 1999–2003, neoplasms accounted for 17% of all deaths
||3 to 4-fold
||3 to 4-fold increased death rate from respiratory disease accounting for 8% of
Each of these indicators is expected to underestimate the true
prevalence of disease in the population due to reduced levels of
In addition, the following factors have been at least partially
implicated in the inequality in life expectancy:
- insufficient education
- substance abuse
- for remote communities poor access to health services
- for urbanised Indigenous Australians, cultural pressures which
prevent access to health services
- cultural differences resulting in poor communication between
Indigenous Australians and health workers.
Successive Federal Governments have responded to these issues by
implementing programs such as the Office of
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health
effected by bringing health services into indigenous communities,
but on the whole the problem still remains challenging.
In 2000, Indigenous Australians were more likely per capita to be
both victims of and perpetrators of reported crimes in New South
Wales.In 2002, Indigenous Australians were twice as likely as their
non-Indigenous peers to be a victim of violent aggression, with 24%
of Indigenous Australians reported as being a victim of violence in
2001.In 2004, Indigenous Australians were 11 times more likely to
be in prison (age-standardised figures).In June 2004, 21% of
prisoners in Australia were Indigenous.There are frequent reports
of domestic violence and community disturbances.
Many Indigenous communities suffer from a range of health, social
and legal problems associated with substance abuse
of both legal and illegal
A large 2004–05 health survey by the ABS
found that the
proportion of the Indigenous adult population engaged in 'risky'
and 'high-risk' alcohol consumption (15%) was comparable with that
of the non-Indigenous population (14%), based on age-standardised
data. The percentage-point difference between the two figures
quoted is not statistically significant, and a similar result was
obtained in the earlier 2000–01 survey.
The same health survey found that, after adjusting for age
differences between the two populations, Indigenous adults were
more than twice as likely as non-Indigenous adults to be current
daily smokers of tobacco
To combat the problem, a number of programs to prevent or mitigate
against alcohol abuse have been attempted in different regions,
many initiated from within the communities themselves. These
strategies include such actions as the declaration of "Dry Zones"
within indigenous communities, prohibition and restriction on
point-of-sale access, and community policing and licensing.
Some communities (particularly in the Northern Territory)
as a safer alternative to
alcohol, as over-indulgence in kava produces sleepiness, in
contrast to the violence that can result from over-indulgence in
alcohol. These and other measures met with variable success, and
while a number of communities have seen decreases in associated
social problems caused by excessive drinking, others continue to
struggle with the issue and it remains an ongoing concern.
The ANCD study notes that in order to be effective, programs in
general need also to address "...the underlying structural
determinants that have a significant impact on alcohol and drug
misuse" (Op. cit.
, p. 26). In 2007, Kava
was banned in the Northern Territory.
is also a problem
among some remote Indigenous communities. Petrol vapour produces
euphoria and dulling effect in those who inhale it, and due to its
previously low price and widespread availability, is an
increasingly popular substance of abuse.
Proposed solutions to the problem are a topic of heated debate
among politicians and the community at large. In 2005 this problem
among remote indigenous communities was considered so serious that
a new, low aromatic petrol Opal
distributed across the Northern Territory to combat it.
Prominent Indigenous Australians
After the arrival of European settlers in New South Wales, some
Indigenous Australians became translators and go-betweens; the
best-known was Bennelong
, who eventually
adopted European dress and customs and travelled to England where
he was presented to King George III
Others, such as Pemulwuy
, became famous for
armed resistance to the European settlers.
During the twentieth century, as social attitudes shifted and
interest in Indigenous culture increased, there were more
opportunities for Indigenous Australians to gain recognition.
became one of
Australia's best-known painters, and actors such as David Gulpilil
, and Deborah Mailman
became well known. Bands such as Yothu
, and singers Christine Anu
and Geoffrey Gurrumul
, have successfully combined Indigenous musical styles
and instruments with pop/rock, gaining wide appreciation amongst
Indigenous Australians have also been prominent in sport. Lionel Rose
earned a world title in boxing,
number-one ranked tennis player with 14 Grand Slam titles, Mark Ella
Captained Australia in Rugby Union
and runner Cathy Freeman
earned gold medals in the
, World Championships, and Commonwealth Games
; many more Indigenous
athletes are active at national and international level.
relatively few Indigenous Australians have been elected to
political office (Neville Bonner and
Aden Ridgeway remain the only ones to
have been elected to the Australian Senate), Aboriginal rights
campaigner Sir Douglas Nicholls was
appointed Governor of the State of South Australia in 1976, and many others have become famous through
political activism - for instance, Charles Perkins' involvement in the
Freedom Ride of 1965 and
subsequent work; or Torres Strait Islander Eddie Mabo's part in the landmark native title decision that bears his
The voices of Cape York activist Noel Pearson
; and academics
and Mick Dodson
today loom large in national
debates. Others who initially became famous in other spheres - for
instance, poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal
- have used their celebrity to draw attention to Indigenous
Representative Sporting Teams
Aboriginal Cricket Team, MCG,
Aboriginal Australia has been represented in various sporting
teams. Notable teams include the Indigenous All-Stars
and Flying Boomerangs
football) and the Indigenous Dreamtime Team (Rugby League).
first organised trip of Australian cricketers
overseas comprised solely of Aboriginal members and embarked on a
tour of England in 1868.
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four or more standard drinks per day average for males, two or more
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Black Market Boom'", ABC Darwin 23 August 2007
Accessed 18 October 2007
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Government Health Department
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Communities Legislative Assembly of the Northern