Key research areas

The Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) Research Plan 2012-2014 is organised around four themes:

  • Economic, cultural and social circumstances
  • Economic development aspirations and alternate futures 
  • Governance, policy and the state
  • Education, lifespan learning and youth

Theme 1. Economic, Cultural and Social Circumstances

Theme leaders: Professor John Taylor and Dr Boyd Hunter

This research theme contributes directly to the policy discourse on ‘closing the gaps' between Indigenous and other Australians across a range of social indicators. Since its inception in 1990, a core focus of CAEPR research has been the tracking of change in Indigenous social and economic circumstances at national, regional and local levels. Initially, much of this work was census based and concerned with demography and economic status but this has gradually broadened to include the analysis of survey and administrative data as well as measurement around specific social issues such as alcohol, criminal justice, poverty, community development and longitudinal pathways for children and families. The current research plan reflects this expansion as well as a growing list of social science research collaborators and sponsors including Commonwealth and State governments, the private sector, Indigenous organisations and the Australia Research Council (ARC). Notable in the current plan is a major population project sponsored by the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA) and each State and Territory.

Current CAEPR projects in this area include:

  • Urban/remote 2011 Census analysis
  • Education and socioeconomic inequality in Australia: A behavioural economic approach
  • A regional and cohort analysis of the 2001, 2006 and 2011 Censuses Indigenous development indices
  • Identifying service populations
  • Regional population profiling
  • Indigenous Australians and alcohol control
  • Indigenous urban professionalisation: An Australian Indigenous middle class
  • Analysis of the dynamics of Aboriginal interactions with the criminal justice system
  • Indigenous entrepreneurs, financial literacy and financial stress
  • Indigenous self-employed and discrimination
  • Audit studies on discrimination
  • Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children 
  • Assessing development: Designing better indices of poverty and gender equity 
  • Gender aspects of development
  • The economics and demography of American Indians and Alaska Natives in urban areas
  • Evaluation of income management in the Northern Territory
  • Income Management Evaluations outside Northern Territory


Theme 2. Economic Development Aspirations and Alternate Futures

Theme leader: Professor Jon Altman

This theme explores innovative ways to improve livelihood opportunities for Indigenous people through economic engagement with the market and the customary sectors appropriately enabled by the state. Much of the focus is on regional and remote Australia and on Indigenous communities located on the significant Indigenous estate. It also explores the relevance of mainstream policies and programs for Indigenous Australians whether in remote or non-remote settings. The theme addresses two crucial issues that have emerged in policy debates in the past decade. The first is the provision of economic development opportunity for Indigenous people in geographically remote contexts, recognising the demographic reality that this population is growing and is relatively immobile in terms of labour migration. The second is the provision of economic development opportunity that acknowledges the diversity of Indigenous aspirations and their fundamental difference from those of mainstream Australians in many situations. Much of the research in this theme will focus on opportunities in new and emerging sectors, like the provision of environmental services, as well as recognising established competitive advantage in sectors such as the visual arts and cultural tourism. The theme will analyse institutional barriers to development and will provide an evidence base and cogent argument for new policies to effectively facilitate regional and community economic development for Indigenous well-being and for national benefit.

Current CAEPR projects in this area include:

  • People on Country, healthy landscapes and Indigenous economic futures 
  • The socioeconomic benefits of working on country for Aboriginal people in New South Wales
  • Hybrid economic futures for remote Indigenous Australia
  • The domestic moral economy in the Asia and Pacific region
  • Welfare to work or work to welfare? Will reform of the Community Development Employment Program help close the employment gap?
  • After the National Emergency
  • Indigenous rights, resources and industries
  • Indigenous livelihoods

Theme 3. Governance, Policy and the State

Theme leaders: Dr Will Sanders and Dr Janet Hunt

Public policy towards Indigenous Australians is characterised by a vast array of activity at all three levels of government, plus the activities of Indigenous organisations and other NGOs (non-government organisations) which are state-authorised or funded. This research theme aims to discern patterns within this vast array of activity, such as principles which compete in guiding policy or patterns of intergovernmental conflict and cooperation. A significant portion of the work examines public policy from the local level, through working either with local governments or with Indigenous organisations and other NGOs involved in community development as well as service delivery. Relations between this local level of state-authorised activity and super-ordinate levels of government, such as accountability and responsiveness to emergent practice, are another important focus.

  • Agenda change in Indigenous affairs
  • Competing principles and the dynamics of Indigenous affairs 
  • Collaborative Federalism and Policy Change in Indigenous Housing
  • Australian public policy and the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara lands: Changes to the APY Land Rights Act 1981-2006
  • Indigenous interests and local government in the Northern Territory
  • Community development with Indigenous people and organisations: The involvement of international NGOs
  • Pacific practice and its application among Indigenous Australians: Implementing a psycho-social, basic human need approach to community development
  • The practice of accountability in Indigenous organisations
  • Umpiyara Kanyini Tjungu (‘We Care Together') The Road to Eldership-Following the Tjurkurpa Way


Theme 4. Education, Lifespan Learning and Youth

Theme leaders: Dr Jerry Schwab and Dr Inge Kral

This research theme focuses on the effective delivery of education, the development of evidence-based education policy and the social context of literacy and life-long learning among Indigenous Australians. It includes research on all levels and sectors of formal education and training, but also extends to consideration of non-formal contexts and learning across the lifespan. Research under this theme involves both qualitative and quantitative methodologies and is anchored by an understanding that learning is fundamentally social and situated and can be found and enhanced both inside and outside the classroom. In addition, CAEPR research in this area is framed by an awareness that education and training are most effective when linked to the local social, cultural and economic contexts of everyday life. Several of the current projects in this theme involve collaborations: with Indigenous organisations and communities, government departments, philanthropic bodies and NGOs. Key research projects focus on Indigenous education policy formation, youth, building effective partnerships between philanthropic and indigenous groups, post-school skills acquisition and youth pathways to employment through land management, media and other community-based arenas of learning.

  • Philanthropy and Indigenous people: Enhancing Indigenous education outcomes 
  • Coming of Age: Youth, citizenship and the internet
  • Directions in Indigenous education policy
  • Indigenous people, high-stakes testing and school reform
  • Youth engagement in natural resource management
  • Land as ‘third space': Towards and educational and social re-engagement of Indigenous youth in remote Australia
  • Learning spaces: Youth, literacy and new media in remote Indigenous Australia
  • Talk, text and technology: Changing social practice in remote Indigenous Australia
  • New media and informal learning
  • Comparative study of minority Indigenous education, language and literacy issues in Australia, Malaysia and Vietnam
  • Community-based educational partnership for Orang Asli children
  • An evaluation of a national youth aspirations program's effectiveness in supporting Aboriginal program participant's individual aspirations

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Updated:  7 December 2017/Responsible Officer:  Centre Director/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications