This paper addresses the policy question of how to achieve equity and social justice for Aboriginal families through social policy in the 1990s. This would appear to be simply a matter of finding the 'right' policy formula since policy makers are well informed of the extent of continuing, socioeconomic deprivation of Indigenous Australian families relative to other Australian families. A comprehensive literature outlining the nature of the relative disadvantage is available based on analyses of Australian Bureau of Statistics census data for 1986-91 together with findings from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey (ABS 1994). Both sources indicate the poor prognosis for closing the equity gap as standards in educational attainment, employment, income, health and housing to remain below the national average for Indigenous families. In general, Indigenous Australians' dependency on welfare has not declined since 1986. In the 1990s, the challenges for appropriate social policy must pose questions about how to deliver the types of policy which moves away from the confines of economic descriptions of social deprivation. Three themes are explored in this paper as the broad contexts for effective policy realism: the historical legacy of welfare paternalism; the policy transition from welfare to social justice; and the incorporation of Aboriginality in the modern nation-state. The paper concludes with brief remarks about the importance of culture.
ISBN: 0 7315 1768 7