This paper uses census data and Department of Social Security (DSS) administrative records to examine the role of social security income in explaining the growth and relative improvement in the income status of Indigenous Australian women. The real median income of Indigenous women was 81 per cent of that of non-Indigenous women in 1991 compared with 74 per cent in 1976. Much of the change has come from an improvement in the position of Indigenous women who were not in employment. The paper argues that much of this improvement can be attributed to increased access to social security benefits for Indigenous women and therefore needs to be qualified by the circumstances in which Indigenous women live. A mid-term review of the Aboriginal Employment Development Policy (AEDP) has recently been completed. While much of the associated policy rhetoric and assessment of policy outcomes has been aimed at the national level, the fiscal environment in which AEDP goals are to be achieved is invariably one of regional labour markets and administrative systems operating in the economic context of States and Territories. In view of this reality, this paper responds to a need for regional-level analyses of change in the economic status of Indigenous people compared to that of non-Indigenous people in each State and Territory. Using 1986 and 1991 Census-based social indicators for the Northern Territory, attention is focused on relative shifts in population growth and intra-State distribution, labour force and income status, and levels of welfare dependency (measured as non-employment income). A major finding is that while the gap in labour force status between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people has narrowed, the relative income status and level of welfare dependency of Indigenous people has worsened. This suggests that increased emphasis on the quality of AEDP outcomes, and not just quantity, will be necessary if the overall aims of the AEDP are to be accomplished.
ISBN: 0 7315 1739 3