This paper examines the contribution of Ronald Henderson to empirical and policy research into Indigenous poverty. The Poverty Inquiry (also known as the Henderson Report) drew attention to the particular situation of the Indigenous poor and generated awareness that the solutions to Indigenous and non-Indigenous poverty are not necessarily identical. Despite the difficulty in ensuring the comparability of the measures of Indigenous poverty, the overall conclusion of the analysis is that Indigenous poverty, as measured by income, has improved marginally relative to the rest of the population since the mid-1970s. However, these improvements are more likely to be the result of increases in the proportion of low-income non-Indigenous households than due to reductions in the proportion of low-income Indigenous households.
The conceptual problems of using income-based measures for Indigenous Australians are somewhat intractable in view of the limitations of current data sources. For example, the existing measures of poverty may fail to capture: important non-income sources of welfare such as hunting and gathering; differences in the income-sharing arrangements and household/ family size among Indigenous and non-Indigenous households; variations in the cost of living between remote and urban Australia; and the depth of Indigenous poverty. Improved data quality on the monetary and non-monetary aspects of Indigenous welfare are required to progress our understanding of the nature and extent of Indigenous poverty and to inform possible policy prescriptions to address this ongoing and seemingly entrenched problem.
ISBN: 0 7315 2562 0