The relative economic status of Indigenous Australians within the jurisdiction of the Torres Strait Regional Authority, 1986-1991

Author/editor: Arthur, W
Year published: 1994
Issue no.: 71


On 1 July 1994 the Torres Strait Regional Authority (TSRA) replaced the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) Regional Council for Torres Strait. The TSRA's role includes formulating and monitoring policies and one of its primary aims is the creation of a sustainable economic base for the region. The TSRA is responsible for preparing a Torres Strait Regional Development Plan and has established a Development Plan Steering Committee to this end. In response to these functions and goals this paper represents an initial step in establishing a regional database which could inform the TSRA. Using data from the censuses and from relevant primary research, an analysis of Indigenous socioeconomic change in the TSRA area between 1986 and 1991, focusing on population, labour force status, education and training, and income is presented. The paper identifies change in several areas and draws out the policy implications. In particular, attention is given to high levels of population growth within the Outer Islands; and the continuing dependency of the TSRA area on government transfers and the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme. Apparent substantial improvements in aspects of Indigenous labour force status are qualified with respect to the expansion of the scheme between the censuses. In conclusion it is noted that further analysis of census data would be useful, but census-based analyses alone will not be sufficient to assist the TSRA to meet all of its development planning goals, and additional and alternative research is proposed.

This paper considers the determinants of employment income for Indigenous Australians compared with non-Indigenous Australians. Ordinary Least Square (OLS) regression techniques are applied to 1991 Census data to consider the question: does the lower income of these Indigenous people reflect differences in their factor endowments (like education) rewarded in the labour market, or are they rewarded differently for the same set of endowments than are non-Indigenous Australians. The results show that the main source of lower incomes for Indigenous Australians was their smaller endowment of human capital characteristics. The paper concludes with a discussion of the policy implications of these results.

ISBN: 0 7315 1745 8

ISSN:1036 1774

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