An issue frequently raised in the literature on the economic status of Aboriginal people is the importance of welfare transfers as a source of income, yet there is very little aggregate information documenting this. The purpose of this paper is to present the available evidence from the Population Census and administrative data sources. One estimate is based on the share of total individual income coming from those in employment. Results from 1976 and 1991 show that for Aboriginal people, a smaller share of total individual income came from this source than was the case for other Australians. The last time a question on sources of income was included in a census was in 1976, and the comparison of the numbers receiving a government pension or benefit presented here shows that a larger proportion of Aboriginal people were in receipt of these payments than other Australians. The conclusions based on more recent administrative data are less clear because of the difficulties faced in identifying Aboriginal people and in combining figures from different sources.
Nevertheless, the figures are consistent with a broad conclusion of higher levels of welfare receipt among Aboriginal people. The relatively high levels of welfare receipt reflect important underlying problems facing Aboriginal people; high levels of unemployment, poor health and the high incidence of sole parenthood. The paper concludes by stressing the importance of addressing these issues directly.
ISBN: 0 7315 1722