This seminar presents data from the 2006, 2011 and 2016 Censuses to analyse the distribution of income within the Indigenous population, and between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations. Particular attention is given to the geographic distribution of Indigenous incomes, poverty and inequality.
Indigenous incomes are characterised by a growing divergence between those in urban areas and remote areas. While Indigenous incomes are growing steadily in urban areas where median disposable equivalised household income rose by $57 per week between 2011 and 2016, median disposable equivalised household income in very remote areas fell by $12 per week over the same period. Alarmingly, Indigenous cash poverty rates in very remote areas rose from 46.9% in 2011 to 53.4% in 2016. During this period, poverty rates in urban areas continued to fall, reaching 24.4% in 2016. Finally, changes to the difference in the incomes of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians followed a similar pattern, with income gaps shrinking in urban areas while growing rapidly in very remote areas.
While the increased incomes in the urban and regional areas where the majority of the Indigenous population live should be welcomed, this paper highlights a great divergence in the material circumstances of the Indigenous population across Australia. Urgent policy action is required to ameliorate the growing prevalence of poverty among Indigenous people in very remote Australia.
Francis Markham is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research at The Australian National University. With a disciplinary background in economic geography, his research interests include Indigenous policy, the political economy of land in remote Australia and the applications of geographical information systems to social research.