Asia Minute: Indigenous Australians Lagging in Health, Education

Feb 15, 2017

Cairns State High School in Cairns, Northern Queensland, Australia
Credit Paul Walter / Flickr

Every year for nearly a decade, the government of Australia has tracked the health and progress of its native people compared to the rest of its population. The latest version of its annual report called “Closing the Gap” is out this week, and the news is NOT encouraging. HPR’s Bill Dorman has details in today’s Asia Minute.


Indigenous Australians make up about three-percent of the country’s overall population.  The Australian Broadcasting Corporation says they make up a quarter of the country’s prison population.

They also trail their fellow citizens when it comes to measures from child mortality to life expectancy and education.

Australia’s government tracks progress in seven areas, and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this week said the country is failing in six of them.

Life expectancy is about ten years less than for the general population, child mortality rates: twice as high, and less than half are likely to hold jobs.

Education is another area where inequality persists.  Young students are less likely to attend school…literacy and numeracy rates are lower...participation in early education is lagging.

The one area where there is some progress is related to education—specifically, high school graduation rates.

Nine years ago, about 45-percent of young Indigenous Australians graduated from high school.  By 2015, that figure had risen to more than 61-percent—and it’s on track to increase further.

Once a student earns a university degree, there is no employment gap with the rest of the population—a development one writer calls “a little window of hope in an otherwise bleak picture for indigenous Australians.”