Thursday, 17 November 2016

The 7th Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report released today

Australian Government, Productivity Commission, 17 November 2016:

In April 2002, the Council of Australian Governments commissioned the Steering Committee to produce a regular report against key indicators of Indigenous disadvantage. The Steering Committee is advised by a working group made up of representatives from all Australian governments, the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report measures the wellbeing of Australia's Indigenous peoples. The report provides information about outcomes across a range of strategic areas such as early child development, education and training, healthy lives, economic participation, home environment, and safe and supportive communities. The report examines whether policies and programs are achieving positive outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

The most recent edition of the report is, Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2016, released on Thursday 17 November 2016.

ABC News, 17 November 2016:

The report points to a failure of policy and oversight, with the commission estimating only 34 of 1,000 Indigenous programs are been properly evaluated by authorities.

Productivity Commission deputy chair Karen Chester told the ABC's AM program the findings are a wake up call for all levels of government about the reality of Indigenous wellbeing and whether the $30 billion budget is being properly spent.

"You want to know that money is being spent not just in terms of bang for buck for taxpayers, but that we're not short-changing Indigenous Australians," Ms Chester said.

"Of over a thousand policies and programs, we could only identify 34 across the whole of Australia that have been robustly and transparently evaluated.

"At the end of the day, we can't feign surprise that we're not seeing improvement across all these wellbeing indicators if we're not lifting the bonnet and evaluating if the policies and programs are working or not."

The report is being billed by the commission as "compulsory reading" and the most comprehensive report on Indigenous wellbeing undertaken in Australia….

But Ms Chester says it was now up to state, territory and federal governments to take the report on board to determine what is working and what is failing.

"I think the clock has been ticking for a while already," Ms Chester said.

"We have the data, we have the analysis and we know what indicators are linked to the others."

While the report includes case studies of examples of "things that work", it says the small number available underscores the lack of Indigenous programs that are being rigorously evaluated for effectiveness.

Key points

 This report measures the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, and was produced in consultation with governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Around 3 per cent of the Australian population are estimated as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin (based on 2011 Census data).

 Outcomes have improved in a number of areas, including some COAG targets. For indicators with new data for this report:
– Mortality rates for children improved between 1998 and 2014, particularly for 0<1 year olds, whose mortality rates more than halved (from 14 to 6 deaths per 1000 live births).
– Education improvements included increases in the proportion of 20–24 year olds completing year 12 or above (from 2008 to 2014-15) and the proportion of 20–64 year olds with or working towards post-school qualifications (from 2002 to 2014-15).
– The proportion of adults whose main income was from employment increased from 32 per cent in 2002 to 43 per cent in 2014-15, with household income increasing over this period.
– The proportion of adults that recognised traditional lands increased from 70 per cent in 2002 to 74 per cent in 2014-15.

 However, there has been little or no change for some indicators.
– Rates of family and community violence were unchanged between 2002 and 2014-15 (around 22 per cent), and risky long-term alcohol use in 2014-15 was similar to 2002 (though lower than 2008).
– The proportions of people learning and speaking Indigenous languages remained unchanged from 2008 to 2014-15.

 Outcomes have worsened in some areas.
– The proportion of adults reporting high levels of psychological distress increased from 27 per cent in 2004-05 to 33 per cent in 2014-15, and hospitalisations for self-harm increased by 56 per cent over this period.
– The proportion of adults reporting substance misuse in the previous 12 months increased from 23 per cent in 2002 to 31 per cent in 2014-15.
– The adult imprisonment rate increased 77 per cent between 2000 and 2015, and whilst the juvenile detention rate has decreased it is still 24 times the rate for non-Indigenous youth.

 Change over time cannot be assessed for all the indicators — some indicators have no trend data; some indicators report on service use, and change over time might be due to changing access rather than changes in the underlying outcome; and some indicators have related measures that moved in different directions.

 Finally, data alone cannot tell the complete story about the wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, nor can it fully tell us why outcomes improve (or not) in different areas. To support the indicator reporting, case studies of 'things that work' are included in this report (a subset in this Overview). However, the relatively small number of case studies included reflects a lack of rigorously evaluated programs in the Indigenous policy area.

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