The Age this week had a really good article that really puts into perspective the problems surrounding Australia’s aboriginal population:
From infancy to adulthood, indigenous Australians die at twice the rate of other Australians. As children, they are seven times more likely to be under protective orders, and three or four times more likely to be failing to make the grade at school.
And as adults, they are 17.5 times more likely to be in jail than other Australians. In Western Australia alone, Aborigines make up 2.7% of the adult population, but almost half the state’s prisoners.
The figures, compiled in more detail than ever before, illustrate the breakdown of Aboriginal communities in remote areas, particularly in the Northern Territory, which prompted the Howard government’s controversial intervention.
While the data show improvements in some areas — declining rates of infant mortality and rising rates of school retention — the gaps in health and education levels between blacks and whites remain massive, and in some areas they are worsening.
On most indicators, those most outside the mainstream are Aborigines in the Northern Territory. Most of them fail all but one of the school benchmark tests conducted in years 3, 5 and 7 to test reading, writing and numeracy.
In year 5, for example, only 4.6% of Victorian students failed the numeracy test, including just 10.5% of the state’s indigenous students. In the NT, by contrast, 65% of Aboriginal students failed the numeracy test, 64% failed the writing test and 59% failed in reading. Those who leave school without basic skills, white or black, are more likely to end up in jail. The report found that at any time, more than one in 50 indigenous adults are in jail, rising to more than one in 30 in WA. The vast majority are male. [The Age]
Often Australians have asked me if the United States has similar problems with the Native American population as they have with their aboriginal population. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on Australia’s aboriginal issues, but I can tell you what I have seen first hand. Judging by my first hand experience the quality of life for the Native American population in the US is far superior to the Aborigines. Most Native American tribes do very well for themselves including some that are down right wealthy from their casinos. There are definitely some extremely poor Native American tribes as well that I have seen for example in eastern Montana, but the poorest Native Americans I have it much better than what I have seen of Australia’s aboriginal population.
If you go to the Northern Territory you cannot help, but notice how the Aborigines have not integrated into Australian society. Often you can see Aborigines sitting around everywhere doing nothing. While driving back from Ayers Rock my wife and I saw a body lying along the side of the road just outside of Alice Springs. We stopped and found it was just a aborigine woman sleeping along the side of the road. If you go to the river bed of the Todd River in Alice Springs you can see the Aborigines sitting around drinking beer and getting drunk.
Also I’m not saying this to be mean, but it is true, many of the Aborigines stink and I mean stink bad. In Darwin there is a beautiful park along the water front that my wife and I had to leave because the smell from the Aborigines there was so bad. Katherine was probably the worst place we saw. About half the town’s population is aboriginal and while walking through town my wife and I saw two fights break out between aborigines to include one where an aboriginal male was slapping around his wife.
I’m not saying all aborigines are like this because there were some extremely exceptional aboriginals we met who worked at Ayers Rock and Kakadu National Park. They were excellent guides and were extremely fascinating to listen to and a tribute to their culture, however I think it would be a mistake to say there aren’t some significant issues within the aboriginal population which the statistics support.
I don’t know what the answer to the problem is, but a solution I often hear from Australians is that the welfare payments to the aboriginals need to end so they would all have to get jobs and earn a living instead of drinking grog all day. To me that seems like a good idea if these people are trained to work a job and there a jobs available for them to work. One thing is clear that no solution to this problem will be easy and the longer it takes to find one the further behind the aboriginal population will fall.