A new report from the Productivity Commission reveals “Indigenous Australians are particularly likely to experience income poverty, deprivation and social exclusion.”
The report, Rising inequality?: A stocktake of the evidence, finds that the number of Australians living below the poverty line has not decreased in recent years, despite 27 years of uninterrupted economic growth.
The report specifically acknowledges the importance of government transfers and support mechanisms, including childcare subsidies, for reducing inequality now and in the future by “opening doors to greater opportunities and lifting incomes later on.”
Recent changes to early childcare policy by the Federal Government mean that many low-income families have had their access to subsidised childcare reduced from 24 to 12 hours per week. There is clear evidence that quality early childhood education facilitates equality of opportunity amongst children through offering early intervention that improves the life chances of children experiencing disadvantage.
Given that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are twice as likely to be developmentally vulnerable and only half as likely to access early education as non-Indigenous children, these changes have a significant detrimental impact.
Given that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 10 times more likely to be in out-of-home care than their non-Indigenous peers, factors that lead to these outcomes – including poverty, deprivation and social exclusion – must be addressed.
It is clear that preventative services must be adequately funded and inequality addressed so that families experiencing hardship are supported and children can remain with their families, connected to culture and community.
Governments must work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations to turn the tide.
Given the minimal change over the last three decades, sustained efforts must be taken so that our children can thrive and benefit from greater opportunities than their parents.