Aboriginal child

Image: Rusty Stewart (Flickr)

How The Gap Widened

6th April 2018

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Professor Jon Altman has a disciplinary background in economics and anthropology. From 1983–90 he was a postdoctoral fellow, research fellow and senior research fellow in the Department of Political and Social Change in the HC Coombs Building.

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Poverty and the quality of life has worsened in many Aboriginal communities, particularly those in remote Australia.

Ten years after adopting Closing the Gap and spending billions of dollars, poverty and the quality of life has worsened in many Aboriginal communities, particularly those in remote Australia, according to Jon Altman, emeritus professor at ANU School of Regulation and Global Governance.

The goals of the initiative were to halve the gap between Indigenous Australians and the general population in child mortality, reading and maths, and employment outcomes by 2018, and Year 12 attainment by 2020. Yet, of these modest goals, only closing the Year 12 attainment gap might be met, Altman wrote in a recent op-ed in NewMatilda.com.

Research shows that more than half the Indigenous population in very remote Australia experiences income poverty and poverty rates stand above 65 per cent in regions like Nhulunbuy and Jabiru. Indigenous employment in remote Australia has fallen to a level where only three in 10 adults are in paid work.

“A prerequisite for refreshing the policy thinking must be an acknowledgement of the crushing failure of the last decade and the deepened impoverishment in remote Indigenous Australia,” wrote Altman, who has been visiting Aboriginal communities for more than four decades.

While the Turnbull government has announced plans to refresh the Closing the Gap initiative, Altman argues that a wider range of alternatives need to be considered, including: increased local control; support for cross-cultural forms of hybrid governance arrangements; new or enhanced exiting institutions for empowerment; and stronger engagement with global-development thinking, especially in countries that have managed decolonisation and governance for sustainable development far better that Australia.

Altman co-edited a new book, The Quest for the Good Life in Precarious Times, with Chris Gregory, an adjunct fellow of anthropology at ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences, that was released in March. The book features academics from several disciplines who address the question of how relatively poor people throughout the Australia–Pacific region survive at a time of global economic realignments.

Read the full article in NewMatilda.com

More information on The Quest for the Good Life in Precarious Times

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