Disadvantaged Groups in Australia

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3. Critically analyse the following quote from Sarah Wise (2011) “As Australians we promulgate the value of a fair go. Yet there are individuals and groups in our society that experience extreme and persistent disadvantage that sets them apart from the rest of our society”. (Reference: Wise, S. (2011) “Advance Australia Fairly” Sydney Morning Herald. January 14, 2011)

One of the most predominant values in Australian society is that of ‘mateship’ (Henslin, J., A. Possamai and A. Possamai-Inesedy 2010, pg 49). Such a value promotes equality of life amongst Australians, and eliminates discrimination. Whilst this is such an accentuated initiative, disadvantage and inequality still exists in the context of Indigenous Australians. To fully understand the issues that exist within Indigenous communities, it is necessary to apply a sociological imagination and expand analysis to the larger society they are part of (Henslin, J., A. Possamai and A. Possamai-Inesedy 2010, pg. 4, 5).The struggles of Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders such as employment, education, income and health are closely linked to their views and actions, and would not be as they are if it weren’t for non-Indigenous Australians and their society (Henslin, J., A. Possamai and A. Possamai-Inesedy 2010, pg. 4, 5). Therefore it is necessary to address the history of and relationship between Indigenous peoples’ and non-Indigenous people.

The indigenous community greatly disapproved of being governed by the Australian governments (Henslin, J., A. Possamai and A. Possamai-Inesedy 2010, pg. 290) and so established their own Aboriginal Provisional Government to form their own policies that correlate with their laws and values (Henslin, J., A. Possamai and A. Possamai-Inesedy 2010, pg. 290; Pratt 2004). The federal government responded to this in 1990 and set up the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission in order to give Indigenous peoples the chance to govern themselves and have an elective role in their management and authority. The issue with making exceptions like this for Aboriginals is that it breaches the principals of non-discrimination and equality. It is very hard to reshape the legal system for Aboriginals without violating the commonality of human rights. This is also an issue associated with acknowledging and recognising Aboriginal customary laws, which do not always adhere to mainstream Australian laws and human rights (International Law Association 2007, pg. 18 - 20). For this reason the government has stated that it is “unable to endorse the approach to customary law in the Council’s Declaration as the Government believes all Australians are equally subject to a common set of laws… Neither the government nor the general community… is prepared to support any action which would entrench additional, special or different rights for one part of the community.” (International Law Association 2007, pg 20).

Many Australians believe one of the government’s main roles is to close the socio-economic gap and to work towards equal income opportunities (Henslin, J., A. Possamai and A. Possamai-Inesedy 2010, pg. 50; Hughes, P et al 2003 pg. 25). The median weekly income for indigenous adults in 1991 was a mere 70% of the non-indigenous income. It has continued to drop, being only 65% in 1996 and as low as 59% in 2001 (Henslin, J., A. Possamai and A. Possamai-Inesedy 2010 pg. 288-289). These statistics demonstrates how greatly disadvantaged the indigenous Australian population is. Furthermore, the unemployment rate for indigenous Australians, 16.6% is more than three times the unemployment rate for non-indigenous Australians, 5.0% (Henslin, J., A. Possamai and A. Possamai-Inesedy 2010, pg. 289, ABS 2008). A low income and lack of employment can be detrimental to a community, as it limits their capacity to participate. The involvement of people in their community is critical if we look at the work of Emile Durkheim. He developed the idea that...
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