Current strategy to end poverty in Australia

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Introduction

Looking at the global per capita index, Australia is ranked one of the richest nations of the world. Besides, Australia is among the countries whose governments have initiated foreign aid programs that target poverty eradication in the Least Developed Countries such as Philippines (Rodgers, 2010). Being the most dominant nation in the Indo-Pacific region, Australia has taken it upon itself to ensure that the region is politically and economically stable. Consequently, these efforts have enabled Australia to become the leading destination of foreign direct investment that has boosted its economy. Despite this, poverty still remains a challenge in Australia.

However, there is a current strategy that is being implemented to tackle the problem of poverty among the Indigenous Australian population. This paper attains its course from the strategy, which was developed by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission to address poverty. This strategy is a redevelopment of the modernization paradigm, which was initially proposed during the early stages of the last half of the 20th century.

In undertaking this course, the paper dissects the policies developed to target poverty eradication, and the relevance each draws with the target Indigenous populations. The discussion will include additional aspects such as the funding of the strategy, professional obligations required for the implementation of the strategy and the strengths of the strategy in attaining its objective. This discussion will prove the validity of the statement by Horn (2014), who concluded that the process of poverty eradication requires input from diverse stakeholders, with the key determinants of the success of a poverty eradication strategy being the targeted community.

Prevalence of poverty among the Indigenous Australian populations

Poverty is the general term used to describe the people who cannot afford certain commodities and services that are readily available for others within their societies. Judging from this definition, Horn (2014) explained that the perceptions of poverty range depending on the economic environment. Therefore, poverty has transformed from the traditional financial perspective from which it was viewed to include a number of different factors, such as access to healthcare, education, proper diets and standard shelter.

In Australia, many people live above the global poverty line, as indicated in the report by Altman and May (2011). In as much as majority of the poor populations in Australia live better lives than those in less developed countries, the deplorable statuses of their living subjects them to difficult choices, such as having to cope with the high cost of goods and services. Therefore, in developing an understanding of the poverty cycles in Australia, it is important to note that the people living in poverty are not only characterized by their low income levels, but also by the lack of opportunities and resources to lead a life that is comparable to that of the larger Australian society.

In Australia, the majority of people living below the poverty lines are jobless (Saunders, 2016). There are several factors that are considered in determining the poverty levels that characterize a specific community. In Australia, poverty is determined by the life expectancy, the income levels, percentage of educated population and the median income.  Besides, reports indicate that the indigenous Australians constitute the largest percentage of the unemployed populations in Australia. These statistics further confirm the speculations by Gracey (2014), who stated that the indigenous Australians are particularly vulnerable to poverty. In many domestic and international reports, the indigenous Australians particularly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have recorded dismal scores in the social and economic indicators that determine poverty. This is in sharp contrast to the non-indigenous Australians.

As Saunders, Watanabe and Wong (2015) further observe, the standard mark of poverty, which is living on less than $1 a day does not describe the extent to which the indigenous Australians experience poverty. Many reports go ahead to liken the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ health and living standards to those of the deplorable least developed countries. Even so, the lack of education, low income and family violence that define the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders today are reflective of the history of cultural discrimination, minimal recognition, erased generations and redundant language loss in the wake of losing their country to foreigners (Taylor, 2011). These are among the main factors that led to the establishment of the “Closing the Gap” initiative, a strategy aimed at abolishing the long-standing poverty that has crippled the Indigenous Australian communities.

“Closing the Gap” Initiative

The abolition of the elected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission in 2004 was perhaps the beginning of the current policy discourse to end poverty among the Indigenous Australian communities (Australian Indigenous Health Info-Net, 2016). Consequently, this marked the beginning of a policy draft that could oversee an improvement in the social and economic indicators of poverty among the Indigenous Australians.

A year later in 2005, the Social Justice Report was released by the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. This report, which is termed the most significant report that exposes the disparities in social equality, laid bare a passionate appeal for the Australian government to direct efforts towards attaining equality for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

The report, furthermore, included several comparisons that depicted the social and economic inequality subjected to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In the first indicator, the life expectancy was found to be wider for either gender between the indigenous and non-indigenous populations in Australia (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commission, 2006). On average, the gaps in life expectancy were 14 years and 12 years for the males and females respectively. Besides, the average median income of the indigenous households was 65% lower than the average of the indigenous households. Moreover, the report indicated that the unemployment rates of the indigenous populations ranged between 16% and 20%, which was in sharp contrast to the 5% unemployment rates of the non-indigenous population.

How the strategy draws on international and national conventions and frameworks

Upon its inception, the strategy began as a social justice campaign that targeted health equality for the indigenous Australian communities (Vemuri & Gorman, 2013). In this paper, “Closing the Gap” strategy is referred to as current owing to the 2030 timeline upon which its components should be attained. The strategy, furthermore, draws on several national and international conventional frameworks aimed at poverty eradication.

This strategy is aligned to the “Make Poverty History” Campaign, which is an international campaign driven by most developed countries. The campaign attains its link with the “Closing the Gap” strategy through developing awareness for the significance of increasing aid to the populations that are most vulnerable to poverty. The indigenous Australian populations have particularly been targeted by the joint efforts of the “Closing the Gap” initiative and “Make Poverty History” campaign through social mobilization.

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Besides, this strategy draws on different national poverty eradication frameworks and conventions. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) is by far the most critical developer of the poverty eradication policies in the country. The strategy, through the COAG, attains its theme of not tolerating the poverty endured by the indigenous populations in Australia. This strategy uses the frameworks in the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to reflect on the need to provide equal opportunities for the indigenous communities as well as create wealth that could facilitate the growth of the indigenous children beyond the suppressed life expectancy.

“Closing the Gap” capacity to involve and include affected people

This initiative is a strategy that targets the indigenous Australian populations, particularly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Australians Together, 2017). During its initial stages, the strategy was coined as the National Indigenous Health Equality Campaign, which targeted the indigenous Australian communities. Therefore, it was only after refinements that the “Closing the Gap” strategy was introduced.

Each facet of this strategy targets the indigenous communities. The “gap” included in the strategy refers to the vast social and economic equalities that have traditionally defined the indigenous communities of Australia, and closing it with comparison to the non-indigenous Australians. There are several roadmaps that this strategy adopts towards addressing these inequalities, which are anchored on indicators such as shorter life expectancy, poor health, low income, high infant mortality rates, poor education and high unemployment. In eradicating extreme poverty, this strategy begins by addressing the wide gaps in the access to healthcare that characterizes the indigenous communities in Australia.

The steering committee of the “Closing the Gap” Initiative is largely comprised of people from the indigenous communities. The inclusion of the representatives from the indigenous communities has been one of the factors that have contributed to the implementation successes that the strategy has mastered over the years.

Looking at the structure of the strategic implementation, it would be important to note that many of the organizations tasked with eradicating poverty are drawn from more than 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous organizations (Australian Indigenous Health Info-Net, 2016). The sense of identity that is attached to these organizations is significant in providing relevance to the strategy in its bid to eradicate poverty among the target communities.

Funding sources and sources of legitimacy

“Closing the Gap” initiative is funded by a blend of domestic and international bodies. However, the federal government of Australia is the most dominant financier of the strategy. Internationally, the Australian Council for International Development oversees the coordination of the strategy to the “Make Poverty History” campaign, thus providing funds that facilitate the implementation of the strategy. In addition, under the “Make Poverty History” campaign, the “Closing the Gap” initiative receives funding from over 60 Non-Governmental Aid organizations such as Oxfam and World Vision.

On the other hand, the Australian Aid is the main domestic fund for “Closing the Gap” strategy. Under the Australian Aid, the “Closing the Gap” initiative acquires funding drawn from the Council of Australian Governments, which includes the federal and state governments (Alford, 2015). Besides, other organizations such as the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission provide funds that are directed to ensuring that the indigenous organizations are adequately funded to facilitate the strategy.

Kinds of practices it requires of professionals involved

“Closing the Gap” strategy has listed a raft of practices that are required for its professionals. The professionals are required to establish influential and meaningful relationships with the indigenous communities. In healthcare delivery, (McFarlane, Devine, Judd, Nichols and Watt (2017) explained that the process of providing healthcare to socially and economically challenged communities begins with building relationships with the people within these communities.

In addition, professionals are required to mobilize and work with the leaders of the indigenous communities, and the influential personalities of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This is significant in the establishment of partnerships with the communities. In executing community actions, professionals are expected to demonstrate their spirit of volunteering.

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Limitations and strengths in achieving its objectives

“Closing the Gap” strategy is one that targets the indigenous populations in Australia. The population of indigenous people is relatively small compared to that of the non-indigenous people. This has limited the implementation of the strategy, as it has failed to gather political and public support. Besides, there is limited awareness about the strategy in public domain, a factor that has contributed to low public understanding of the need to support the initiative.

On the other hand, the inclusion of the indigenous organizations and people in the strategy has facilitated its implementation. The strategy draws relevance across a larger section of the indigenous Australian communities, based on the report by Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (2017). Besides, the strategy has acquired adequate international and domestic financial support, which has enabled it to incorporate diverse indigenous organizations in its implementation process.

Conclusion

The quest for equality is one of the main themes that continue to define the efforts directed at eradicating poverty, as Walter (2016) writes. In as much as progress has been made over the last 10 years since the inception of the “Closing the Gap” strategy to end poverty among the indigenous Australian communities, glaring gaps exist in the professional imbalance experienced along the process of providing services to the target communities.

Despite this, Fuller, Caldicott, Cairncross and Wilde (2007) noted that majority of the indigenous Australian populations live in abject poverty, a factor that has since brought forth discussions surrounding the need for developing strategies that could oversee a reduction in the poverty experienced by these populations.  In conclusion, this essay indicates that many of the remote indigenous Australians have been subject to unequal economic growth, which culminates from the unfair distribution of wealth and resources.

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