Indigenous people receive a greater proportion of their income from government income support payments than non-Indigenous Australians. Among those on income support, Indigenous people are also more likely to receive working age payments than the non-Indigenous population. Many of the changes to income support policy since the 1990s are likely to have had a disproportionate impact on the Indigenous population. Those payments that have decreased in generosity (at least in relative terms) are those that Indigenous Australians have a greater exposure to. In addition, there has been an increased emphasis on mutual obligation and work incentives with a particular focus on working age payments.
This paper examines trends in income support receipt among Indigenous Australians using data from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social surveys for 1994, 2002, 2008 and 2014/15. We find that the proportion of Indigenous adults relying on government payments as their main source of income fell significantly over the period. These trends were evident in both remote and non-remote areas and for most demographic groups, with the exception of lone parents and the elderly. Among the population receiving income support payments, there has been a shift towards age pension and disability payments and away from payments for unemployment. Income support recipients increasingly have other sources of income, mainly from employment. Despite this, median income levels for income support recipients in remote areas have stagnated in real terms.
Danielle Venn is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) at the Australian National University (ANU) where her research focuses on the labour market situation of Indigenous Australians. She holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Melbourne and a Bachelor of Economics (Hons) from the University of New England. Prior to joining CAEPR, Danielle worked as a Research Fellow at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the ANU. From 2006 to 2012, she was a Labour Economist working on a range of employment and social policy issues for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and has previously worked in several Commonwealth Government departments.