Fewer Than 33% of Indigenous Youth in Remotest Communities Have a Job or Study

The proportion of Indigenous youth in Australia’s very remote communities who have a job, a traineeship or study has fallen below a third, according to new data compiled under the redesigned national agreement on Closing the Gap. A partial update published shows a jump in the rate at which Indigenous juveniles are jailed. It also shows that intentional self-harm remains the leading cause of death among Indigenous youths aged 15 to 19 and is rising. Between 2014 and 2018, intentional self-harm was the cause in 33 out of every 100,000 deaths of Indigenous youths in that age bracket. Between 2017 and 2021, the rate increased to 35.7 per 100,000. The update builds on the most detailed data ever published as part of the Closing the Gap initiative, established in 2008 and redesigned in 2020. The new deal is underpinned by a commitment to quantify progress and setbacks in communities deemed remote and very remote, as well as in regional areas and cities.

Collating the data has been time-consuming and the job is incomplete. However, the update published provides the clearest picture yet of the geography of disadvantage in Indigenous Australia. Nationally, 58% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 to 24 were “fully engaged in education, employment or training” in 2021. This is an ­increase from 57.2 per cent in 2016.  However, the numbers are only improving in regional towns and cities. The trend is downwards in Australia’s major cities, remote and very remote areas. It is worst in very remote areas, where just 30.2% of Indigenous youths were fully engaged in work or study in 2021. This is a fall from 33.5% in 2016. It has been known for months that the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians aged 25 to 64 who have a job is on the rise. Australia is on track to meet the target that by 2031, 62% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 25 to 64 will be employed.

However, the update shows Indigenous employment is increasing in every part of Australia except very remote communities. The new data shows the employment rate among Indigenous people aged 25 to 64 in such places is 35%, a reduction from 35.6% in 2016. The imprisonment rate of Indigenous adults fell slightly in 2022 but is still higher than in 2019. The percentage of Indigenous children in out-of-home care also fell in 2022. However, it is higher than in 2019. Australia is not on track to reduce the rate of Indigenous children in out-of-home care by 45% by 2031, which is one of the targets in the decade-long Closing the Gap agreement signed in 2020. Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney was encouraged that the data showed more First Nations children than ever were enrolled in preschool and that there were fewer First Nations youth in detention. “However, overall, it remains that just four of the 19 Closing the Gap targets are on track,” she said.

Source: Compiled by APN from media reports

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