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Challenges facing the Indigenous community today

The Indigenous society in Australia has suffered greatly in the past. Many Indigenous people have overcome great hurdles to achieve great things for their communities and for Australia as a whole.

However, there are still many Indigenous people who are disadvantaged in our country. Statistically, Indigenous people have poorer health, educational opportunities, life expectancy, employment options and many live in very remote areas. Along with these issues, many still have to deal with negative social attitudes.

There are many things being done to help Indigenous peoples but there is still a lot more that could be done.

Proving land ownership

Today, the issue of land ownership is still an important one. Ancestral land is a vital element in maintaining Indigenous culture. It is also used by Indigenous people to determine their economic worth in their community.

Since the Mabo case (refer to Topic 3, Chapter 2) the issue of land rights has been significant to Indigenous people as it meant they finally had a chance to reclaim their ancestral land and re-establish their culture.

Indigenous groups that want to make a land claim face great challenges. Not only are the court cases expensive and require a lot of time, but they also require a great deal of proof and information which is difficult to obtain.

Land right laws differ in every state, but in each land ownership case the Indigenous people must prove many things. They must be able to prove that ancestral customs and traditions are still being maintained, that a link to the land has been retained over the years and that the land has cultural significance to the Indigenous group making the claim. These are very difficult things to prove because Indigenous people do not have written records.

A land claim by the Yanyuwa people has demonstrated how difficult it can be to prove links to the land. Their court case lasted for 30 years (1977-2006) because at first there was not enough evidence found to show the people's link to the land. Although the Yanyuwa people had lived in the area (islands near Borroloola in the Gulf of Carpentaria) for thousands of years, they had to fight very hard to show the country was theirs. Luckily their fight paid off and they won their native title claim.

These struggles potentially face every Indigenous group that wish to make a land claim.


Although most Indigenous people live in country towns and cities there is still a percentage that live in very remote areas of Australia. This remoteness creates many challenges for them as it limits access to necessary services, like health services and educational institutions. It also reduces employment opportunities, which results in high unemployment.


Research on the health of the Australian population always concludes that Indigenous people have the worst health status and highest mortality (death) rates. Since 1788, and the European introduction of disease to Australia, the Indigenous population has suffered greatly in terms of health.

Today, most Indigenous people have the same access to health care as the rest of the population. Yet, they still have the highest rates of poor health. Remoteness, lack of trust towards the medical industry and negative social attitudes are some of the reasons identified for this poor health.

Some action has been taken and community-controlled health services are now supplied. These are services specifically for Indigenous people, run by Indigenous people.

A lot still needs to be done. The government needs to identify the problems and try and help Indigenous people to achieve better health.

Education and employment

Since the 1967 referendum and the highlighting of issues relating to Australia's Indigenous people, education has been targeted as a major concern that needs to be addressed. Although statistically there have been improvements to Indigenous education, Indigenous people still have the lowest statistics (attendance, retention, continuing their education) when compared to other groups in Australia. Today the major concerns in regards to Indigenous students are low retention rates and high rates of absences. There are also negative views from older Indigenous people who are wary of European education, due to their own past experiences.

Although initiatives (financial assistance) have been implemented, there is still a great deal that can be done to increase the importance of education amongst the Indigenous community.

Unfortunately, negative views towards the current system of education have led to high unemployment amongst the Indigenous population. Although many Indigenous people have moved to towns and cities in search of work there are many who are still living in remote areas, where there are few positions vacant. Although the government has funded Indigenous employment programs there is still more to achieve. Skills need to be taught, social attitudes need to be altered and more community effort needs to be made so that unemployment does not become a condition that is continually passed through the generations.

Social attitudes

One of the major challenges that unfortunately still faces the Indigenous community today are the negative social attitudes that are still common. Much has been done recently to create an understanding amongst non-Indigenous people about their past and how it still affects them today. Reconciliation has become important in creating better understanding of Indigenous culture and building stronger relationships within the whole community.


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