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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2004  
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Incomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

This article presents information on the incomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is based on the gross (before tax) income of persons aged 15 years and over, as reported in the 1996 and 2001 Censuses of Population and Housing.

Income is reported in 'income ranges' in the census. To create household income estimates, an income value was estimated for each person by assigning them the median value for the reported range, as derived from the 1999-2000 Survey of Income and Housing Costs (SIHC). The estimated values for each person were then aggregated to create household income.

Household income is used to indicate the economic resources available to the members of the household. However, larger households normally require a greater level of income to maintain the same material standard of living as smaller households, and the needs of adults are normally greater than the needs of children. The income estimates are therefore adjusted by an equivalence scale to standardise the income estimates with respect to household size and composition while taking into account the economies of scale that arise from the sharing of dwellings. The equivalised income estimate for any household is expressed as the amount of cash income that a single person household would require to maintain the same standard of living as the household in question, regardless of the size or composition of the latter.

In 2001, the mean equivalised gross household income of Indigenous persons was $364 per week compared to $585 per week for non-Indigenous persons (table 7.9). The income of Indigenous persons living in major cities was $435 per week, 20% higher than the mean income for all Indigenous persons. Indigenous incomes in areas designated as 'very remote' average $267 per week, 27% below the mean income for all Indigenous persons. For non-Indigenous persons, mean equivalised household incomes in the major cities were also higher than the average for non-Indigenous ($622 per week compared to $585 per week). However, for non-Indigenous persons, average incomes were as high in the very remote areas as in the major cities.

An analysis of Indigenous persons in 2001, by income quintiles (table 7.9), shows that 72% of Indigenous persons are within the bottom two income quintiles. Indigenous persons in major cities are more evenly distributed through the income quintiles, although only 9% of Indigenous persons living in major cities have incomes in the highest quintile. In very remote areas, 91% of Indigenous persons are in the bottom two income quintiles.

7.9 GROSS HOUSEHOLD WEEKLY INCOME DISTRIBUTION, By Remoteness Areas(a)

1996
2001

Units
Total(b)
Major
Cities
Inner Regional
Outer Regional

Remote
Very Remote
Total

Mean equivalised gross household weekly income
Indigenous
$
329
435
360
352
356
267
364
Non-Indigenous
$
517
622
506
502
579
622
585
All persons
$
513
618
501
494
554
453
579
Income quintiles(c)
Indigenous
Lowest quintile
%
42.1
35.2
43.5
44.9
46.1
63.2
45.0
Second quintile
%
27.5
24.9
28.8
28.4
27.3
28.0
27.2
Third quintile
%
15.7
17.0
14.5
14.6
12.9
5.4
13.5
Fourth quintile
%
9.1
13.5
8.7
8.3
8.5
2.3
8.9
Highest quintile
%
5.6
9.5
4.4
3.9
5.2
1.1
5.3
All persons
%
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
Non-Indigenous
Lowest quintile
%
19.4
17.2
23.4
25.1
21.6
18.0
19.3
Second quintile
%
19.8
17.9
24.2
23.7
18.9
17.4
19.8
Third quintile
%
20.0
19.7
21.4
20.6
19.1
19.1
20.1
Fourth quintile
%
20.1
21.5
18.3
17.6
19.8
21.0
20.4
Highest quintile
%
20.7
23.7
12.8
13.0
20.7
24.5
20.3
All persons
%
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
All persons
Lowest quintile
%
20.0
17.6
24.0
26.2
24.3
39.5
20.1
Second quintile
%
20.0
18.0
24.3
23.9
19.8
22.4
20.0
Third quintile
%
19.9
19.7
21.2
20.3
18.4
12.6
20.0
Fourth quintile
%
19.8
21.3
18.0
17.1
18.5
12.1
20.1
Highest quintile
%
20.3
23.4
12.5
12.5
18.9
13.3
19.9
All persons
%
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
Number of persons in private dwellings for census
Indigenous
no.
1,911,909
114,213
75,599
84,160
30,847
66,744
371,563
Non-Indigenous
no.
14,483,693
11,203,175
3,416,649
1,642,157
236,503
71,997
16,570,481

(a) See 'Statistical Geography, Volume 1, Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), 2001' (1216.0).
(b) Data in this table for 1996 are expressed in 2001 prices, using movements in the Consumer Price Index.
(c) Income quintiles are formed by ranking all persons in ascending order of household income and then dividing the population into five equally sized groups, each containing 20% of the persons in the population.
Source: ABS data available on request, 1996 and 2001 Censuses of Population and Housing.

Graph 7.10 illustrates the difference in income distribution between Indigenous and non-Indigenous persons. The graph shows that a greater proportion of Indigenous persons have income at the lower end of the income distribution. Both income distributions peak at approximately $250 per week which is close to the average rate of government benefits. However, the proportion of Indigenous people with income around this level is approximately twice as high as the proportion of non-Indigenous persons.

Graph - 7.10 Distribution of equivalised gross household weekly income - 2001


Mean equivalised gross household income of Indigenous persons grew by 11% over the period, from $329 per week to $364 per week (table 7.11). Non-Indigenous incomes grew by 13%, between 1996 and 2001, slightly more than Indigenous incomes. The proportion of Indigenous persons in the bottom income quintile increased from 42% to 45%, with decreases in all other quintiles.

Table 7.11 provides details of the mean equivalised gross household income per week levels of Indigenous persons across the states and territories of Australia. The mean equivalised gross household income of Indigenous persons in the Northern Territory was $288 per week, 21% below the Indigenous national mean income level of $364 per week. Two other states had Indigenous incomes below the national average: Western Australia at $344 per week (6% below) and South Australia at $351 per week (4% below). The Australian Capital Territory had the highest mean income for Indigenous persons at $559 per week, 54% above the Indigenous national average. Victoria recorded the second highest mean income for Indigenous persons at $415 per week, 14% above the average; New South Wales recorded the third highest average income for Indigenous persons at $387 per week, 6% above the average; with Tasmania and Queensland incomes at about the national average.

Analysing the ratio of Indigenous to non-Indigenous mean equivalised gross household income per week by Remoteness Area, highlights that very remote areas had the lowest ratio of Indigenous to non-Indigenous incomes with Indigenous persons receiving 43% of the level of non-Indigenous income. Within very remote areas, Northern Territory has the lowest ratio of Indigenous and non-Indigenous incomes (32%) followed by Western Australia (39%).

At the state and territory level, Tasmania had the highest Indigenous to non-Indigenous income ratio, with Indigenous incomes being 77% of the income of non-Indigenous persons. The Australian Capital Territory followed closely with Indigenous incomes at 75% of the non-Indigenous income. The Northern Territory had the lowest ratio, where Indigenous income was 42% of the incomes of non-Indigenous persons. Western Australia had the second lowest mean Indigenous income level with an Indigenous to non-Indigenous income ratio of 60%.

Between 1996 and 2001, the Australian Capital Territory had the highest real mean income growth for Indigenous persons (21%), followed by Victoria (14%) and New South Wales (13%).

7.11 MEAN EQUIVALISED GROSS HOUSEHOLD WEEKLY INCOME, By Remoteness Area(a)

1996
2001


Total(b)
Major
Cities
Inner
Regional
Outer Regional

Remote
Very Remote
Total
$
$
$
$
$
$
$

INDIGENOUS

New South Wales
344
450
357
318
314
305
387
Victoria
365
468
373
336
283
n.a.
415
Queensland
332
426
351
358
365
309
368
South Australia
316
387
370
322
382
279
351
Western Australia
317
388
360
346
387
271
344
Tasmania
348
n.a.
382
375
371
396
379
Northern Territory
266
n.a.
n.a.
425
341
241
288
Australian Capital Territory
463
560
n.p.
n.a.
n.a.
n.a
559
Total
329
435
360
352
356
267
364

NON-INDIGENOUS

New South Wales
543
658
514
463
507
527
614
Victoria
513
620
507
475
463
n.a.
589
Queensland
492
582
485
631
597
578
549
South Australia
469
552
500
479
509
468
535
Western Australia
525
588
522
523
607
704
576
Tasmania
442
n.a.
516
444
456
528
491
Northern Territory
618
n.a.
n.a.
685
700
760
694
Australian Capital Territory
648
748
672
n.a.
n.a.
n.a.
748
Total
517
622
506
502
579
622
585

ALL PERSONS

New South Wales
537
654
509
455
476
472
608
Victoria
510
618
505
472
461
n.a.
586
Queensland
486
579
481
520
570
481
542
South Australia
466
549
497
473
505
404
531
Western Australia
518
584
518
514
586
524
568
Tasmania
438
n.a.
511
439
451
517
486
Northern Territory
523
n.a.
n.a.
661
620
364
579
Australian Capital Territory
645
744
669
n.p.
n.p.
n.a.
744
Total
513
618
501
494
554
453
579

(a) See 'Statistical Geography, Volume 1, Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), 2001' (1216.0).
(b) Data in this table for 1996 are expressed in 2001 prices, using movements in the Consumer Price Index.
Source: ABS data available on request, 1996 and 2001 Censuses of Population and Housing.


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