Indigenous Wellbeing Frameworks in Australia and the Quest for Quantification
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There is an emerging global recognition of the inadequacies of conventional socio-economic and demographic data in being able to reflect the relative wellbeing of Indigenous peoples. This paper emerges out of a recent desktop study commissioned by an Australian Indigenous organization who identified a need to enhance local literacies in data collection and interpretation in order to monitor the wellbeing of the Indigenous people within their region, manage governments in respect of their civic responsibilities to this population, and proactively and imaginatively plan for the future of the Indigenous people in their region. In canvassing available data and the growing Indigenous wellbeing literature, it became apparent that conventional statistical collections used to report on the status of populations are governed by a series of assumptions regarding three related concepts: wellbeing; demography; and economic productivity and prosperity. These assumptions have direct implications for how Indigenous peoples are represented to governments and broader society. The paper draws together the existing threads of literature regarding Indigenous wellbeing research to posit a possible broader framework for organising various kinds of Indigenous wellbeing analyses. In doing so, it identifies important shortcomings and deficits in the kinds of data that are available to Indigenous peoples in presenting themselves and their aspirations to governments with. It also opens up a critical analysis of the opportunities and obstacles for Indigenous communities in undertaking such research.
KeywordsIndigenous Wellbeing framework Australia Data Demography Economy
The funding for this research was provided by the Kimberley Institute Limited. Their support of this work is gratefully acknowledged. The research was undertaken while working at the Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR) at the Australian National University, where numerous conversations with Nicholas Biddle, John Taylor, and Frances Morphy, helped formulate much of the thinking which underpins this paper. I also wish to thank Gillian Cosgrove of CAEPR who prepared the graphics and table for this paper. I also wish to thank the anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments.
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