Social (In)equity in Australia?

  • Yvonne HaighEmail author
  • Kim Moloney


Haigh and Moloney examine the manner in which social equity is embedded in Australian public policy. The chapter argues that Australia’s colonial settlers and their early governments built a society based on hidden divisions which are still evident in many contemporary policy failures. The authors argue that several historical cleavages challenge the nation’s perception as a “lucky country” in which all citizens may achieve economic prosperity. The chapter draws first on case studies that highlight the racial categorization of Australian Aboriginal citizens and, second, on the evolution into market-driven disability schemes. Both cases illustrate how social (in)equity, a term not formally conceptualized in Australia’s scholarly and policy circles, informs where and how government policies can engage and disengage from social equity considerations.


  1. ABC News. (2018). Living Costs in Many Australian Cities Rising Faster Than Rest of World. Retrieved from
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2016a). Census of Population and Housing. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics.Google Scholar
  3. Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2016b). Census of Population and Housing: Multicultural. Canberra. Retrieved from
  4. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2017, December). Youth Detention Population in Australia. Bulletin 143. Retrieved from
  5. Bessant, J., Watts, R., Dalton, D., & Smyth, P. (2006). Talking Policy: How Social Policy Is Made. Sydney: Allen and Unwin Press.Google Scholar
  6. Buchan, B., & Heath, M. (2006). Savagery and Civilization. From Terra Nullius to the Tide of History. Ethnicities, 6(1), 5–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carson, E., & Kerr, L. (2014). Australian Social Policy and Human Services. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Carson, E., & Kerr, L. (2017). Australian Social Policy and the Human Services. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cave, D. (2018). In Proudly Diverse Australia, White People Still Run Almost Everything. The New York Times. Retrieved from
  10. Chesterman, M. (1999). Criminal Trial Juries in Australia: From Penal Colonies to a Federal Democracy. Law and Contemporary Problems, 62(2), 69–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cook, I., Walsh, M., & Harwood, J. (2009). Government and Democracy in Australia. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Department of Home Affairs (Australia). (n.d.). Abolition of the White Australia Policy. Retrieved from
  13. Department of Immigration and Citizenship (Australia). (2007). Becoming an Australian Citizen. Retrieved from
  14. Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (Australia). (2014). Closing the Gap, Prime Minister’s Report. Retrieved from
  15. Dolan, J. R., & David, H. (Eds.). (2003). Representative Bureaucracy: Classic Readings and Continuing Controversies. Armonk: M. E. Sharpe.Google Scholar
  16. Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). (2017). The Global Liveability Report. Retrieved from
  17. Finer, H. (1941). Administrative Responsibility in Democratic Government. Public Administration Review, 1(4), 335–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Finnane, M., & McGuire, J. (2001). The Uses of Punishment and Exile: Aborigines in Colonial Australia. Punishment and Society, 3(2), 279–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fozdar, F. (2012). Beyond the Rhetoric of Inclusion. In A. Hayes & R. Mason (Eds.), Cultures in Refuge: Seeking Sanctuary in Modern Australia (pp. 49–65). Farnham: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  20. Frederickson, H. G. (1974). Social Equity and Public Administration. Public Administration Review, 34(1), 1–2.Google Scholar
  21. Frederickson, H. G. (1976). The Lineage of New Public Administration. Administration & Society, 8(2), 149–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Friedrich, C. J. (1940). Public Policy and the Nature of Administrative Responsibility. In C. J. Friedrich & E. P. Mason (Eds.), Public Policy: A Yearbook of the Graduate School of Public Administration (pp. 3–24). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Grover, C., & Soldatic, K. (2013). Neoliberal Restructuring, Disabled People and Social (in)security in Australian and Britain. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 15(3), 216–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Harmon, M. M. (1974). Social Equity and Organizational Man: Motivation and Organizational Democracy. Public Administration Review, 34(1), 11–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hart, D. K. (1974). Social Equity, Justice, and the Equitable Administrator. Public Administration Review, 34(1), 3–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Horne, D. (1964). The Lucky Country: Australia in the Sixties. Ringwood: Penguin.Google Scholar
  27. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. (1997). National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families (Australia). (1997). Bringing Them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families. Sydney.Google Scholar
  28. Jupp, J. (2002). From White Australia to Woomera: The Story of Australian Immigration. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lantz, S., & Marston, G. (2012). Policy, Citizenship and Governance: The Case of Disability and Employment Policy in Australia. Disability and Society, 27(6), 853–867.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Manne, A. (2011, August). Two Nations: The Case for Disability Reform. The Monthly, 42–47.Google Scholar
  31. Norman-Major, K. (2011). Balancing the Four E’s; or Can We Achieve Equity for Social Equity in Public Administration? Journal of Public Affairs Education, 17(2), 233–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Oxfam. (2018). Australia’s Inequality Crisis: Oxfam Paper. [Press Release]. Retrieved from
  33. Parliament of Australia, The Senate. (2014). Bridging Our Growing Divide: Inequality in Australia, the Extent of Income Inequality in Australia. Retrieved from
  34. Pearson, N. (2014). Quarterly Essay: A Rightful Place, Race, Recognition and a More Complete Commonwealth. Melbourne: Black Inc.Google Scholar
  35. Phillips, J. (2015). Asylum Seekers and Refugees: What Are the Facts? Parliamentary Library. Department of Parliamentary Services, Canberra: Parliament of Australia.Google Scholar
  36. Phillips, J., & Spinks, H. (2013). Immigration Detention in Australia. Parliamentary Library. Department of Parliamentary Services, Canberra: Parliament of Australia.Google Scholar
  37. Productivity Commission. (2011). Disability Care and Support: Inquiry Report (Vol. 1).
  38. Productivity Commission. (2016). Child Protection Services. Report on Government Services 2018 (pp. 16.11–16.38). Canberra: Australian Government.Google Scholar
  39. Productivity Commission (Australia). (2014). Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators. Retrieved from
  40. Refugee Council of Australia. (2017). Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program 2017–18: Community Views on Current Challenges and Future Directions. Retrieved from
  41. Riccucci, N. M. (2009). The Pursuit of Social Equity in the Federal Government: A Road Less Traveled? Public Administration Review, 69(3), 373–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Riccucci, N. M., & Van Ryzin, G. G. (2016). Representative Bureaucracy: A Lever to Enhance Social Equity, Coproduction, and Democracy. Public Administration Review, 74(1), 21–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Robbins, J., & Summers, J. (2010). Indigenous Affairs Policy. In D. Woodword, A. Parkin, & J. Summers (Eds.), Government, Politics, Power and Policy in Australia (pp. 501–523). Sydney: Pearson Australia.Google Scholar
  44. Roberts, S. (1969). History of Australian Land Settlement 1788–1920. Bloomberg: Frank Cass and Co Ltd.Google Scholar
  45. Rosenbloom, D. H. (2005). Taking Social Equity Seriously in MPA Education. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 11(3), 247–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Singer, A. (2013). Contemporary Immigrant Gateways in Historical Perspective. Daedalus, The Journal of The American Academy of Arts & Sciences, 142(3), 77–91.Google Scholar
  47. Soldatic, K., & Pini, B. (2012). Continuity or Change? Disability Policy and the Rudd Government. Social Policy and Society, 11(2), 183–196.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. State of the Disability Sector Report. (2017). National Disability Services. Retrieved from
  49. Svara, J. H., & Brunet, J. R. (2005). Social Equity Is a Pillar of Public Administration. Journal of Public Affairs Education, 11(3), 253–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Thill, C. (2015). Listening for Policy Change: How the Voices of Disabled People Shaped Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme. Disability and Society, 30(1), 15–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Wahlquist, C. (2018). Indigenous Children in Care Doubled Since Stolen Generations Apology. The Guardian. Retrieved from
  52. Yeend, P. (2002). Bills digest No. 157 2001–2002. Family and Community Services Legislation Amendment (Disability Reform) Bill 2002. Canberra: Department of the Parliamentary Library.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Murdoch UniversityPerthAustralia

Personalised recommendations