Increase in young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people working or studying

Paul Hayes

28/02/2018 2:06:25 PM

Recent statistics showing an increase in the number of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are fully engaged in work and/or study can help to establish lifelong health gains, Associate Professor Peter O’Mara told newsGP.

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Associate Professor Peter O'Mara believes full engagement in work or study can have positive effects on long-term health.

‘Social determinants account for up to 35% of the health gap. This means that improvements in education and employment bring broader benefits, and these have wider impacts on communities, as well as individuals,’ Associate Professor Peter O’Mara, Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, told newsGP.
‘There are strong links between health, education and employment. Good health leads to better access to education, and in turn, work opportunities. Studies show that employment status is a strong determinant of individual and family health outcomes, with unemployment and lower status jobs linked to poorer health.’
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) recent Census of Population and Housing: Characteristics of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, 2016, 52% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15–24 are fully participating in either education or work, up from 46% in 2006. Those living in urban areas (55%) are more likely to be fully engaged in work or study than those living in non-urban areas (42%). Close to 223,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 and older reported participating in the labour force.
As more young people access education and move into the workforce, they take on an important role in modelling behaviour for their families and communities.
‘Seeing more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in a range of jobs sends a positive message to community members about what is possible,’ Associate Professor O’Mara said. ‘I didn’t consider a career in medicine until I had those personal role models, who showed me Aboriginal people could become doctors.’
The census also showed a marked an increase in school attendance among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students of all age groups. Attendance for men and women aged 15–17 increased from 51% and 54% to 70% and 73%, respectively. In addition, attendance at university or other tertiary institutions increased for those aged 18–24, from 4% to 7% for men and 7% to 12% for women.
Associate Professor O’Mara believes these types of statistics are evidence that progress is still being made in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
‘Despite our limited progress on the Closing the Gap education and employment targets, these important findings remind us of the significant achievements by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are working to ensure that young people live healthier and longer lives,’ he said.

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Dr Janelle Trees   2/03/2018 8:36:50 AM

Bravo, Dr O'Mara. Thanks for speaking up with the numbers that show Indigenous people pushing past obstacles to study and succeed.


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