Repurposing government expenditure for enhancing Indigenous well-being in Australia: A scenario analysis for a new paradigm

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In Australia, despite concerted government efforts over the last 30 years, Indigenous peoples’ statistically measured well-being continues to be lower than that of non-Indigenous Australians with few exceptions (child mortality and early childhood education). This is for various reasons including the ongoing impacts of dispossession, inappropriate policies, restricted opportunities, and ignorance of Indigenous perspectives. This paper analyses key recent government development policies and related costs and benefits. It then proposes a capability-focused well-being approach considering country (Indigenous estate) as a pivot. Country offers a culturally appropriate enabling environment for participation in economic activities and learning through ceremonies and rituals. This allows Indigenous people to utilize their knowledges and skills in securing their well-being. We apply three scenarios as a tool to analyse current government expenditure on four program areas, namely: a safe and supportive environment; economic participation; healthy lives; and early childhood development. We argue that by utilizing imputed natural resource management revenues, estimated cost-savings of $4– can be achieved if official policies focus on an integrated approach of well-being through building and utilizing Indigenous capabilities. To demonstrate the real benefits and costs of the proposed approach, the Northern Territory is used as a case study. Our estimates suggest an estimated annual value of cost-savings at $127m-$471m. This amount could be invested towards country-related programs in remote communities to introduce and promote innovative enterprises in ecosystems services by managing natural resources – a growing market across the globe – that will enhance the well-being of local Indigenous communities and the management of natural resources for the wider Australian and global public.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-91
Number of pages17
JournalEconomic Analysis and Policy
Issue numberSeptember
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


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