Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

No excuses

By Harry Throssell - posted Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Australian Indigenous people in general have life-spans on a par with some of the poorest countries in the world.

The average age of death for Queensland’s original peoples is 56 years, according to the 2006 Edition of Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Population, compared with the whole community’s average of 79 years (54 years for males compared with 76 and 58 years for females compared with 82).

The same general pattern has been seen across the country for a long time. The 2004 Senate Report on Poverty noted “life expectancy for Indigenous people is approximately 20 years less than … other Australians”. An Australian Bureau of Statistics report of 2005 says figures in this area are not entirely reliable, but their median lifespan for Indigenous males throughout the country was 59 compared with a non-Indigenous age of 77 years, the figure for women 65 and 83 years respectively.


In any case the difference is considerable, at least 18 years.

“Life expectancy” does not mean all members of a population live to that age. The Queensland report refers to it as a median, or average, of all the ages at which death occurs. Indigenous communities show a much higher infant and childhood death rate than non-Indigenous communities, so these fatalities, as well as those in old age, whatever the cause, contribute to the average life expectancy. This figure therefore reflects the general state of health, and also the state of the health services in the community.

The health and poverty profile of Australia’s Indigenous people is usually obscured from global attention because they are a very small proportion, less than 3 per cent, of the country’s total population. But a different picture becomes clear on examination of United Nations Human Development annual reports.

In the latest of these the Human Development league table shows Australia ranking number three, meaning it has, on the whole, the third highest standard of living in the world, measured by the Human Development Index. This includes a Long and Healthy Life, Knowledge, and a Decent Standard of Living, collections of many other research findings. There are 63 nations in the High Human Development bracket, the world’s richest countries, the first ten of them listed here.

The table shows how long, on average, a citizen in these countries can expect to live, and his or her comparative average “income”, or Gross Domestic Product per head, in US dollars.

HDI Country Life expectancy GDP per person (US$)
1 Norway 80 years $38,454
2 Iceland 81 years $33,051
3 Australia 80.5 years $30,331
4 Ireland 78 years $38,827
5 Sweden 80 years $29,541
6 Canada 80 years $31,263
7 Japan 82 years $29,251
8 USA 77.5 years $39,676
9 Switzerland 81 years $33,040
10 Netherlands 78.5 years $31,789

In contrast, countries with average life expectancy figures similar to that of Australia’s Indigenous population, say between 50 and 65 years, are listed below. Again, the figure in the first column is the country’s position in the global league table of living standards, while in the fourth column, again, is the country’s average income, to compare, for instance, with Australia’s overall average of US$30,331 per head.

Countries with the HDI rank of 122 (Tajikistan) to 143 (Madagascar) are classed as Medium Human Development Countries, while those ranked 147 (Togo) to 163 (Benin) are Low Human Development Countries, along with a further 14 countries even worse off, down to the last, number 177.

HDI Country Life expectancy GDP per person (US $)
122 Tajikistan 64 years $1,202
124 Gabon 54 years $6,623
126 India 64 years $3,139
127 São Tomé and Principe 63 years $1,231
128 Solomon Islands 63 years $1,814
129 Cambodia 56.5 years $2,423
130 Myanmar 60.5 years $1,027
132 Comoros 64 years $1,943
133 Lao People's Dem. Rep. 55 years $1,954
134 Pakistan 63 years $2,225
135 Bhutan 63 years $1,969
136 Ghana 57 years $2,240
137 Bangladesh 63 years $1,870
138 Nepal 62 years $1,490
139 Papua New Guinea 56 years $2,543
140 Congo 52 years $978
141 Sudan 56.5 years $1,949
142 Timor-Leste 56 years
143 Madagascar 56 years $857
147 Togo 54.5 years $1,536
148 Djibouti 53 years $1,993
150 Yemen 61 years $879
153 Mauritania 53 years $1,940
154 Haiti 52 years $1,892
155 Gambia 56 years $1,991
156 Senegal 56 years $1,713
157 Eritrea 54 years $977
160 Guinea 54 years $2,180
163 Benin 54 years $1,091
  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

85 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Harry Throssell originally trained in social work in UK, taught at the University of Queensland for a decade in the 1960s and 70s, and since then has worked as a journalist. His blog Journospeak, can be found here.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Harry Throssell

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 85 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy