Australians giving up on Aborigines

2011-02-14 12:47
Sydney - Australians are losing interest in the plight of Aborigines, a survey found on Monday, days after the prime minister urged the country's indigenous people to take more control of their lives.

The Australian Reconciliation Barometer survey, gauging relations between Aborigines and their mostly white counterparts, showed a drop in the number of people who considered the relationship important.

The poll showed that Australians increasingly blame Aborigines, who suffer disproportionately high rates of disease, imprisonment, unemployment and alcohol and substance abuse, for their own problems.

The first such poll conducted since a government apology to Aborigines in 2008 for wrongs suffered since white settlement in 1788 found that those who saw relations as poor now outnumbered those who thought them good.

Less than half thought things were improving.

More than eight out of 10 respondents among the 1 220 non-Aborigines who took part said a lack of personal responsibility was to blame for the problems experienced by indigenous people, Australia's most marginalised group.

By contrast, most of the 704 Aborigines surveyed said lack of respect and inadequate living conditions, poor access to health and education, government failures and discrimination all played a bigger role in their plight.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard last week urged Aborigines to take greater charge of their own fate in her annual "Closing the Gap" speech, when she warned that government measures were not enough to lift living standards.

Those surveyed said Canberra's efforts to address the notoriously poor conditions for Aborigines, who have a life span up to 11.5 years shorter than their non-indigenous counterparts, were largely unsuccessful.

Australia's first inhabitants with cultures stretching back tens of thousands of years, Aborigines have gone from numbering about one million at white settlement to just 470 000 - less than 2% of the population.

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