There is a considerable employment gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples and non-Indigenous Australians, according to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
However, Indigenous employment rates across Australia were improved for those who achieved high levels of education, post-school qualifications or completed training or apprenticeships.
Only 55.8 per cent of working age Indigenous Australians are actively participating in the labour force, compared to 76.4 per cent of the non-Indigenous population aged 15-64.
This participation rate identifies the number of people who are either in work or full-time education or are actively seeking employment.
Of the participating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander labour force, 17.2 per cent are currently unemployed, compared to only 5.5 per cent of non-Indigenous Australians.
Younger Indigenous people were more likely to be unemployed than any other age group, with 18 per cent of those between 15 and 19 currently struggling to find work.
The effects of education
Young Indigenous Australians who gained an educational qualification were typically more active in the labour force and often improved their employment chances.
In 2011, 76 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who had attained Year 12 or Certificate II or above were actively participating in the labour force, compared to 45 per cent who had not achieved these qualifications.
Reaching higher qualifications resulted in further improvements to the participation rate, with 83.9 per cent of Indigenous Australians with a diploma or higher qualification actively participating.
Unemployment rates were also dependent on the level of education received, with Level 12 or Certificate II holders recording a 11.4 per cent unemployment rate.
This is compared to 24.3 per cent unemployment for the Indigenous population without educational qualifications, and 5.0 per cent for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with a diploma or higher qualification.
Unfortunately, even with these promising results, the rate of education among Indigenous Australians is still worryingly low.
In 2011, the proportion of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population aged between 15 and 64 who had achieved Year 12 or Certificate Level II or above was nearly 30 percentage points below the non-Indigenous rate – 44 per cent compared to 73 per cent.
These figures support a need for the Indigenous population to take advantage of opportunities like apprenticeships and traineeships in Queensland and other states around Australia.