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Last Updated: Friday, 10 March 2006, 05:26 GMT
New plan hits Aborigine truants
Aborigines in the bush
Aborigines are Australia's most disadvantaged community
The Australian government is considering cutting welfare payments for Aborigines if they do not send their children to school.

The scheme is designed to cut truancy rates and get Aborigines off the dole.

"It is a proposal that has emanated from the Aboriginal community and we are examining it," Prime Minister John Howard told local radio on Friday.

Aborigines are an impoverished minority of 400,000, out of Australia's 20 million-strong population.

The welfare plan has been championed by Noel Pearson, a respected Aboriginal community leader known for putting forward proposals to break the cycle of poverty and dependence on welfare in many indigenous areas.

The plan would mean that if young people failed to look for work or study options, their families might face losing welfare benefits.

"It is obviously something that would have a lot of practical challenges but, as a concept, what Mr Pearson is getting at is good," Mr Howard said.

Drug and alcohol problems

The government has already implemented a scheme under which Aboriginal communities are offered benefits if they agree to certain conditions.

In some northern communities, for example, Aboriginal children are unable to swim in the local community pool if they do not attend school.

In terms of living standards, employment opportunities and rates of imprisonment, many Aborigines are far worse off than their non-indigenous counterparts.

Drug and alcohol abuse is rife, and Aboriginal men can expect to die 20 years younger than white Australians.


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