SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's effort to improve the lives of its impoverished indigenous population is being undermined by a centralised, bureaucratic aid programme delivered in sometimes culturally inappropriate ways, a United Nations official said on Monday.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians rank near the bottom of every social and economic indicator, which exacerbates tension in the communities belonging to the world's longest continuous civilisation.
While Australia has devoted billions of dollars to improve the welfare of its indigenous population, Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples at the U.N., said good intentions were being offset by poor policy.
"The compounded effect of these policies has contributed to the failure to deliver on targets in the areas of health, education and employment," Tauli-Corpuz said in Canberra, the capital, at the end of a two-week visit to Australia.
Tauli-Corpuz was critical of Australia's decision to channel aid through the office of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, describing the process as "bureaucratic, rigid and (having) wasted considerable resources on administration".
A spokesman for Australia's Senator Nigel Scullion, the minister for indigenous affairs, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the remarks, made to reporters.
Australia this year said it was falling short of almost every target to improve the lives of its indigenous population, from reducing the infant mortality rate, to getting children into school and adults in jobs.
Aborigines face a 10-year gap in life expectancy versus other Australians and make up 27 percent of the prison population, but are just three percent of the population.
Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Clarence Fernandez