Opinion

Action is needed for our First People, not words

by
February 10, 2018

It’s been 10 years since the National Apology blanketed screens across the country, but it appears next week’s apology anniversary may only act as a reminder of how little has been achieved for our First Peoples.

Discussion around social, health and education inequality for indigenous Australians has dominated airwaves during the past few days, and the Australian people have begun to question why so little has been achieved in the 10 years since the Closing the Gap initiative was introduced.

Hopes were high for a new beginning when Australian governments united in a landmark statement that vowed to close the gap in life expectancy and health inequality faced by the community.

But in 2017, a damning Closing the Gap review revealed that the issue had been placed on the backburner, with only one of seven key measures found to be on track.

The Turnbull Government is now looking to overhaul the targets, but it is not difficult to believe that it is an empty gesture.

The Close the Gap Steering Committee — a coalition of non-government organisations — said a renewed commitment to ending inequality was needed, and that ‘‘a revolving door of prime ministers, indigenous affairs ministers and senior bureaucrats have all but halted the steady progress hoped for by First Peoples.’’

It is reasonable to suggest that indigenous people question the difference the National Apology made, and while the sentiment was definitely needed, 10 years of little action speaks volumes for the way our First Peoples have been catered for by government. As issues continue to be pushed aside, one must wonder if indigenous Australians are being supported enough to assist real change and growth, or whether the community continues to be told — after centuries — that the government knows best.

Despite the disappointment of how little we have progressed in these matters, flickers of change appear imminent following recent Australia Day protests and a greater community understanding around the plight of our indigenous people.

The outrage generated by the Closing the Gap reality, and from the thousands who gathered across Australia to protest what many call Invasion Day, provides a representation of deeper issues at play and welcome signs that continued dialogue will follow.

The country is watching.

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