Forrest plea to close indige­nous gap

Pilbara News - - News - Phoebe Wearne

An­drew Forrest wants an Op­er­a­tion Sov­er­eign Bor­ders-style ap­proach to ad­dress­ing indige­nous dis­ad­van­tage af­ter it was re­vealed na­tional ef­forts to close the gap be­tween indige­nous and non-indige­nous Aus­tralians were fall­ing dras­ti­cally short.

Tabling the ninth an­nual Clos­ing the Gap re­port, Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull con­ceded not enough progress had been made.

Just one of the seven Clos­ing the Gap tar­gets set by the Coun­cil of Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ments is on track to be met.

Halv­ing the gap in indige­nous child mor­tal­ity rates within a decade has joined the list of fail­ing ob­jec­tives, while ef­forts to im­prove life ex­pectancy, em­ploy­ment, read­ing and writ­ing re­sults, school at­ten­dance and early ed­u­ca­tion out­comes must be stepped up to have any hope of meet­ing their goals. The re­port shows WA’s indige­nous child mor­tal­ity rate is more than three times higher than for non-indige­nous chil­dren.

Halv­ing the gap in Year 12 at­tain­ment by 2020 was the only tar­get on track to be achieved. “We must re­dou­ble our ef­forts to re­duce smok­ing rates dur­ing preg­nancy, con­tinue to im­prove im­mu­ni­sa­tion rates, lift rates of an­te­na­tal care, re­duce foetal trauma, and keep our chil­dren safe,” Mr Turn­bull told Par­lia­ment.

Mr Forrest, WA’s nom­i­nee for Aus­tralian of the Year, warned more lives and money would be wasted un­less the Gov­ern­ment adopted a bold new ap­proach such as that laid out in his Cre­at­ing Par­ity re­port on over­com­ing Abo­rig­i­nal dis­ad­van­tage. “We spend $12 bil­lion on indige­nous af­fairs,” Mr Forrest said.

“You would have to ask, af­ter that re­port, where is it all go­ing?

“How much mis­ery do we have to stom­ach be­fore we choose a to­tally dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion and cre­ate the ex­ec­u­tive gov­er­nance re­quired to im­ple­ment the res­o­lu­tions of Cre­at­ing Par­ity — not just leave it to the de­part­ments to do their best.”

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