Roundup: Australian PM pledges new approach to tackling indigenous disadvantages

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, February 12, 2020
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CANBERRA, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has committed to a new approach to closing the gap between indigenous Australians and the wider population.

Morrison on Wednesday tabled the 12th Closing the Gap report in Parliament, revealing that indigenous children still trail non-indigenous children in literacy, numeracy and writing skills.

Closing the Gap was established in 2008 with the goal of reducing the disadvantages faced by indigenous Australians in health, education and employment outcomes.

According to the latest report the country is on track to meet only two of the seven targets; early childhood education and secondary school graduation rates.

Morrison told Parliament that the "top-down, government-knows-best" approach had failed, flagging an overhaul of the framework.

"Closing the Gap has never really been a partnership with Indigenous people," he said.

"The targets that were set for Indigenous Australians, not by Indigenous Australians, do not celebrate the strengths, achievements and aspirations of Indigenous people."

"They don't tell you what's happening on the ground, or stirring under it. They don't tell you how realistic or achievable these targets were in the first place."

"I'm very hopeful that a new approach that's more locally-led and more collaborative will take us much further than the top-down, one-size-fits-all, government-led approach ever could."

Wednesday's report found that the indigenous child mortality rate is 141 per 100,000 -- twice that of non-indigenous children.

Life expectancy at birth for indigenous males was 71.6 years, 8.6 years less than non-indigenous males, and 75.6 years for indigenous females, 7.8 years less than their non-indigenous peers.

Responding to Morrison's speech, Anthony Albanese, the leader of the Opposition Labor Party, agreed that Closing the Gap, which was instituted by a former Labor government, has failed.

"After 12 years, it is tragic that we aren't on track for five of these seven targets, including life expectancy, child mortality and employment," he said.

"It is an indictment that, of all of these targets, we are on track for only two.

"We can and we must do better.

"We speak of closing the gap, but the truth is that on so many of these measures, there is a gap. It's a chasm."

He used his speech to again endorse the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a landmark document released by delegates from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in 2017.

It calls for a First Nations Voice to Parliament that would give indigenous Australians a say on law and policy affecting them to be enshrined in the Constitution.

"At its most basic level, the denial of a constitutionally enshrined voice is a denial of the Australian instinct for a fair go," Albanese said.

"The voice is a modest request that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples be consulted about issues and policies that directly affect them. That's what it is.

"And it shouldn't be beyond our capacity to take the hand of friendship which has been reached out to us and is waiting to be shaken." Enditem

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