Closing the Gap shows Indigenous voices are vital, says LCA
Closing the Gap’s latest report has shown how important it is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to have a say in the laws and policies, the Law Council of Australia says.
The 12th Closing the Gap report has revealed that five of seven of the Closing the Gap targets are not on track.
Law Council president Pauline Wright said the latest report showing that only two of the seven Closing the Gap targets are “on track” was the legacy of many years of ignoring and silencing the views of First Nations people.
“The lack of a voice continues to manifest itself through the outcomes we see in this report and through Indigenous incarceration rates which are a national shame,” Ms Wright said.
"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders need to have a say in the decisions that affect their lives and be able to propose bills and be consulted on bills before Parliament. This is why we will continue to advocate for the Uluru Statement from the Heart.”
Early childhood education and Year 12 attainment are on track, with 95 per cent of all Indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025 and the gap of attainment of Year 12 halved.
However, school attendance has not improved and Indigenous children are still trailing in numeracy and literacy. Employment is still not met, with the Indigenous employment rate at 49 per cent compared with 75 per cent for non-Indigenous Australians.
Indigenous health and wellbeing continues to be a major concern, with neither hitting the targets.
The child mortality rate for Indigenous children is double the rate compared to non-Indigenous children.
Life expectancy for both Indigenous women and men remain at an average of 8.2 years, lower than non-Indigenous males and females.
Pauline Hanson yesterday in Parliament blamed shocking outcomes for Indigenous Australians or Aboriginal people not taking responsibility for themselves.
“The biggest problem facing Australian and Aboriginal Australians today is their own lack of commitment and responsibility to helping themselves,” Ms Hanson told Parliament on Wednesday.
The Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, said the slow progress demonstrated the need to adopt a new approach to Closing the Gap.
“Key to this is shared accountability and shared responsibility – governments, Indigenous Australians and their communities and organisations,” Mr Wyatt said ahead of the report’s release.
Ms Wright acknowledged the commitment of Mr Wyatt in Parliament today to consult with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and to listen to their voices.
But to make a real difference to the lives of Indigenous people, it was vital for their voices to be heard by Parliament as well.
“There is simply no reason to be fearful of constitutional enshrinement. Any concerns that it would be a ‘third chamber’ in Parliament have now been thoroughly dismissed,” Ms Wright said.
“People should not be afraid of giving our First Nations peoples a real and meaningful voice in our democracy.”
This report further outlines a concurring debate about the future outlook for Indigenous Australians. The High Court had recently just ruled that Aboriginal Australians cannot be “aliens”.
Ms Wright said the alternative that has been proposed – a voice to government – would not be enshrined in law and could therefore be abolished at any point in the future.
“It is essential we have an open and wide-ranging consultation process that addresses all options, especially a key recommendation of the Uluru Statement in its constitutional recognition,” Ms Wright said.
“The principle of self-determination requires meaningful Indigenous participation in decision-making.
“The Uluru Statement was one of the most comprehensive consultations ever conducted with Indigenous Australians. We should be respecting that process and the many leaders and community members who took part in those consultations.”
The Law Council said they will continue to work closely with Minister Wyatt and the highly regarded advisory team, which includes Marcia Langton and Tom Calma.