Frustration as no progress made on Indigenous disadvantage

SERVICE providers and organisations targeted to indigenous people who aren't meeting targets should be stripped of their government funding, a Townsville elder has said.

It comes as a new Closing the Gap report exposed how little progress had been made on Aboriginal disadvantage over more than a decade.

The failure to meet targets in improving levels of indigenous childhood mortality, life expectancy, school attendance and employment has largely been blamed on a lack of consultation with indigenous people.

The report, the 12th since targets were set in 2008, shows Queensland is on track to meet just one of seven government targets; early childhood education attendance.

But the mortality rate of indigenous children aged five or under is still twice as high as other Australian children, and employment rates in Queensland have regressed since 2008.

 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison shakes hands with Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt after delivering his Ministerial statement on 'Closing the Gap' in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, February, Wednesday 12, 2020. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)
Prime Minister Scott Morrison shakes hands with Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt after delivering his Ministerial statement on 'Closing the Gap' in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra, February, Wednesday 12, 2020. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Townsville indigenous leader and human rights activist Professor Gracelyn Smallwood described the results as "unacceptable" and said the government needed to ditch "Western bureaucracy" ideals and include First Nations when crafting policy.

 

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Herbert MP Phillip Thompson, whose wife is indigenous, said the poor statistics were "extremely personal" and called on Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt and his Opposition colleague Linda Burney to visit Townsville and Queensland's largest indigenous community, Palm Island, to glean first-hand what needed to be done.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison yesterday acknowledged that successive governments had failed to accept that indigenous peoples knew how best to manage their affairs.

"We perpetuated an ingrained way of thinking, passed down over two centuries and more, and it was the belief that we knew better than our indigenous peoples. We don't," he said.

The Federal Government late last year agreed to three major reforms to the way it works with indigenous communities, including greater Aboriginal involvement in decision-making and service delivery at a national, regional and local level and a commitment to making sure "all mainstream government agencies and institutions undertake systemic and structural transformation to contribute to closing the gap", and yesterday rehashed the moves as a sign things were changing.

 

Nerida Geia with her kids Justice Bourne 2, Billo Bourne 4 and Alaysia Bourne 5
Nerida Geia with her kids Justice Bourne 2, Billo Bourne 4 and Alaysia Bourne 5

TOWNSVILLE MOVE FOR KIDS FUTURE

BWGCOLMAN woman and mother-of-four Nerida Geia, 28, said she moved to the mainland from Palm Island so her children couldget better schooling and to expose them early to the realities of discrimination.

Education is of the highest importance, and she hopes sending her kids, Alaisia, Billo, Justice and Thomas Bourne, to schoolin Townsville means they won't be "bombarded" with racism as she was when she moved here as a 21-year-old. "Everybody is stereotypedhere when you're indigenous," Ms Geia said.

Ms Geia said Palm Island, the largest indigenous community in Queensland, though just an hour away by ferry, seemed to beexcluded from Townsville's progress, lamenting that decisions were made without community consultation or connection to culture.

"There's a lot that needs to be said about what happens to that island for future generations," she said.

Ms Geia, who is of both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent, said Townsville's indigenous community had been tryingto create an identity for years, but felt they had no voice.


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