Nine years after Kevin Rudd signed a statement of intent to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous AustraliansPrime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has admitted that the government is failing six of its seven Indigenous disadvantage targets. 

While the goal to halve the gap in Year 12 attainment by 2020 is on track, every other health, employment and education target has either stagnated or, depressingly, started going backwards.

For example, the fact that Indigenous Australians die about 10 years younger than non-Indigenous Australians hasn’t significantly changed, and in fact the gap employment rates increased in 2014-15 to 24.2 percentage points, up from 21.2 percentage points in 2008.

Speaking today in Parliament, Turnbull admitted that “we have not come far enough” and, amongst other targets, addressed the fact that Indigenous child mortality rates actually increased slightly from 2014 to 2015:

“We are also reminded of the fragility of life and the heavy burden of families, communities and governments.”

“I am very saddened and disappointed that the target to have the gap in Indigenous child mortality is not on track.”

This is naturally depressing, if unsurprising, news for Indigenous Australians such as National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples co-chair Jackie Huggins. 

Higgins spoke this morning at a Closing the Gap breakfast in Canberra, where she voiced her disappointed about the stagnating, systematic inequalities and apparent failure of the government directly to Turnbull:

“Respectfully your disappointment will not compare to our old people and what they feel at the repeated news that our lives are still shorter sicker and poorer than other Australians.”

“We have seen many reports and inquiries over the years make important recommendations — 400 in fact — without the required attention or response from government.”

This all comes on the back of Aboriginal actor Rarriwuy Hick’s “Our Kids Belong With Family Campaign,” a growing movement highlighting the fact that, over the past fifteen years, Indigenous child removal rates have risen by a whopping 400%.

Added to this are the high levels of Indigenous children being placed with non-Indigenous families: as last year’s Always Was, Always Will Be Koori Children report showed, nine out of ten Koorie children are being placed in Victoria’s out-of-home care outside the community.

This means that, for all our governments’ talk of progressive policies, we effectively have a second Stolen Generation on our hands.

But while this is all depressing as fuck, and a timely reminder of Australia’s incredible racial inequalities, it’s also an opportunity for our (incredibly white) political leaders to reflect and listen to Indigenous leaders.

For example, The National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples today called on the government to adopt the The Redfern Statement, their 18-page manifesto that outlines both institutional and funding options. 

Backed by over 50 Indigenous organisations, the statement calls for things like reversing Tony Abbott’s $500m cuts to Indigenous Affairs, adding a Closing the Gap target aimed at reducing imprisonment rates, and establishing a standalone department for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs.

As co-chair Rod Little said at another Closing the Gap breakfast this morning, it’s a blueprint for change in Indigenous/non-Indigenous relations:

“That’s about resetting the relationship, working with us, acknowledging that we have the solutions and value our experience and our expertise within our service organisations and within our communities.”

“We are looking for a renewed relationship.”

Source and photo: ABC.