Kevin Rudd will contribute $100,000 to kickstart a fundraising campaign for a new position at the Australian National University to help meet Closing the Gap targets aimed at addressing indigenous disadvantage.
Giving the ANU’s annual Reconciliation lecture last night, THE AUSTRALIAN reported the former prime minister said there needed to be more analysis of the policies and data associated with Closing the Gap targets put in place after his 2008 national apology to the Stolen Generations.
A proposed ANU chair tasked with overseeing the targets had been identified as a priority by the board of Mr Rudd’s National Apology Foundation, but is estimated to cost $5 million.
“To be blunt, whoever the future government of Australia happens to be, we want to keep the bastards honest,” Mr Rudd said. “We want to ensure the necessary data is collected to measure our success or our failure in bridging the intergenerational gap of entrenched indigenous advantage.
“This mission must continue beyond the passing seasons we call politics.”
This year’s Closing the Gap report, released in February, found there had been little to no progress made in improving the difference between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians in life expectancy, education, reading, writing and numeracy rates, and employment outcomes.
Only two targets — to halve the mortality rate for indigenous children under five within a decade, and halve the gap for indigenous people aged 20-24 achieving a Year 12 attainment or equivalent — were on track.
Mr Rudd hoped his contribution to the endowment fund would see other contributions follow: “As the song says, from little things, big things grow.”
He also called for a new justice target to be included in Closing the Gap measures to address “obscene” levels of indigenous incarceration.
He used the speech to raise concerns about achieving indigenous recognition in the Constitution by 2017, saying a broad consensus was needed to avoid a politically divisive no campaign. He said it was important to secure “the most expansive consensus possible” between indigenous Australians and the political process on constitutional recognition, and called on the nation to “get on with it” while public support was strong.
He also said there remained the possibility to develop a statement of “national poetry” that acknowledged indigenous Australians, suggesting he could support a proposal of Cape York leader Noel Pearson for a declaration of recognition.