NACCHO #CTG10 News alerts :Why is it so hard to Close the Gap?


Well, you know, I think it’s never acceptable if we don’t have a consistent policy approach and consistent funding and ministers who can stay focused and committed.The lack of progress should never be interpreted as a failure by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It’s a failure of bureaucracy and a failure of the politicians to keep an even course and to keep the funding and the policy direction consistent.

Prof. Tom Calma discussing where things have gone wrong (and occasionally right) in the attempt to close the gap between indigenous and white Australians.

It is imperative the government provides appropriate funding for the implementation plan in the 2016 budget. Specifically, there needs to be an overall increase in resources directed towards Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health — in proportion to population size, service need and demand. This vital, given the National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes expired in 2014, and funding under that agreement has finished.”

Opinion Close the Gap Campaign (see below)

Watch 7.30 report interview here

Interactive Closing the Gap stats (ABC)


LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Tomorrow ( February 10) we will see the latest report card on the stark disparities between Indigenous lives versus those of other Australians.

The Government will respond to the latest Closing the Gap report. Tony Abbott was the prime minister for the last one and he described it as “profoundly disappointing”. And while tomorrow’s report will show progress in some areas, overall it will paint a bleak picture.

To discuss the issue I was joined a short time ago from Canberra by Professor Tom Calma, the chancellor of Canberra University and the co-chair of Reconciliation Australia; Dr Jackie Huggins, the co-chair of Australia’s National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples; and Luke Pearson, the founder of Indigenous X, a social media space drawing attention to all sorts of Indigenous issues.

Professor Calma, Dr Huggins, Mr Pearson: thank you very much for joining us this evening.




LEIGH SALES: Professor Calma, is it too cynical to think that tomorrow we’re probably going to hear what we hear every time this report comes out, which is some talking up of small progress in some areas; but when the glaring disparities are pointed out, we’ll hear the old staple: that there’s still a lot of work to be done?

TOM CALMA: Oh, look, but I think the reality is that there is still a lot of work to be done. You know, we’re talking about a generational target, a generational aspiration to be a able to close the inequality gap.

And we’ve only been going for 10 years and whilst that seems like a long time on paper, you know, the real concern is that in that 10 years we’ve seen, really, the campaign kick off in 2008. So then you’re only looking at, you know, less than 10 years since the Closing the Gap campaign started by government and it is early days.

And even though we’ve seen some progress, we’ve also seen massive changes within government and I can’t think that there’s one minister who is still in the Government who was involved with us at the beginning of this campaign.

LEIGH SALES: Everyone would say, of course, it would be fantastic if the pace of change were faster, but do you think that the pace we’ve seen so far is realistic and therefore acceptable?

TOM CALMA: Well, you know, I think it’s never acceptable if we don’t have a consistent policy approach and consistent funding and ministers who can stay focused and committed.

The lack of progress should never be interpreted as a failure by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It’s a failure of bureaucracy and a failure of the politicians to keep an even course and to keep the funding and the policy direction consistent.

LEIGH SALES: Dr Huggins, what’s your take on some of the points that Professor Calma has raised there? Do you see a problem with a lack of consistency in the bureaucracy and in the political sphere?

JACKIE HUGGINS: Yes, we do. From the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples’ point of view, we do see that there is lack of engagement, not a general commitment to the needs and the aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their community.

And we believe that our country, our people are in deep, deep crisis in terms of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy in this country.

For me: I’ve worked for many decades now and I can’t remember such a low point in our history where our people on the ground are just not getting the services.

You know, there’s twice as much spent on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander funding than there is across other populations. Now, we know that with the billions of dollars that are spent, much of that is not even reaching to communities and people in dire needs in our communities. So…

LEIGH SALES: And so where’s the bottleneck there? Like, why does that happen?

JACKIE HUGGINS: Well, a lot gets wasted and a lot gets caught up in government and bureaucratic funding. And the programs that are not reaching our people on the ground are very important programs.

And we’ve just seen recently with the cuts in our budgets and we hope that the next round of government policy in the budget does not cut our people further. But we know that’s probably not the reality, because there are going to be cuts right across the board.

LEIGH SALES: Mr Pearson, what’s your take on what the other two speakers have had to say?

LUKE PEARSON: Yeah, well, I’d agree, you know, with the most part.

You know, when the failures in Closing the Gap come out and get announced, it’s quite often Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who cop a lot of the brunt of the blame for what’s going on. But with the closing of services, with the lack of funding, with the big stick approach from Government usually being the mainstay, it’s not at our end where these things are falling over.

And so I think, you know, the failure within Government here to meet their own targets is a great opportunity for us to actually sit back, acknowledge the failure, look for some of those reasons why and acknowledge the fact that, you know, we’re the only Commonwealth nation that doesn’t have a treaty.

We also have the highest rates of Indigenous incarceration. We have off-the-charts numbers of Indigenous youth suicide. And I don’t think these things are unrelated.

LEIGH SALES: With those issues: I mean, I could sit here and spend the whole rest of the interview just rattling off just shameful statistics in this area.

Given the gap that there is in so many aspects of life between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, why do you think, Mr Pearson, this isn’t an issue that’s just absolutely front-and-centre of the public debate in Australia every day?

LUKE PEARSON: I think a big part of it is that, you know, from within Government, from within media, within mainstream Australian society, the big conversation that we don’t want to have is about Aboriginal empowerment and is about racism.

And those two issues are conversations that we’re going to need to have and there’s going to be some very hard questions that need to be asked if we’re going to see progress around those points. And while we still look at, you know, “Aboriginal people can’t be trusted” to look after our own affairs and we have a preference to look at Government for solutions, rather than from communities, we’re going to keep moving backwards.

LEIGH SALES: Professor Calma, Mr Pearson raised the idea of a treaty. What do you think about that? And what do you say to people who might say, “Oh well, that’s symbolic but it wouldn’t be a practical help”?

TOM CALMA: Well, look, I think it’s very important because we’ve got to look – and this is what the Close the Gap campaign is all about – is looking holistically at the issue of health and looking at the determinants that impact on whether people enjoy good health or not.

And that includes employment, education, social and emotional wellbeing, you know, our mental health status. All have to be looked at and addressed appropriately.

And treaty is just one of those key issues that we need to consider.

LEIGH SALES: Dr Huggins, let me take you back to a point that Luke Pearson raised about the type of conversation he thinks Australia needs to have about racism and empowerment. What’s your view about that?

JACKIE HUGGINS: Yes. Look, I absolutely agree. In fact, as a historian myself I know that, you know, the true history of our country and the racism that has been permeated since is not taught. It’s not recognised and it’s not even believed sometimes, out there in the community.

I think racism is at the very core of the systems that operate in this country. It goes to the heart and soul of our people in terms of trying to lead better, fulfilled and richer lives.

And if white Australia can come to the proposition that, you know, we don’t want racism in our country; it’s not accepted and we should move on together as a nation; I’m sure that we would find in our hearts and in our minds that there is a possibility that we can work this thing together. Because as Stan Grant said in his speech recently, you know, we are better people than that. And certainly our people – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the first nations people of this country: I believe and many other people do believe that we deserve much, much better.

LEIGH SALES: Final question for you, Luke Pearson: what’s the one thing you’d like to hear Government say tomorrow when this report’s released?

LUKE PEARSON: That they’re going to prioritise the voices of Indigenous people: not just a select few, but from the community; people who work in the sectors, from teachers, from doctors, from nurses, from the activists who are standing outside.

There’s so much information out there and so many perspectives that are valuable and need to be respected if we’re going to be able to move forward together.

LEIGH SALES: Thank you so much to all three of you for making time to speak to us tonight. Much appreciated.

TOM CALMA: Thank you.

LUKE PEARSON: Thank you.


Will this be the generation to close the indigenous gap?


NACCHO @Indigenous political alert :Q and A with Warren Mundine: on the importance of role models and education


Each week, a new guest hosts the @IndigenousX Twitter account to discuss topics of interest as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people

The Guardian in partnership with IndigenousX, invites its weekly host to tell us about who they are, what issues they’re passionate about, and what they have in store for us during their upcoming week

This weeks host is Warren Mundine and we understand he will be visiting Western Desert communities this week and reporting online



If you are not on TWITTER leave your question (140 characters) in the COMMENTS below and NACCHO media will pass it on  Email mailto:


Warren Mundine tell us about yourself.

I was born in Grafton in Northern NSW and moved to Auburn in Western Sydney when I was seven years old. I’m from the Bundjalung, Gumbaynggir and Yuin people. My father’s family come from Baryulgil about 80 km north of Grafton, on the Clarence River. He grew up there and moved when he married my mother.

I was one of 11 children and I slept in a single bed with three of my brothers until I was about 12 – which was fine except that my youngest brother wet the bed.
My first name “Nyunggai” means “sun”. It was the skin name that my father gave to me as a child. Recently I changed my name by deed poll to Nyunggai Warren Mundine and so now I use it officially.
My parents worked and sent us to Catholic schools. God, work and school were very important in our family. Even so, as a teenager I started to drift and my reading and writing didn’t progress past primary level. I caused my parents a lot of trouble getting into fights, consuming alcohol and drugs, etc. At one point I was arrested and detained as a juvenile. My parents, a priest and a local white couple stood up for me in court and I was given another chance. They kept an eye on me, I got a labouring job and finished school at TAFE.
I stayed in labouring and trade jobs for about 10 years. My first office job was as a clerk at the Tax Office. I lived in Armidale and Dubbo when my kids were young and got elected to Dubbo Council where I was deputy mayor.

That’s how I got involved in the Labor party, and eventually I was elected its national president. I spent about nine years as CEO of NTSCorp, working with NSW Aboriginal communities on their native title, and I was CEO of GenerationOne in 2013.

I now run my own business and have been appointed to advise the prime minister on Indigenous issues as chair of the Indigenous Advisory Council.
I’m married to Elizabeth and between us we have 10 children (most are grown up). It’s a lot of fun. And of course, I am a mad lover of football.

What do you plan to talk about on @IndigenousX this week?

This week I wrote a blog post which I called The First Tree. It’s about how we address seemingly insurmountable problems.  People laugh at on me on Twitter for having simple suggestions – like getting kids to school – and focusing on practical things.

But I don’t think theorising and admiring a problem from every angle achieves much. Sometimes simple things are what leads to the biggest changes, most quickly.
So I will be focussing on the “bread and butter” issues for closing the gap – jobs, education, school attendance, health, welfare  – and I want to prompt some discussion on our traditional nations and cultures and what they have to offer us. As always I want to prompt conversations which make people think, and where readers are prepared to challenge their own thinking.

What issue(s) affecting Indigenous peoples do you think is most pressing?

If you read my articles, speeches and blogs you will get a good idea of where I think the priorities are. School attendance, welfare to work and incarceration, particularly juvenile detention, are big ones.
And for communities – social stability, economic and commercial development, land ownership.
The high suicide rates amongst Indigenous people is a devastating problem. I’ve been reading and talking to people over the last few months in particular so as to understand it better. It’s not a topic that is easy to discuss on a medium like Twitter, however.

Who are your role models and why?

My father, Roy Mundine, and mother Dolly Mundine (née Donovan) were big role models in my life. Apart from them, my greatest role model was Lionel Rose, world champion boxer. He was a 19 year old Aboriginal boy from Jackson Flats, and he won the world title. He showed me that the world can be your oyster if you are willing to focus and work hard.
Also Charles Perkins and John Moriarty who both overcame adversity, went to university when it wasn’t easy for Aboriginal people to do that – both played football, and John was selected for the national team.

What are your hopes for the future?

This year my hope is that all Indigenous kids are going to school every school day, and that state and territory governments bring in mandatory diversionary programs for juvenile offenders into jobs and education.
I’ve outlined my long term hopes in a number of my articles and speeches, particularly the Garma Speech and my recent Australia Day address.
In the end, my hope is that Indigenous people can be full participants in Australian life and all it has to offer as well as being part of strong and thriving traditional nations where they can take care of their culture, language, traditional lands and build an economic future.