National Close The Gap Day: We need to keep listening


Today marks National Close the Gap Day which highlights the persistent lack of health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Sadly health and wellbeing are not the only areas where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience an unacceptable gap in outcomes said Shadow Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Elizabeth Kikkert.

“Despite Canberra’s relative affluence and compactness, many significant inequities occur here in the nation’s capital – too often overlooked and unseen,” Mrs Kikkert.said.

“According to ABS data, since 2015 the ACT has had the highest ratio of Indigenous incarceration in Australia. Last year, Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Canberra were 19 times more likely to be locked up than other residents.

“At the same time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Canberra are ten times more likely to be removed from their families – the second highest ratio of all Australian jurisdictions according to the Productivity Commission.

“A limited trial of family-led decision-making has successfully kept Indigenous kids safe without the need for removal, but there is still no legal entitlement in the ACT for this proven approach.”

Another serious gap has recently opened up for Canberra’s Indigenous families with just one in six Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people successfully completed their community-based justice orders in the ACT.

This is in stark contrast to the national average rate of successful completions of 80.8 per cent.

“I understand that many instances of Indigenous disadvantage, such as infant mortality, arise from multiple complex factors, but this is not one of them,” said Mrs Kikkert.

“It is the government’s responsibility to provide comprehensive case management, including connecting young people to the specific community supports they need to stay out of trouble and comply with their legal orders.

“If we are genuinely serious about closing gaps, we must close this one quickly before it becomes entrenched.

“We need to keep listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and fully engage them in decision-making as we seek to close the rest,” Mrs Kikkert concluded.