Standing up for Canberra

Closing the Gap 2015

This year’s Closing the Gap report reminds us all of the inequality that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

It is a stark inequality in so many ways and in so many critical areas, which means Indigenous Australians are leading a life of unrealised potential because of the gaps in their health, education and welfare.

The report has unfortunately brought mixed results. There's been some progress, but there’s still a long way to go if we are to meet the Closing the Gap targets by 2030.

In fact, we are on track to meet just two of the seven targets.

I welcome the improvement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy between 2005-07 and 2010-12 – an estimated increase of 1.6 years for males and 0.6 years for females.

However a gap of around ten years remains when you compare Indigenous Australians with non-Indigenous Australians. That is incredibly sobering for an affluent nation with so much opportunity for so many.

Indigenous Australians have higher rates of cancer, higher rates of diabetes and higher rates of preventable diseases.

They also suffer premature deaths related to chronic diseases at rates that could be halved within three years through a much greater focus on access to appropriate primary health care services to detect, treat and manage these conditions.

In delivering his report to the Parliament, Tony Abbott stated his government’s main focus was on achieving results.

So it’s disappointing that the Abbott Government has cut $130 million from Indigenous health programs and thousands of critical front-line services.

These cuts are having a dire impact on Indigenous communities.

In fact, Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda has said this past year has been one of deep funding cuts, uncertainty and upheaval in Indigenous affairs.

Another horrifying statistic that has stayed with me is that, sadly, Indigenous women and children are more likely to experience family violence than any other group in our nation.

An Indigenous woman is 35 times more likely to be hospitalised as a result of family violence, and she is five times more likely to die.

That figure is deeply disturbing and deeply distressing. It is a chilling statistic and underscores why we must do better.