Australia is not on track to closing the gaps between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians and one of the Hunter’s Indigenous leaders is calling for a drastic rethink.
Six of seven key markers for Indigenous disadvantage, from employment to child mortality, have stalled according to the latest Closing the Gap report.
The only one on track is the number of Indigenous students finishing year 12.
Wonnarua Nation Aboriginal Corporation CEO Laurie Perry said the national approach was struggling because local organisations were facing bureaucratic and funding quagmires.
“You can’t close the national gap, it’s just too big,” Mr Perry said.
“To me [the solutions] have to be state, or regionally based.”
Mr Perry said each region was unique, and the Hunter needed a tailor-made plan based on local expertise.
You can’t close the national gap, it’s just too big.Laurie Perry
“Local corporations are making progress,” he said.
“The top 500 organisations on [Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations] are doing better than the national gap.
“There’s a lot of entrepreneurial stuff, there are people who want to invest in the land and the land councils.
“But government isn’t listening to the community, they’re listening to other government departments.”
Responding to the report in Federal Parliament last week, Member for Paterson, Meryl Swanson, outlined some of the challenges facing the Hunter’s Indigenous population.
“Aboriginal disadvantage is as great as anywhere [in my electorate],” she said.
The median age of Indigenous people in Maitland, 19 according to a report prepared by Maitland City Council in 2013.
In comparison, the median age of non-Indigenous people is 36.
“It means that more than half of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Maitland are under 19,” Ms Swanson said.
“And only six per cent are over 60.”
“Non-Indigenous Australians are living well into their nineties [but] we have very few Indigenous Australians living anywhere near that age and a tiny percentage living over 60.
“These sound like statistics just rolling off a page, but they are people. They are our first people.”