Tuesday, 17 October 2023
Matters of Public Importance
Australian Constitution: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice
Australians voted no to the Voice, but they didn't vote no to Closing the Gap. This MPI talks about division. The real division in this country isn't between Australians who voted yes and Australians who voted no. It's a division between the life and opportunities of black Australians and white Australians. The hard truth, if we're willing to accept it, is that both sides of politics have failed here over decades. My friend the member for New England questions that. But if we're honest with ourselves the gap targets prove that. I'm not blaming you. I'm not blaming our side of politics. I'm blaming all of us. The fact that if you are an Indigenous Australian you're more likely to die at childbirth is evidence of that. If you're more likely to suffer chronic disease, that is evidence of that. If you're more likely to die earlier than other Australians, that is evidence of that as well.
The same is true in education. I believe in my heart about the power of education. I talk about it ad nauseam. I believe in it because I have seen it with my own eyes. I grew up in a community where education changed the lives of people who came here looking for a better life in the western suburbs of Sydney—people who were migrants and refugees. I believe in the power of education because I've lived it. I'm the first person in my family to go to university; but not just that: I'm the first person in my family to finish school. I'm the first person in my family to finish year 10. Education has changed my life. As in this job, with this responsibility, I think I see more clearly than ever before that that opportunity, powerful as it is, hasn't reached into every corner of this country, into every home and into every life.
When you look at the education statistics for Indigenous Australians, they hit you in the face. If you're a young indigenous person today, you're less likely to go to preschool and other kids. We know how important early education is. Not just that, if you're a young Indigenous person today you're more likely to fall behind at primary school than other kids. The natural consequence of that is that if you're a young Indigenous person today who falls behind at primary school, you're less likely to finish high school than all the other kids. And that means that at the end of the day you're less likely to go to university than other children. Colleagues here have heard me talk about this before: about 45 per cent of young adults today have a university degree, but only seven per cent of Indigenous young people do. Think about that gap. Of all the gaps, that's the biggest: 45 per cent of young adults have a university degree, but only seven per cent of young Indigenous adults do. If you are a young bloke of an Indigenous background today you're more likely to go to jail than to university. I've talked about what that means in terms of the cost that we all pay for that. We pay $11,000—