House debates

Thursday, 9 March 2023

Questions without Notice

First Nations Australians

2:55 pm

Photo of Marion ScrymgourMarion Scrymgour (Lingiari, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Australians. What does the latest data on closing the gap show? What practical actions are being taken by our government to improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians?

2:56 pm

Photo of Linda BurneyLinda Burney (Barton, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Indigenous Australians) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Lingiari for her advocacy for her community and for her passion around these issues. Mick Dodson was the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner between 1993 and 1998 and one of the things Mick said has stayed with me ever since that time. He talked about a type of 'industrial deafness' that had descended upon us as Australians about the dreadful social justice statistics when it came to outcomes for Aboriginal people in this country. I think there is something true in what he says in terms of those statistics washing over us and flowing on.

The latest data from the Productivity Commission is an example of what I hope everyone will listen to. Some of the Closing the Gap targets are going backwards. I know many people are frustrated by this lack of progress; I know that I am. On the existing data, 11 targets are now not on track and four are on track. The one that really concerns me, where the statistics have gone backwards slightly, is the healthy birth weight of babies. It has gone backwards and this is a major concern when you think about all the things that need to sit underneath a baby being born at a healthy birth weight. It is not good enough, and I know everyone in this House agrees with that.

We do need to do things differently. That means listening to communities about the solutions that work best for them. It's not about what we think as politicians and it's not about what bureaucrats think. We need to listen to what communities are actually saying.

The Closing the Gap implementation plan launched last month is a practical way forward. It lays out a plan for us to achieve the targets and priority reforms set out in the national agreement. It includes more than $400 million for additional spending by this government for safe and reliable water supply, better buildings in remote housing, improving food security and boosting family violence prevention legal service providers, which I know the Leader of the Opposition is most concerned about. One bright spark is that the Northern Territory police have advised that violence related activities have fallen by 30 per cent, and so has domestic violence, since the implementation of the alcohol restrictions in the Northern Territory.