Wednesday, 8 March 2023
Closing the Gap, National Apology to the Stolen Generations: 15th Anniversary
I would like to take this moment to recognise that it has been 15 years since the National Apology to the Stolen Generations. I would also like to acknowledge the current neglected generation who are being left to languish in dysfunctional circumstances because of their race, which, I believe, is an absolute crime. The rights of Indigenous children in this country are being left in dysfunctional circumstances because of their race. I also acknowledge the Indigenous voices in parliament. My colleague who spoke before me has had a long career as an Indigenous voice in parliament, and to parliament prior to that.
Fifteen years ago, in his apology, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called for a future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity. He called for a future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners with equal opportunities with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.
Just 15 years later, the new Labor government seeks to divide us. The new Labor government doesn't want us to be equal. They don't want is to be equal partners. They don't want us to have equal opportunities. They don't want us united with an equal stake in shaping our future. They want us constitutionally divided by race. They want to give one group, based on nothing but their differences, special privileges to stall, to halt, to hinder the work of governments if they don't like what they're trying to do.
This is not how you close the gap. This is how you increase the gap. This is how you open up a new one. This is how you open up the gap between the Aboriginal industry, the professional activist class and the vulnerable Australians living in remote and rural communities across Australia, out of sight and out of mind to Canberra. This is how we open the gap between the middle class and elite Aboriginal Australians in the cities and the marginalised Aboriginal Australians in remote communities.
Two years ago, during my tenure as the Director of Indigenous Research for the Centre for Independent Studies, our research uncovered where the gap truly exists. The gap does not exist between Indigenous Australia and everybody else; it exists between those in remote communities whose first language is not English, who still live by their traditional culture, who are out of sight and out of mind to places like Canberra and everyone else, including urban Aboriginal Australians, who, in the major cities and towns, have access to services and have better educational outcomes and health outcomes. That is where the gap truly exists. That is where the focus should be, not suggesting all Aboriginal people are disadvantaged because of their race. I would consider that a racist concept.
In my report, I highlighted that the approach that has governed Indigenous affairs for a number of years, focusing on symbolic gestures and separatist thinking behind the Voice to Parliament, is not working. Now, what has changed? The separatist thinking behind the Voice has gotten stronger. The call to give the divisive politicians' Voice more teeth has gotten louder. The push for division has gotten stronger. If the Aboriginal industry, comprising of service providers, bureaucrats, academics and politicians, is truly serious about closing the gap, then it must be prepared to no longer exist and ween itself off the millions of taxpayer dollars it relies upon to exist. Only then will the gap truly have been closed. The Voice does not seek to do this. The Voice seeks to constitutionally enshrine the gap, because a voice suggests we will always be disadvantaged as a matter of our racial heritage. It's such a shame. If this government is serious about closing the gap, it will not widen it by continuing this push for a divisive, dangerous and costly politicians' Voice. It will move away from the ideological race-based thinking and it will look for real solutions to real problems and treat all Australians equally, regardless of racial heritage.