Senate debates

Thursday, 8 February 2024

Statements by Senators

Closing the Gap

1:44 pm

Photo of Jana StewartJana Stewart (Victoria, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The first review by the Productivity Commission into the progress of the Closing the Gap agreement was released this week. The review outlined the path forward for us in this place. That pathway requires a strong emphasis on self-determination, trust and power sharing with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Governments, including us in this place, must acknowledge and act on the reality that First Nations people know what is best for their communities.

I am very fortunate to come from a state with a long and proud history of achievement and excellence from First Nations people. I grew up surrounded by and learning from elders and Aboriginal leaders who paved the way in self-determination. Victoria now leads the nation in ensuring decision-making powers are in Aboriginal hands. I hope the success of my home state can be a model in the national conversation around Aboriginal affairs going forward. We must continue to build on the strength and resilience of First Nations people to achieve better outcomes.

The findings of the Productivity Commission's review and the promises made by government are not just simply words to me; this is my story, too. This is the story of my sons, my aunties, my uncles, my family and my community. It is the reason I stand here today and the reason I will continue to advocate for First Nations people. To my mob, I want to be clear: we hear you and we will continue to stand with you. As we shape future policy that will bridge the divide between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, I look forward to continuing the conversation that builds on our strength and resilience as a community together. After all, we are all accountable for delivering practical and lasting improvements for our First Nations people. This is not the end of the discussion.

When looking into the future, there is a responsibility on governments to do better. As commissioners Romlie Mokak and Natalie Siegel-Brown so accurately describe it:

We cannot afford to waste the opportunity that this Agreement presents.