The annual Close the Gap report was delivered today in Canberra. Here's a snapshot of what some Indigenous leaders had to say.
By
Andrea Booth

Source:
NITV News
10 Feb 2016 - 3:52 PM  UPDATED 11 Feb 2016 - 9:30 AM

Mick Gooda, Social Justice Commissioner

Mick Gooda says he is reluctant to make judgment on comments from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten made Wednesday after the release of the 2016 Close the Gap report until he sees action.

"The Prime Minister has been quoted extensively in saying, 'Do things with us not to us'. Bill Shorten said exactly the same thing.

"We have heard these words before. We take them with good heart but there's got to be a carrying-out of that new relationship so I think we're entitled to be a little bit cynical about it until it starts happening." 

Mick Gooda says he can also see a general agreement between both leaders that incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the country is “an absolute national emergency” that needs addressing.

"The way to do that is to properly engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people." 

Jackie Huggins, National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples co-chair

Jackie Huggins says it is today’s generation that is responsible for closing the gap in inequality between Indigenous and other Australians.

“And given half the chance we'll be able to do that. We have incredible people on the ground working for us, our national health leadership forum in particular has done a wonderful partnership with government in terms of carrying on something that was started by the Labor Government and continues with this government now,” she says.

“We want programs, policies that are based to succeed and to really develop and to survive the election cycle because we can't go on three-year funding, the stop-start of cutting our budgets.”

She adds Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people “need more expenditure rather than less to overcome our issues”.

Nova Peris, Labor Senator

Nova Peris says Malcolm Turnbull and Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion need to improve upon the “disastrous Indigenous advancement strategy that we know that has left a lot of Aboriginal organisation destitute and in search of funding in the areas of health and also in the legal sector”.

She also said the high incarceration rates “we uphold in this country” are an “absolute disgrace.

“We walked free many years ago on this country, now all my mob are locked up.”

She criticised the government for failing to consult across the Indigenous sector.

“It's 2016, we need to move out of the shadows of government policy and we're calling on people to walk with us side by side and that's the way you make change.”

Ms Peris expressed she wants to see more Indigenous people in parliament.

“At our [Labor] national conference, we wanted direct action when it came to identifying and making more Aboriginal people want to put their hand up for parliament.

But she says it’s a challenge to provide support structures.

“I've always said it, you have to be in the ring to fight,” she adds.

Wayne Muir, National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Legal Services chairperson

Wayne Muir says he looks forward to seeing a Close the Gap target in justice and law.

“We call on both parties to support a COAG national target to reduce the levels of incarceration, child protection and of course a focus on family violence.

He says “therapeutic approaches” must be deployed to reduce incarceration of Indigenous people.

“It is about justice reinvestment and, as I think I heard Mr Shorten say, this isn't about being soft on crime, this is about creating safer communities and reducing the recidivism long-term.”

Dr Tom Calma, Kungarakan elder

Tom Calma stresses that governments can’t make progress in Indigenous affairs unless is done “with and by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”.

“It's about mutual respect and having the faith and confidence,” he says, referencing the development of the implementation plan for the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health plan led by the national health leadership forum with Rural Health Minister Fiona Nash.

“That's the type of real meaningful engagement that we need to see across all portfolios and in all areas to address the social determinants of health, to make sure that is where we go into the future.”

He says the high turnover of prime ministers and changes of secretaries in departments and bureaucrats and politicians for Indigenous affairs within the last 10 years has produced “turmoil, not in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, but in this Parliament House.”

Mr Calma called for it to be resolved to ensure a consistent policy approach and funding to “take us forward.”

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