Today is National Close the Gap Day – a significant day for all Australians, but it holds particular poignancy for First Nations people. It is a stark reminder of the harsh realities that First Nations people face in this country since colonisation.
The Close the Gap targets released each year by the Federal Government were supposed to change all this, but last year’s report – the 12th – showed little progress had been made after more than a decade. Only two of the seven target categories were on track to be met.
There is growing awareness that past efforts to the close the gap failed because of a lack of consideration of First Nations Peoples’ agency, self-determination and needs.
It might seem like an obvious position to take, asking the people you are trying to help, what they need, but that’s long been dismissed as an appropriate path to take by successive governments at both state and federal levels.
In Victoria, we are pursuing a path to Treaty, which is an opportunity for Aboriginal people to be truly consulted as equals on what they need, in a way that’s been avoided since colonisation.
If the Federal Government truly wants to give First Nations people in Australia their voice, empower them to devise solutions for the problems that have beset them since colonisation then a voice to parliament, a nation-wide Treaty and truth-telling process would be great steps forward.