Price of failure isn’t just money, it’s lives: Albanese

The Albanese government has released its blueprint to address Indigenous inequity.

The Albanese government has released its blueprint to address Indigenous inequity. Photo: AAP

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has promised to drive cultural change across all levels of government to help address entrenched Indigenous inequality.

The government tabled its blueprint to address Indigenous inequity on Tuesday, when they presented the Commonwealth’s Closing the Gap annual report 2023 and implementation plan 2024 to the parliament.

“The price of failure over successive governments isn’t just counted in dollars, it’s measured in lives,” Mr Albanese said.

The prime minister announced several new programs and initiatives, including a new national First Nations children’s commissioner, a remote jobs program, wifi upgrades for remote areas and real time reporting on deaths in custody.

Last Wednesday the Productivity Commission published a damning review of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, calling for a radical shift by all governments because they’ve failed to fully grasp the nature and scale of change required to meet their obligations.

Albanese pledged to take the commission’s recommendation seriously and drive power-sharing arrangements with Indigenous communities and organisations, saying that to Close the Gap First Nations voices needed to be listened to.

“Not every community-driven initiative will be an overnight success,” he said.

“But we know that we cannot just keep doing things the same way.”

The national agreement was signed by the Commonwealth, all states and territories and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations in 2020 to address entrenched inequality.

It is built around four Priority Reforms regarding transforming the way governments work with Indigenous people to improve outcomes and includes 19 socioeconomic targets.

Only 11 of the targets are on track to be met, Albanese conceded.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton agreed with Albanese that a new approach to Indigenous policy was needed and repeated his calls for a royal commission into child sexual abuse in remote communities, a proposal that has been condemned previously by First Nations and children’s advocates as racist and unnecessary.

Dutton again called for an audit of Indigenous spending.

“We know that, again, despite some of the prime minister’s earlier remarks that many Indigenous voices are involved in program design and service delivery,” he said.

“In some of those programs they have achieved significant success, in other programs they have not, the reason for most of this is because most governments either have not undertaken or not published the expenditure reviews that they agreed to undertake.

“Billions of dollars over many decades have not translated into the outcomes that Indigenous Australians deserve.

“Any more bureaucracy and more bottlenecks will prevent the money going where it’s needed most.”

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney said the $707 million investment in a new remote jobs program was the first step in delivering on the government’s commitment to replace the coalition’s Community Development Program, a controversial work-for-the-dole program that targeted Indigenous people in remote communities.

She said the new program would let communities decide what jobs were created – such as community services and the care sector, hospitality and tourism, horticulture and retail – and it was designed to help build the remote workforce and reduce the reliance on fly-in, fly-out workers.

“People in remote communities should have access to the benefits and dignity of work – for themselves, their families and the next generation.”

Burney said it was about putting communities in the driver’s seat to create local jobs and businesses.

“Rates of unemployment in remote communities are unacceptable and this is the first step in turning that around.”

Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations acting convenor Catherine Liddle said it was pleasing the government acknowledged the importance of involving Indigenous people and organisations in decision-making.

“The focus of the National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap is shared-decision making and equal partnership, so we look forward to playing a strong role in designing what a future remote employment program looks like,” she said.


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