Recently the 2015 Closing the Gap report was presented to the Australian Parliament. This report compiles data on indigenous Australians’ current situation in relation to their health and well-being relative to a number of targets that have been set with the goal of closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

Why is this necessary in such a developed and wealthy country as Australia? History explains it to some extent. However it is difficult (and we will not try) to justify or explain any further than these facts and where the situation stands.

When the British colonized Australia in 1788, they set up their policies and laws under the premise of terra nullius (land without owners). To quote the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation: “The colonisers acknowledged the presence of Indigenous people but justified their land acquisition policies by saying the Aborigines were too primitive to be actual owners and sovereigns and that they had no readily identifiable hierarchy or political order which the British Government could recognise or negotiate with.”

So, moving forward, some changes have come about since then, such as the Mabo judgment in 1992 that overturned the terra nullius assertion. Also changes are currently being considered that would recognize Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the constitution.

The targets, and the progress against these in the Closing the Gap report, are as follows:

Where to go from here? Government policies have ranged vastly over the last 50 or so years, but only recently have targets been set. For one of the first times, there appears to be a real desire to engage with the indigenous people to collaboratively look at addressing these problems. But history suggests rhetoric is easy, actions much harder. In future pieces, we will try to look at how other countries have dealt with issues involving indigenous groups.

Deborah Cotton for Progress Through Business

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