SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia is on track to meet just two of its targets aimed at improving the lives of its Indigenous people, including increasing life expectancy and improving literacy, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday.
FILE PHOTO: Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York City, New York, U.S., September 25, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
In 2007, Australia introduced seven targets designed to address inequalities that see the country’s 700,000 Indigenous people track near the bottom of its 25 million citizens in almost every economic and social indicator.
But Morrison on Tuesday said Australia’s government is policy is failing and will be replaced.
“We perpetuated an ingrained way of thinking passed down over two centuries and more, and it was the belief that we knew better than our Indigenous peoples. We don’t,” Morrison told Australia’s Parliament.
“We also thought we understood their problems better than they did. We don’t. They live them. We must see the gap we wish to close, not from our viewpoints, but from the viewpoint of Indigenous Australians.”
Morrison said new Indigenous polices will be designed following consultation with its first people, with whom Australia has struggled to reconcile following hundreds of years of brutal segregation.
Indigenous Australians arrived on the continent at least 50,000 years before British colonists but are not recognized in the national constitution.
According to the annual report, literacy rates for Indigenous students are 20% are behind the national benchmark, child mortality is more than double that for non-Indigenous children, while unemployment in the Indigenous population is more than 25% higher than the rest of the country.
“There is more than just a gap, it is a chasm, a gaping wound on the soul of our nation,” said Pat Turner, chief executive officer at the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.
“Collectively, we need to call this out, be truthful about the failure of governments and how we got here, so that we can chart a new and honest way forward.”
Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Lincoln Feast.