Failure to close the gap is proof of need for Indigenous voice

The establishment of an Indigenous voice to parliament would help address key problems outlined in a 10-year review of the Closing the Gap strategy, says Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine.

Reconciliation Australia echoes calls for the Federal Government to reset its approach to closing the gap in health outcomes, as outlined in a Close the Gap Campaign report released today.

The review found that the government’s failure to base their policies on meaningful consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is a core reason why the strategy failed to significantly improve health outcomes.

The Referendum Council last year proposed a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament as a mechanism that would empower Indigenous people to have a voice on laws and policies that affect them.

The proposal was rejected by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who said it would fail at a referendum – despite polling showing it had support.

Ms Mundine said the review provides further evidence of what the Uluru Statement outlined last year – that there is a need for structural reform to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices are heard.

“This is about more than setting targets. We need a structural solution to a structural problem,” she said.

“It’s well known and accepted that a major contributor to policy failure is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are left out of the design and decision-making process.”

Ms Mundine welcomed the government’s planned overhaul of the Closing the Gap strategy, saying it offers a crucial opportunity to reset the relationship and work in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“This is precisely what the Uluru Statement was calling for and why the Referendum Council put forward its singular constitutional recommendation for an Indigenous voice to parliament. Because progress is contingent upon governments and policy-makers listening to and engaging with Indigenous people and organisations on issues that directly affect their lives,” she said.

“It’s promising to see the Federal Government’s discussion paper emphasise a strengths-based approach that will empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to make key decisions.

“We know this approach is key to making real progress and we are eager to see this sentiment backed up in practice.”

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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