First Nations voices key to closing the gap

Partnerships and action on First Nations peoples advice are key to closing the gap.

Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine has warmly welcomed the Prime Minister’s renewed commitment to reconciliation and treaty-making during his speech to parliament this morning.

She acknowledged his admission that a new approach is needed after only 11 out of 19 socio- economic outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are improving and only four are on track to meet agreed targets.

“This is profoundly disappointing but not surprising given the Productivity Commission’s recent review of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap which found successive Governments had continued to adopt a ‘we know best” attitude and a “disregard” for the advice of First Nations communities and organisations,” Ms Mundine said.

“Governments must fundamentally reform the way they engage with First Nations peoples and value our lived experiences and expertise.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations must lead the design and implementation of the close the gap strategy if the targets are to be met.  

“It is a positive sign that the Prime Minister has listened to long-standing calls from the First Nations childcare sector and will appoint a National Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children,” she said.

Ms Mundine said that one of the key lessons learned by the reconciliation movement over the past decades is that relationships, respect, and listening were preconditions for success.

“At the heart of reconciliation is the need to build respectful relationships and listen to, and act on, the opinions, advice and expertise of First Nations people.

“Our Reconciliation Action Plan partners know this truth; that developing trusting relationships, that respecting First Nations peoples and cultures and acting on their expert opinions makes for better outcomes.

“Across Australia companies, sporting clubs and codes, cultural institutions and thousands of schools are experiencing the benefits that come from respect and reconciliation.”

“Acting on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander expert advice works and if we are to build a just and reconciled country, Governments must learn this truth,” said Ms Mundine.

Reconciliation Australia’s national survey, the Australian Reconciliation Barometer, found that most Australians agree that more should be done by governments to close the gap across health, education, justice, and employment.

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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