On the 15th anniversary of its historic apology to Australia’s Stolen Generations, the government has announced a $292 million plan to address Indigenous disadvantage. The money will be spent in areas such as housing, food, education and water supplies.
In 2008, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized to First Nations people who had been forcibly removed from their families over successive generations until the early 1970s. The apology was an acknowledgement that successive governments had failed Indigenous Australians.
Fifteen years later, the center-left Labor government conceded that Australia needs to do much more to tackle disadvantage in First Nations communities.
The 2022 annual report on closing the gap between the health and well-being of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians found only limited progress had been made.
On Monday, the Canberra government released its new Closing the Gap Implementation Plan, which allocates $292 million to improve First Nations housing, education and water infrastructure and make food more affordable in remote areas.
Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. Monday that the funding will improve basic services.
“There are many communities — remote Aboriginal communities — in Australia that do not have clean drinking water, cannot have dialysis because the water is not clean enough for the dialysis machines despite the fact that renal failure is such an issue in our communities,” Burney said.
Indigenous Australians make up about 3% of Australia’s population of 25 million people.
First Nations history dates back an estimated 65,000 years, but campaigners insist that the impact of European colonization in the late 1800s was, and remains, catastrophic.
Community groups argue that the loss of customary land, discrimination and marginalization has left Aboriginal communities with disproportionately high rates of poverty, imprisonment and ill-health. On average, life expectancy for Indigenous Australians is about eight years less than for their non-Aboriginal counterparts.
Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians Malarndirri McCarthy told local media that the plan announced Monday would help "turn the tide" toward improving the lives of Australia's original inhabitants.