Each year for the past nine years, the Federal Government has presented a Closing the Gap report card to the nation.
This provides an update on the progress made on seven key measures intended to bring about social and economic parity between Parity for all is work in progressand other Australians.
The government recognises CTG strategies most likely to bring about this equality involves listening, hearing and learning from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities about what will work, looking to communities to develop local solutions, which will fit best with their unique needs rather than responding with a one-size-fits-all approach.
The government’s goal in relation to indigenous empowerment policy is twofold:
(1)To close the gap on the social and economic disadvantage of the indigenous Australians; and;
(2)To enable the cultural recognition and determination of indigenous Australians of the empowered communities so that they can preserve, maintain, renew and adapt their cultural and linguistic heritage and transmit it to their future generations.
The eight empowered community sites formed across Victoria agree that these two goals are to have equal attention.
The Goulburn Murray empowered community region spans across all towns located on Yorta Yorta land which includes Greater Shepparton and Echuca.
Paul Briggs, the regional leader for GMEC, is also the executive chair of Kaiela Institute in Shepparton.
Through the formation of the Algabonyah Community Cabinet, the GMEC, in consultation with Aboriginal families and communities from the region, have developed a “regional vision (that) sees our people achieve the same life choices and opportunities as others in the wider community while still acknowledging and celebrating our Aboriginal heritage’’.
This year, when delivering the Dungala Kaiela Oration from the margins to the mainstream: indigenous recovery in rural Australia in Shepparton, Professor Marcia Langton said Greater Shepparton had an opportunity to close the gap and reach equality targets sooner that any other rural region across Australia — an achievement Greater Shepparton could be truly proud of.
Associate Professor Jane Freemantle, senior data analyst at the Kaiela Institute, believes that education starting in the early years is possibly the most fundamental social determinant of health outcomes. ‘‘If we get this right, we will go a long way to closing the gap on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage,’’ she said.
Victorian Government funding has been provided to the Kaiela Institute to develop an annual report card that will inform the community, government and corporate sector about the community profile of Aboriginal people in the Goulburn Murray region.
The data unit will bring together and analyse census outcomes for the past three censuses and other administrative data relevant to Goulburn Murray Aboriginal families and communities. To this end, the Algabonyah Data Unit is preparing an annual report card that will include information based on a number of community-informed indicators that have been identified through community gatherings over the past two years. The annual report card will support the Kaiela Institute to track change in the Aboriginal community, inform decision-making and identify areas where more detailed research needs to be undertaken.
This will enable the local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to identify and assess progress in meeting goals and aspirations and to course correct as necessary.
The annual report card will be released at the end of this year.
An initiative that goes some way to contributing to closing the gap in education for students in Year 2 to 10 numeracy, literacy, reading and writing is the Gowola afterschool homework club set up by Mercy Access, ASHE and Rumbalara Football Netball Club.
ASHE students volunteer in this program.
Senior student services co-ordinator Corey Walker said that nationally, in the employment sphere, banks and corporate businesses such as Wesfarmers, which own and operate Bunnings, Coles, Kmart, Target and Officeworks, have developed reconciliation action plans in consultation with Aboriginal communities that are inclusive of employment strategies for indigenous community members, making the commitment to increase numbers of Aboriginal employees to reflect and relate to the communities in which they operate.