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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2013 Week 4 Hansard (21 March) . . Page.. 1280..


National Close the Gap Day

MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo—Minister for Territory and Municipal Services, Minister for Corrections, Minister for Housing, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs and Minister for Ageing) (4.37): I would like to take the opportunity today as the ACT's Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs to recognise Australia's National Closing the Gap Day. As many of you are aware, since 2006 the closing the gap campaign has achieved an enormous amount, but, of course, there is always much more to do. The ACT government is committed to closing the gap between the life outcomes and opportunities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peers in Canberra and the surrounding region. This is a long-term process that requires commitment and regular review.

To achieve this, we must continue to focus on ongoing improvement measures and long-term financial investments to make a difference to the lives of Indigenous people. Genuine engagement and partnership with members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community in our city is vital to any real successes and has been raised pointedly in the various responses to the closing the gap reports.

Today we have a very diverse Indigenous community in Canberra with many achieving much better life outcomes than elsewhere in Australia. If we can assure that Australian and ACT government investment in areas such as early childhood development, health, housing, education and economic participation continues, much can be achieved over the coming years.

I would like to acknowledge Dr Bourke's role in developing the ACT's first ACT closing the gap report 2012. It showed the ACT context to closing the gap, identified the key outcomes and initiatives for the ACT government and highlighted the need for benchmarking and further review. In the near future the ACT will again review our progress towards closing the gap, and I look forward to exploring the triumphs and also acknowledging the challenges that may be presented in any subsequent local report.

As that first report noted, we have a range of programs and policies in place that are working towards this very important goal. One of the ACT government's steps towards closing the gap was the establishment in 2008 of the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body to provide a direct conduit between our city's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and the ACT government. Members of the body provide feedback, guidance and important advice around issues impacting community members in areas such as health, education, housing and justice, and I am certainly welcoming working with them, building a strong relationship and drawing on their support and advice.

The ACT is not immune to the disadvantages facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people around Australia, despite the relatively positive measures we have in the territory. In spite of this progress, it is still a sorry fact that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can expect to live shorter lives than other Australians—up to 20 years less in some cases. This is, of course, a deeply disturbing figure and one that


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