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For all the political grandstanding, Tanya Riches goes to the heart of “Closing the Gap” – that it is more about non-Indigenous than Indigenous Australians.
It’s widely known overseas that Australia has a problem with racism.
Not in the sense of borrowing from other cultures through questionable new Australian music (aka Iggy Azalea)…but racist in the sense that we have competing stories about our nation, with one privileged, and therefore amplified at all levels of society.
The objection to the claim of racism occurs often because most Australians believe their problems are more complex than skin colour. But, quite frankly, pointing to the historical inequalities in our convict-built nation doesn’t get us off the hook for how we’re doing today.
There are a lot of people who bury their head in the sand and refuse to admit that Australia’s racism even exits. However, “Australia” narratives often fail to include the rich heritage and contribution of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
When Beyond Blue tried to address this in a recent ad campaign, BuzzFeed noted some immediately racist responses.
Researchers can prove that Australia’s racism exists, and have been measuring it in a series of reports titled Closing the Gap. It includes a range of statistics, but it isn’t just numbers. Closing the Gap measures “social exclusion,” or, in other words, quantifiable ways in which non-Indigenous Australians exclude Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
That’s not to suggest there aren’t brilliantly successful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. Not just Cathy Freeman, Mick Dodson, Samantha Harris and Gurrumul Yunupingu. Across all industries, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people excel.
Still, there is a long, long way to go.
And for whatever reason, most non-Indigenous Australians couldn’t give a flying toss about the first nations of Australia. The truth is, non-Indigenous Australians perpetuate the “entrenched and multigenerational disadvantage” cited today by Prime Minister Abbott.
It’s the least we can do to read the documents that measure how we’re doing.
And we’re doing pretty badly, it seems.