AS the country recognises National Close the Gap Day today, Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has warned indigenous disadvantage is rife in regional Australia and not just in remote communities.
In a speech to Federal Parliament recently Mr Chester endorsed the “building blocks of the Closing the Gap initiative” but focused his attention on the “gap in Aboriginal participation in the social and civic life of our communities”, arguing “the relationship of most white Australians with Aboriginal people does not really extend beyond the abstract”.
Relaying his own family links which saw him form friendships with many local Aboriginal people, Mr Chester encouraged people to “extend the hand of friendship beyond the grand speeches we might make…”
Meanwhile the National Rural Health Alliance called for continued work towards closing the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and others in Australia, claiming that work should remain a “national priority”.
The National Mental Health Commission also called on the Council of Australian Governments to prioritise “improving the mental well being of” indigenous communities by including mental health as an additional target in the Closing the Gap program.