Kevin Rudd

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Today Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered his "closing the gap" report in parliament on the state of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples' health and wellbeing. We think it would be useful for us all to take a break from the statistics and consider some fundamental questions.

Numbers and targets are important when it comes to addressing need but we often forget that sound policy comes from sound principles and motivations. In terms of national policy we began this journey to "close the gap" as a result of the national apology to the stolen generations: an apology whose second anniversary occurs on Saturday. We began well, with good intent and fine words but we appear to be stuck. For example, instead of celebrating the national apology on Saturday, some Aboriginal groups and their supporters are protesting against the state of the ongoing Northern Territory emergency intervention and its non-compliance with principles of fairness and human rights.

The road to "closing the gap" has many potholes and detours. Our vehicle, designed by government bureaucracy rather than Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, is running out of petrol because it is not fuel efficient. We having difficulties reading the roadmap and are beginning to suspect it is either only half-completed or for a different part of the country. We have lost direction. The car has broken down. The problem is that to close the health and wellbeing gap we first need to "close the gap" in our imagination. We need to imagine an Australia that embraces the First Peoples of the land and respects their rights and celebrates their cultures and communities. We need a vision for the future to guide our efforts.

That is not to say that we haven't had moments when something like "vision" has broken into the public arena, shedding light on some of the darker corners of our national psyche. Former prime minister Paul Keating's Redfern speech and the national apology were such...
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