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Wednesday, 30 November 2022
Page: 2601


Senator McCARTHY (Northern TerritoryAssistant Minister for Indigenous Australians and Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health) (16:52): I rise to speak to the report tabled today, in 2022. It's clearly deeply frustrating, as we've heard from Minister Burney and my colleague Senator Dodson. But I want to use this time to reach out those people across this country who do so much each and every single day in all of these areas that we have the targets for Closing the Gap.

Let's talk about our children. To the woman who intervened in the life of her own son and his five children and knew that if she didn't step in to take those children herself then they too would be removed into the care of the system that so many First Nations people dread, the system of welfare and the system that removes children, as we've seen with stolen generations—and redress now—the system that still drives a lot of fear in the hearts of many mothers. To the woman who stepped into that intervention and worked with her other son to take those five children and to try and care for them. She still struggles, and her story is emulated across the country, but she did it because she did not want her grandchildren to be part of these statistics.

To the grandmother who knew that her grandbabies were with foster carers and those foster carers, in the community, had raised those babies for about three or four years. The foster carers now, after nearly five years, want to return to where they come from, after living in the community and teaching in the community and caring for so many children there. They've asked to be able to take those children so that they can care for them interstate. So the grandmothers had a meeting and a gathering to talk about what this means for these children and the kinship care. How will they still understand culture? How will they still understand their language and know that they are so deeply loved but just cannot be cared for? That was an important step in the self-determination of those grandmothers, who had known that this was going to be the best way for their grandbabies, so that those children will come back and forwards knowing where they come from in an environment of love.

To those health workers, health practitioners right across Australia, to many of you whom I've met in my short time in the ministry as assistant minister in Indigenous health, we have a terrific opportunity to move even harder on improving these statistics. I am ever so conscious that this is the first time I'm speaking to this report from government. I am ever so conscious that I stand with my colleagues in government to try to improve the lives of First Nations people through the Closing the gap report. I do thank the parliament of Australia for the many, many years that we have had Closing the Gap—not because I'm proud of any of the reports or the statistics, but because you continuously shine a light on what we know out there in our communities still desperately needs this parliament to never forget. That is to improve the lives of the most vulnerable. We fumble about it in our very imperfect ways, but I do believe there is a genuine desire to make sure these statistics get lower and lower each year.

As the minister for Indigenous health, I say to all those in the health sector out there, I am heartened by the fact that we can move now on the renal dialysis units; on the 500 health practitioners that we want to employ in these positions across the country; on the fact that we're going to focus on rheumatic heart disease and really try to eliminate this scourge. I do hope the next time I stand on my feet here I can have something really strong to say. Thank you.

Question agreed to.