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Thursday, 27 May 2004
Page: 29413

Ms GRIERSON (4:34 PM) —Today I rise to register my continuing support for Indigenous Australians and pay my respects to them as the original owners and carers of this land we share. For them this is a special week which celebrates our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people—a people who enrich the identity of this nation and did so long before the `birthplace' came about that the previous member mentioned in his speech. But I must also register my disappointment for them and for this nation that today, on the 37th anniversary of the referendum that granted Indigenous Australians formal recognition as our citizens with the support of 91 per cent of voters, we also see this racist government presenting for introduction into the House a bill to abolish ATSIC.

There is no sensitivity there and apparently no spirit of reconciliation either. And more importantly, there is no apology to Indigenous people that, on every indicator of quality of life and socioeconomic status measure for Indigenous people, this government over eight years through the departments it administers has failed to achieve significant progress of any kind. What a blight on the human rights and social justice history of this place. But, of course, this `blame everyone else' government would have us all believe that that failure is someone else's fault—obviously, it would think, the fault of Indigenous people themselves and, perhaps it would also purport, the fault of the peak body for Indigenous people, ATSIC.

It does not take too much conscience or knowledge to know that that is not true—just another white lie. The figures are shameful. I quote from the Social Justice Report 2003, and in doing so I pay tribute to Bill Jonas, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner of HREOC—a Worrimi man from my region—who presented this report. Let us look at some of those indicators. For Indigenous household income there was minimal increase. The increase in individual income was much less than the increase for non-Indigenous people. The employment participation rate was 54 per cent against 73 per cent for non-Indigenous people. The unemployment rate for Indigenous Australians is three times higher. In education, 69 per cent of Indigenous people are progressing to year 11 against 90 per cent of non-Indigenous people. Home ownership for Indigenous people is at 13 per cent as opposed to 40 per cent for non-Indigenous people.

Indigenous people make up 20 per cent of the total prison population. If you are an Indigenous Australian, you have 16 times the chance of imprisonment than non-Indigenous people. Since 1997 Indigenous juveniles have made up 42 per cent of all incarcerated juveniles—and that rate has been consistent. Life expectancy for Indigenous females is 62.8 years. The life expectancy for Indigenous males, 56.3 years, shows a slight improvement, but I do not think the government will have to worry about aged care costs for Indigenous males. Indigenous babies have twice the chance of having a low birth weight, and the infant death rate is 2½ times greater than for non-Indigenous children.

It is sad to continue because, whilst for many people they might be just statistics, for Indigenous people they are the everyday, real life struggles and personal tragedies that they experience. It is their sons and daughters that those figures represent—it is their babies, their frustrated youth and their family members and leaders who are struck down in their prime.

So I would like to share some of the Indigenous success stories, particularly from the region of Newcastle and the Hunter, that have grown out of the efforts of Indigenous people. This week a rally was held on the forecourt lawns of Parliament House to celebrate the CDEP scheme—the employment schemes run by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people. In Newcastle Youloe-Ta, our local registered CDEP, is funded at present for 266 participants. It grew from Yarnteen, which was set up in 1993, and has continued to have outstanding outcomes.

One in particular was the success of Yarnteen, granted $100,000 from Microsoft USA—not from the Australian government—to network all CDEPs across New South Wales. It is an outstanding program. In our region it also has a registered training organisation at Yamalong, which is also a bush tucker tourist site of great renown and an education and conference centre. I always enjoy visiting Yamalong. When I do visit, I watch young people grow from lacking in confidence with their heads down to glowing with pride, especially when their families come along just to watch them. It is an outstanding achievement and I pay tribute to the Aboriginal people of the Hunter Region for their commitment, dedication and absolute determination to provide leadership and ongoing success for Indigenous Australians.