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Wednesday, 16 June 2010
Page: 5656

Mr CHESTER (4:45 PM) —My question is fairly general in nature. It relates to my contention that the regional or urban Indigenous experience is not much better than the remote Indigenous experience in many cases. There is a lot of newspaper coverage about the Northern Territory and about remote locations, and the discussion here today has tended to focus on those areas too. I would argue that it is also a problem in many regional Victorian towns in my electorate, including Morwell, Bairnsdale, Lakes Entrance and Lake Tyers Beach. I know the member beside me would know about problems in Shepparton and towns like that. Problems associated with substance abuse, with domestic violence and with lack of participation in the education system, leading to poor health outcomes and low participation in full-time employment, are significant issues in urban and regional Indigenous experience, and I do not think we focus on that in this place as much as we should.

I think the key to the future for our young Indigenous people is going to come through education, from early childhood onwards, through access to better health care and through the decency of having a real job at the end of it all. While there are pockets of excellence in my electorate—people working very hard and achieving some great things—the disadvantage is still very pronounced.

I would like to know whether, within the budget papers, there are measures focusing on the regional or urban Indigenous experience. Is there an acknowledgement by the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs of the enormity of the problems we face in regional towns in Victoria? I would be interested to know if there are any programs the minister is considering or if there are ways for my community to engage with the minister’s office to make sure that local solutions are being put forward that can actually deliver outcomes for us in the Gippsland region.