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Wednesday, 20 February 2019
Page: 14228

Mr GOSLING (Solomon) (12:51): It was fantastic to hear that contribution from the member for Ballarat and shadow minister for health. I know that she absolutely means it. I also want to recognise the significant work that the member for Lingiari, Warren Snowdon, has been doing in Indigenous health over decades. That knowledge is going to be very important in the future. He has seen about a decade of Closing the gap reports and there hasn't been much good news. Unfortunately, there have been some failed policy responses. Having been in the Territory around the time of the intervention, I know that a lot that occurred then totally undercut the principle of empowering people and giving them ownership over the direction of their lives and their families' lives. At the moment, I think we can see some examples in the fact that those opposites seem determined to keep justice targets out of the Closing the Gap formula. I think that is a mistake. You need only look at the incredible rates of incarceration of First Nations people in our country to realise there is something really wrong that needs to be addressed.

I have been part of a team that has been working on policy for many years in preparation for government. Obviously, I hope we get the opportunity to address some of those policy responses that are clearly failing. One thing I will mention is the failed Community Development Program of the current Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Scullion, who is also from the Northern Territory. I note that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the Northern Territory, Selena Uibo, a brilliant young woman, a very talented, passionate and grounded young woman, has written to the Prime Minister in relation to that failed program. Unfortunately, what we have seen with the CDP is that it is absolutely driving poverty in First Nations communities.

As the member for Wentworth said, when quoting John Paterson, whom I know well from the alliance of Aboriginal controlled organisations in the Northern Territory, kids won't go to school or be able to learn anything when they're hungry, when they've got empty stomachs. We're failing at that very base level. We've also seen, due to this poverty, an increase in break-and-enters to steal food. That's in the lucky country, our country, Australia. Poverty is driving break-and-enters for food. Predominantly, this has been by young people, children. Often in my electorate in the Top End, people say, 'Why aren't those kids at school?' Sometimes it's because they're out looking for a feed. Sure, this situation has been primarily due to alcohol in some First Nations families. There has been breakdown in some First Nations families, which means that their kids haven't got the supervision or support they need—in some First Nations families, I stress. But we shouldn't have a situation in our country where young people are basically being forced to seek food because there's no food in the house.

We've also seen an increase in domestic and family violence. We've seen an increase in financial coercion and family fighting. We've seen an increase in mental health problems: feelings of shame, depression and sleep deprivation. In many cases it's due to hunger. When you've got the head of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation in the Northern Territory—an organisation which the member for Ballarat just mentioned as being so vital to us closing the gap—saying that this hunger thing is a real issue, we're listening. Everyone should be listening.

We need a federal government that will help the Northern Territory break these cycles of hunger and crime. Of course, the victims of crime need and deserve justice; but, at the same time, we cannot do what has been happening over the last few years of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments, whether it be policy laziness or whether it be just not seeking the right advice from the experts, the Aboriginal leaders in the communities. We haven't been going in the direction which we need to go in. It seems like the can keeps being kicked down the road and somehow we're just expecting that the situation is going to change. We won't see any change until we're listening—as we are committed to do on this side—to Aboriginal leaders and Aboriginal communities. I congratulate Selena Uibo, the new Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. She's going to do a fantastic job, and she already is. She has been on the front foot to outline the failures in the current policies.

In the time remaining, I want to congratulate Timmy Duggan from my electorate for being chosen to lead new leadership courses through the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre, which is headquartered here in Canberra but is now doing programs in Darwin. I know Timmy Duggan well. He's a champion sportsman and he's a great leader. He invited me to join him at Don Dale. A lot of people have heard about Don Dale. He runs a basketball program there on weekends. I went along with Timmy to talk with these kids who have been incarcerated about what they want their futures to be and what hope they see. What Timmy said to me was absolutely backed up by these kids on the ground. These young kids genuinely want to upskill and learn for real jobs in the future. Real jobs are what's needed. Aboriginal people want to upskill, they want to learn, and we should give them every opportunity to do that. I commend the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre for starting programs with Timmy Duggan in Darwin, in my electorate. I look forward to working with him and assisting him in that work.

We need to back the people who are working with young people and keep young people out of the criminal justice system whenever possible. We need to work with communities to see what they think is going to work for their young people. When we listen to that advice, as we have with the voice, we will do better and we will start to close the gap. Everyone, I think, regrets the slow progress in closing the gap on many of those targets. I say again that having justice targets within this framework is really important, because we cannot allow the current situation to continue where our First Nations people are incarcerated, sometimes for not paying fines that really shouldn't— (Time expired)

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