Friday, 30 October 2009

Culture strong and improvements welcome, but the gap remains wide

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma, has welcomed the release today of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey 2008 (NATSISS) by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Commissioner Calma said the improvements in time over a range of indicators were heartening but he cautioned that gaps still remained wide.

“The improvements are to be welcomed and I am particularly pleased to see significant increases in the numbers of Indigenous Australians who identified with a clan, language or tribal group,” Commissioner Calma said.

“It is also extremely good news to see that the rates for those speaking Indigenous languages have remained steady. Strong cultures and identity are vital to the future of Indigenous Australians and must be accepted as critical components in our efforts to close the gap.”

The NATSISS survey drew on responses from approximately 10,000 Indigenous Australians to provide a unique snapshot of the well-being of the Indigenous population by collecting invaluable information on Indigenous peoples’ educational attainment, work lives, health and cultural lives.

While welcoming the NATSISS survey results, Commissioner Calma said it was important to note there were many other sources of information about Indigenous Australia.

“Disappointingly, these other data sources don’t paint such a rosy picture,” he said.

“The NATSISS results are positive but I would caution Australian governments from ignoring other indications that show things are static or getting worse in some areas.

“For example, recently released figures on Indigenous imprisonment show these rates have increased in recent years above what were already record high rates.

“Nor does the survey give us much solace in terms of efforts to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia’s standard of living,” he said.

“Gaps across many indicators in terms of health, education and employment remain wide.

“Australian Governments should not become complacent,” he said.
“We must all keep our eye on the ball if these gaps are to be bridged within a generation.”

Media contact: Louise McDermott (02) 9284 9851 or 0419 258 597.