Australia adds $300 million in funding for Indigenous Pledge

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – Fifteen years after the Australian Parliament’s historic apology to its indigenous peoples for past mistakes, the government on Monday announced A$424 million ($293 million) in new funds to improve the lives of Australia’s original inhabitants.

In 2008, a newly elected centre-left Labor Party government apologized to the indigenous population for “laws and policies of successive parliaments and governments which have inflicted profound pain, suffering and loss on our fellow Australians”.

The focus of the apology was the so-called Stolen Generations – 100,000 children who were taken from Indigenous mothers under assimilation policies for most of the 20th century.

The apology was accompanied by an ambitious pledge to close the gap in life expectancies between Indigenous Australians and the wider population within a generation.

Key measures of disparities between indigenous and other populations were tracked annually in Closing the Gap Reports to identify and reduce a number of disadvantages. The report shows increasing gaps in some areas, including rising suicide and incarceration rates among indigenous people.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, whose Labor government was elected in May after nine years in opposition, he told parliament that the new funding reaffirms “Closing the gap as a priority for my government”.

Indigenous people, representing 3.2% of Australia’s population at the 2021 census, are the country’s most disadvantaged ethnic group. They die younger than other Australians, are less likely to be employed, achieve lower educational levels and are over-represented in the prison population.

“These are not gaps, these are chasms,” Albanese said of indigenous disadvantage measures.

In addition to AU$1.2 billion (US$830 million) in Indigenous spending announced in October, the new funding includes AU$150 million (US$104 million) over four years to provide clean water to Indigenous communities in the Outback.

AU$22 million (US$15 million) would be spent over five years to tackle family violence. Indigenous women and children are 34 times more likely to experience family and domestic violence than other Australians, the government said.

In the three years immediately before the apology and Close the Gap pledge, Indigenous men died 11.4 years earlier than the average Australian male and Indigenous women died 9.6 years younger than other Australian women, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

A decade later, that difference has shrunk to 8.6 years for men and 7.8 years for women, the department’s latest data show. Indigenous men have a life expectancy of 71 years and indigenous women 75 years.

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