Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard yesterday urged Aborigines to take more responsibility for improving their notoriously poor living standards, saying government progress had been slow.
Gillard, presenting an annual report on Australia’s indigenous people, said it would be “extremely challenging” to meet the core target of markedly improving Aborigine life expectancy within a generation.
She stressed that deep cultural changes were needed “to break the cycle of blame between Australian governments and indigenous Australia,” adding that lives would only improve through greater “personal responsibility.”
Gillard unveiled the report three years after her predecessor, former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, made a historic apology to Aborigines for abuses suffered under successive -governments since white settlement began in 1788.
“Indigenous people know that when the child starts attending school, when the drinker stops abusing alcohol, when the adult takes the job that is there, then change begins,” she told parliament. “And indigenous people know these decisions are not made by governments. They are made by people.”
Gillard said Canberra was on track to meet two of six “ambitious” goals set in the 2008 apology to indigenous Australians, the nation’s most disadvantaged minority.
She expressed confidence that the gap would be halved in infant mortality for Aborigines by 2018 and that all four-year-olds in remote areas would have access to nursery education by 2013.
Aboriginal children are twice as likely to die before the age of five than children in the broader Australian community.