Father Chris Riley on World Social Justice Day and closing the gap

World Social Justice day on 20 February is about promoting the peaceful and prosperous coexistence within and among nations. Following the 2015 Close The Gap report and the 2014 Budget measures, Tony Abbott and the Federal Government are not working toward social justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The report found the Government is yet to close the health, employment and education gap and is not on target to meet the 2018 goals. Health, employment and education are the most important indicators when you are trying to help people break free from the poverty cycle.

I implore the Government to reconsider the cuts to Aboriginal programs – introduced in the 2014 budget – especially the $160 million of cuts to health programs. This is essential, given that there has been no progress made on the life expectancy gap between 2006 and 2013. The other no-progress area was education, where literacy and numeracy rates for young Aboriginal people show little improvement.

At Youth Off The Streets, we tirelessly work toward improving Aboriginal education. Our ASPIRE program is where we offer culturally appropriate teaching strategies to Aboriginal students. The program works in partnership with Aboriginal Elders, local service providers, government departments and community members. Programs like this are still in a state of uncertainty as the cuts from the 2014 budget are unclear.

To truly celebrate World Social Justice day, Tony Abbott must reverse cuts to Aboriginal Health programs, continue to support Aboriginal education and make a lasting commitment to close the gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

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