First Nations equality now more urgent than ever

First Nations equality now more urgent than ever

Media Release
First Nations

Failures in meeting some of the Government’s key Closing the Gap targets and in advancing the goals of the Uluru Statement from the Heart highlight that the need for First Nations people to achieve equality is now more urgent than ever. 

‘Now More Than Ever’ is the theme for this year’s National Reconciliation Week (27 May-3 June). 

‘St Vincent de Paul Society has a long history of both assisting and advocating on behalf of First Nations Australians,’ said the Society’s President, Mark Gaetani. 

‘A disproportionate number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people seek the Society’s assistance with essentials such as food, accommodation and other support. In the Northern Territory, this can exceed 90 per cent of those seeking help, while 50 per cent or more is not uncommon in many rural and regional areas. 

‘Our members are seeing how First Nations people are falling behind the rest of the population because of the inter-generational impacts of discrimination, social and economic exclusion and other factors.  

‘First Nations people continue to die prematurely at alarming rates, with suicides and other self-harming at disturbing and unacceptable levels. Early childhood development is well below the national average, while incarceration rates for both adults and juveniles are through the roof. Yet as the Uluru Statement says, “We're not an innately criminal people”. 

Mr Gaetani noted that the recent Federal Budget confirmed $2.4 billion over five years is allocated as part of the Closing the Gap Implementation Plan, along with a $4 billion partnership with the NT Government to address conditions and overcrowding in remote housing. 

‘However, much of the Closing the Gap data shows the problems are on a deeper and greater scale and that more decisive action needs to be taken, and urgently. St Vincent de Paul Society continues to call on all governments to properly fund and commit to achieving the Closing the Gap targets. 

‘We also call for the age of criminal responsibility to be raised to 14 years and for increased funding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and community-led programs that keep children safe. 

‘We believe real progress will not be made without significant joint investment by all parties, and coordinated effort from all jurisdictions, in partnership with First Nations peoples. It is vital that Aboriginal-led solutions drive the changes needed to improve outcomes. 

‘As the theme for this National Reconciliation Week says, Now More Than Ever is the time for everyone, not just governments, to take both practical and heartfelt steps towards creating a fairer Australia for First Nations peoples.  

‘This is indeed the time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.

'Around Australia, the Society’s people will be marking National Reconciliation Week with various gatherings and events fostering discussion and reflection on Australia’s history and on the many contributions made by First Nations people in all fields of our national life. 

‘The Uluru Statement concludes by inviting us to walk together in a movement of all Australian people for a better future. Let us accept that offer in the generous spirit with which it was made.’ 


The St Vincent de Paul Society in Australia consists of 45,000 members and volunteers who operate on the ground through over 1,000 groups located in local communities across the country.


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