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Opportunities lost

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February 12, 2018

Rumbalara acting chief executive Justin Mohamed said he had been disappointed about progress with the initiative in the past decade, but said it was something that should not be given up on.

The executive of Greater Shepparton’s leading indigenous co-operative has urged the government not to abandon existing Closing the Gap initiatives, echoing the views of more than 60 prominent indigenous Australians.

Rumbalara acting chief executive Justin Mohamed said he had been disappointed about progress with the initiative in the past decade, but said it was something that should not be given up on.

A Close the Gap steering committee review found last year that only one of seven key measures was on track.

Mr Mohamed said opportunities had been missed and the issues facing indigenous Australians largely pushed aside.

‘‘Opportunities have been lost, the focus was lost and there was too much red tape. Bureaucracy got in the way of things on the ground, there’s a whole lot of reasons as to why we haven’t done it,’’ Mr Mohamed said.

‘‘Overall we’re really struggling and I think that does sound alarm bells for government, community and others that work in this field, that we need to look at this in another way, and have more of a long-term focus across the years.’’

More than 60 prominent indigenous delegates from each state and territory attended a special meeting in Canberra last week to review the goals.

In a statement, the delegates said the decade-old goals needed to be reviewed and retained, with a renewed focus on eliminating racism and discrimination, justice, culture and language, economic development, housing and trans-generational trauma.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is set to deliver an update on the existing targets today.

Mr Mohamed said he hoped governments learned from the past and the results were not repeated in another decade.

‘‘A major issue that needs to be addressed is the fact that we need really strong, consistent leadership, because that leadership at the top has been really mixed,’’ Mr Mohamed said.

‘‘There’s been a lot of work over 10 years that hasn’t been acted on, we don’t have time to say let’s start again, let’s implement what’s on the table, let’s move forward, but at a faster rate than what we have.’’

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