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Date posted: 6 March 2014
WA's Indigenous person of the year, Ian Trust, says the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians will not be closed without 'radical' action.
Mr Trust, who is seeking State and Federal government support for a potentially groundbreaking welfare reform program in the East Kimberley, said the lack of progress in eradicating Indigenous disadvantage showed conventional thinking had not worked.
'We have to do something we haven't done in the past 40 years,' he said. 'I think we have to do something radical.'
Mr Trust's comments came after the release of the Federal Government's latest Closing the Gap report, which showed mixed results. Targets to halve the gap in child mortality and for Year 12 attainment were on track, but progress on employment and life expectancy was less successful.
The Mr Trust-chaired Wunan Foundation, wants to trial a program in Halls Creek that would allow a panel of community leaders to reward or penalise residents based on whether they met certain responsibilities, such as school attendance and paying rent. If successful in Halls Creek, the program, a WA-first dubbed Living change, could be rolled out to other remote communities.
Although it has in-principle State Government support, some elements of the program are yet to be agreed to, most significantly whether the community panel would be a statutory body with power over income management.
WA Aboriginal Affairs Minister Peter Collier stated 'The WA Government is committed to improving economic, environmental and social benefits to Aboriginal people. That's why we have committed significant resources to planning for the Living change program.'
Source: The West Australian