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Work still to be done on Closing the Gap

The Australian Greens said today they expected more from the Prime Minister in his first report back to Australia on Closing the Gap.

"This approach is a continuation of the Howard Government's approach to Aboriginal Issues. The Prime Minister's emphasis on personal responsibility, income management, false promises of more housing and tenure reform shows that yet again, the Government is clueless," said Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert today.

"The Prime Minister has said ‘We need people to take responsibility for changing their lives, and those of people around them. That is why we are trialling a program in six Northern Territory schools, in which welfare payments are conditional upon parents making sure their children attend school.'"

"How can the Prime Minister hold up the need for personal responsibility whilst also taking away people's ability to manage their own funds? How is forcing people onto income management helping people to take charge of their lives?"

"To make a real difference on Indigenous health we need to tackle the crucial social issues that determine poor health outcomes, particularly poverty and housing ... and we need to significantly increase funding in Aboriginal community health services," said Senator Siewert.

"The Government's commitment to 4,200 new homes, and upgrades to 4,800 existing homes is hollow given that no new houses are reported to have been built in the NT since the announcement of a co-ordinated effort to Close the Gap. Decent housing, sanitation and education are basic human rights that lead directly to improvements in other health-related areas, and should be key priorities in disadvantaged communities."

"With reports that alcohol abuse is still rife in prescribed areas in the Northern Territory, the current approach is clearly not working. In addition to not doing enough, unfortunately the Government has put in place policies that further disadvantage people, such as extension of the NT Intervention and welfare truancy trials."

"The Prime Minister must accept responsibility and provide good policy direction and resources to achieve its aims," she concluded.

For more information or media enquiries please call Tim Norton on 0418 401 180

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