There is a part of the Uluru Statement from the Heart that states:
“Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are aliened from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.”
First Nations families want the same things for their children as we all do. A healthy and happy child – with opportunities to thrive now and into their future.
But First Nations children are falling through the cracks. They are face big and unique challenges – they are more likely to die at birth, live shorter lives and have higher rates of mental illness.
As much as we’ve tried, there are more First Nations people committing suicide, more First Nations people in prison, more First Nations children in out of home care.
First Nations children don’t start school on the same footing as their non-indigenous peers.
This is shameful and simply not good enough.
In so many ways, we’re failing these precious children. These same children are set to benefit the most from a Voice to Parliament.
Australia is a lucky country, full of caring people with good intentions and good will, we all want to improve outcomes for First Nations children – the grim fact is we are going backwards.
On October 14, as we head to the polls to vote at the referendum, we have an opportunity to create change.
Commonsense tells us that when you listen to people and ask them what they need you get better results.
We know listening works – because we have proof.
The Connected Beginnings program is an excellent example of what can be achieved when you listen to the community.
The program helps Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children access services in early childhood including education, health, and family supports – ensuring children are safe, healthy and ready to thrive at school.
Because First Nations communities are involved in the program, we’ve seen more First Nations children in early childhood education and care – which means they are better prepared for school and better prepared for life.
Quality early childhood education provides benefits throughout a child’s life, from improved education, health and wellbeing outcomes, even to how much they earn as an adult later in life.
It’s impossible to overstate just how vital those first five years of a child life are – if we get them right, we can transform a child’s life and help them overcome disadvantage.
Right here in Kalgoorlie, the Connected Beginnings program is helping almost 300 local First Nations children get the best start to life by partnering with the Ngunytju Tjitji Pirni Aboriginal Corporation.
Last year the program helped Ngunytju Tjitji Pirni Aboriginal Corporation re-open their community-led family hub after an eight-year closure.
This is one program that’s helping to close the gap.
It’s working because it’s being delivered in partnership with local First Nations communities.
Imagine what we could achieve right across Australia if we apply that simple and proven approach of listening to First Nations communities on the matters that impact them.
That’s exactly what the Voice is about – recognition and listening.
Recognition of 65,000 years of culture and tradition.
And listening for better results – just like Connected Beginnings.
This article was first published in the Kalgoorlie Miner on Saturday, 16 September 2023.