Author Shayne Rawson is a proud First Nation Australian and a valued member of the PHaM’s Team at CHESS. Shayne works closely with his community to provide cross cultural awareness and to help support people living with mental health issues. We asked Shayne to share his perspective with us on National Closing the Gap Day. This is Shayne’s unedited and personal point of view.

My first thoughts are that many of the current detrimental social and health issues (particularly mental health) that First Nation Australians experience are the result of European colonisation and poor policies of governments since. Sure we did not have some of the modern social and medical systems before colonisation, but we still, for the most part, lived happy, healthy lives. The other important consideration that comes to mind, is that there was much more equality in how members of our communities and society were given status and provided health treatment. Today, you often need to have money, to gain status by being seen as providing financial contributions to society and to afford quality health services. I think the need to address this is probably the motivation behind the “Closing The Gap” program.

The “Closing The Gap” program has been successful in some areas (e.g. the CHESS Reconciliation Action Plan), but clearly unsuccessful in some critical areas. There are many reasons for this (not just financial and social), but I think it is mainly because to really close the gap, Australia needs to own its history, acknowledge the wrongs done to First Nation Australians and provide us a proper and rightful place in our present day communities and society. Only when this is done will real change occur. Hints as to how such change could bring about positive results can be gleaned from looking at the successful initiatives made by First Nation Australians ourselves. Giving us the ability to instigate our own culturally appropriate initiatives has demonstrated that these initiatives prove to be the most beneficial. Not just for us, but for all Australians.

On a positive note, I was recently inspired when watching a show hosted by Ray Martin (a descendant of the Gamilaroi Nation). The show was in relation to “Race Week” titled “Is Australia Racist?” The show informed that latest statistics from surveys taken, show that First Nation Australians are no longer the ones that experience the greatest amount of racial vilification. This is good, for as long as I can remember, we always seemed to be the ones at the bottom of the ladder of social acceptance. Unfortunately there are others that now seem to have taken our place (e.g. Muslims). I really believe that once we are given a proper and rightful place in our present day communities and society that all the communities that are part of this great nation we now call Australia will also be given the respect that they are rightfully due. This is what I mean by: “not just for us, but for all Australians”.

Key Statistics from the 2017 ‘Close the Gap’ report:

  • The mortality rate for First Nation Australians is 1.7 times that of the general population, and that hasn’t changed since 1998.
  • There has been no significant decline in child mortality rates since 2008
  • Indigenous women have made significant progress in employment since the 1990s, but the overall Indigenous
    employment rate has fallen since 2008, as has the non-Indigenous employment rate.
  • All states have seen increases in the percentage of Indigenous students finishing year 12, however, Indigenous teens still lag behind in numeracy and literacy

Source: ABC News

Thank you to artist Danielle Gorogo for permission to use her original artwork Coloured Strands