“We have now mastered the same language that was once used against us – describing us as barbaric and savage – and we have empowered ourselves to tell our stories, in our styles, for our people.”
The Close the Gap Policy 2016 greatly silences the Indigenous population and institutionalised racism. The focus on socio-economic disadvantage and the policy’s continuous insistence on sameness in the supposedly “egalitarian country” that is Australia (Closing the Gap: Prime Ministers Report; 2016; 3) disregard institutionalised racism which greatly affects Indigenous Australians as exemplified by the disproportionate representation of Indigenous Australians in incarceration. More so, while the policy continuously highlights the importance of government partnership with Indigenous population, there is a significant lack of Indigenous voices in the policy largely due to the closing of ATSIC (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission) in 2005 (Strakosch; 2015).
While, the policy succeeds in acquiring bipartisan support and upholding the neoliberal ideals that dominate policy today, in terms of actually addressing the fundamental issues that pertain to the Indigenous community, this policy, likes its predecessors, has failed dramatically. In focusing on socio-economic disadvantage and erasing institutionalised racism and the Indigenous community’s perspective, this policy fails to address the true issues of inequality in Australia. The focus on “reconciliation” through symbolic means such as constitutional recognition (Closing the Gap: Prime Ministers Report; 2016; 21) masks the policy’s reluctance to grant self-determination. By creating a policy based on assumptions that value neoliberalism and assimilation, this policy has failed to provide the necessary remedies to an issue that has been prevalent since the foundation of Australia as a nation. In an effort to reach “equality” in the socio-economic spectrum, this policy has chosen to silence other fields such as the justice and mental health fields. Additionally, by failing to rightfully give the Indigenous community a voice, this policy has succeeded in treating the symptoms of Indigenous disadvantage but not the cause. For any true and meaningful change to occur, Indigenous policy must be developed with Indigenous Australians and not merely for them.