Sorry state: 15 years after Rudd’s historic apology, some towns yet to get fresh water

Greater access to clean drinking water and support for domestic violence survivors are among the new measures to be funded under a $424 million plan to improve the wellbeing of Indigenous Australians.

Feb 13, 2023, updated Feb 13, 2023
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd following his history Apology speech. (File image)

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd following his history Apology speech. (File image)

Marking the 15th anniversary of the historic apology to the Stolen Generations by former prime minister Kevin Rudd, the federal government has unveiled the second Closing the Gap implementation plan, which will focus on practical ways to improve quality of life for Indigenous people.

A national apology breakfast commemorating the anniversary was held at Parliament House’s Great Hall in Canberra, with Rudd providing an address.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will also deliver a speech to parliament later on Monday.

The funding boost is on top of the $1.2 billion set aside in the October budget.

This year’s implementation plan includes $150 million over four years to provide safe and reliable water for remote communities.

Almost $22 million has been set aside for trauma-aware, culturally appropriate programs to support families dealing with domestic violence.

Family violence and prevention legal service providers supporting women and children experiencing family and sexual violence will receive $68.6 million over two years.

The plan also commits $38.4 million over four years for on-country education for remote students, and $11.8 million over two years to make nutritious food more accessible for communities.

Indigenous Australians minister Linda Burney presented the findings of the 2022 Closing the Gap report to parliament in November.

It showed the divide in key areas of development had become worse.

It was the first report since the national agreement on Closing the Gap took effect and shows many of the targets are not on track.

The increased funding comes as alcohol bans are set to be reinstated in central Australia following a surge of crime and anti-social behaviour in Alice Springs.

And the government is seeking to change the way Indigenous policy is designed and functions through an enshrined voice to parliament in the constitution.

A referendum is set to be held in the second half of this year, while legislation to enable the vote is expected to be introduced to parliament in March.

Labor senator Pat Dodson said the voice was “bigger” than Australian politics, and he believed it could pass even without opposition support.

“I put my trust in the Australian people,” he said.

“The Australian people have been hearing for so long now that call by First Nations people with a very simple proposition that they want to be recognised in the constitution.”

Northern Territory senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price on Monday will launch the Fair Australia campaign – a “no case” against the referendum backed by $1.45m in funding, The Australian reports.

Burney said governments and departments were becoming better at working with Indigenous communities.

“Our measures are going to be more specific and more targeted, making real impacts that complement work under way in states and territories, and back-in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations to lead work in their communities,” she said.

Indigenous Australians assistant minister Malarndirri McCarthy said the investment would be a “game changer” for many remote communities.

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