Still a long way to go on Indigenous issues

INDIGENOUS people are "deemed to be non-contributors" to Australian society, one of the nation's highest profile Aboriginal leaders says.

Speaking to ARM Newsdesk yesterday on the 24th anniversary of the High Court's Mabo decision, Senator Patrick Dodson urged the ALP and the Coalition to forge a bipartisan approach to ensuring the country's 729,048 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents could determine "their own directions and outcomes".

There are major gaps between white and black Australia when it comes to jobs, life expectancy, health, education and prison rates.

Since Eddie Mabo won his High Court of Australia battle on June 3, 1992, to overturn the concept of terra nullius - or "land belonging to nobody" - much has changed for the indigenous community.

But Sen Dodson says there is still a long way to go, particularly in regional Australia.

"Indigenous people in rural and remote areas often lack access to important services taken for granted in mainstream Australia, including health, education and job opportunities," he said.

"Many indigenous people feel they are deemed to be non-contributors because they are remote and the richness of their culture, relationship to land and rich spontaneity is unappreciated and not deemed valuable."

Sen Dodson said helping communities forge their own strong and sustainable futures was not just about funding commitments.

"Money and resources alone won't improve people's lives," he said.

"What we need is a new relationship with grassroots organisations to develop real outcomes together.

"There needs to be a clear commitment to bipartisanship to overcome the challenges."

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