Closing the Gap: The Never-Ending Story?


What is the so-called ‘gap’? It’s the gap in wellbeing (across factors such as income, shelter, health, lifestyle) between those Aborigines living in circumstances offering no possibility of employment and everyone else. To present the gap as a difference between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians seriously mischaracterises the problem. And I suspect deliberately so. The Yes campaign depends on giving an impression that most indigenous people – if we can overcome the difficulty of sorting out who is and who isn’t indigenous – suffer disadvantage. In other words, it’s built on a lie.

But there is a gap, properly defined, and one central question is what closing it would look like. Roughly speaking there are two views. The one that I favour would be shared, I think, by most Australians. It is to produce an assimilated outcome, in a relatively short span of time, in which the lot of someone with Aboriginal ancestry is on the whole indistinguishable from the lot of a non-Aboriginal Australian. No worse, no better. The same range, from disadvantage to plenty. Life is unkind to lots of non-indigenous people, lest we forget.

Once the disproportionate disadvantage of Aboriginal people is gone, all of the apparatus of the state, at all levels, directed to improve their circumstances, as a separate body of people, could and should be then dismantled, and Section 51xxvi of the Constitution repealed. Almost by definition, this would leave few, if any, Aborigines living in remote communities.

And, er, what about native title? Collective ownership is a blight and seldom works for the good. But it’s hard to see how we can ever now put the ‘goblin’ back in the bottle; restitute Pandora’s box; or whatever metaphor for an irrevocable disaster takes your fancy. It seems we are stuck with it, like long Covid.

There is another view on what closing the gap looks like. Those holding it see a treaty, reparations and partitioning Australia as the desirable outcome. A number of prominent activists appear to subscribe to this view or to something like it. It would be instructive to know what people like Julian Leeser, George Williams and Chris Kenny think. Those who apparently believe that we can have the Voice without its baggage.

There is one outcome that no one of good intentions would want. That is to keep a segment of Aboriginal Australians, Gary Johns (The Burden of Culture) estimates 20 percent, always in a state of distress and mendicancy. Why would anyone want that? They might, I suppose, if they were morally bankrupt and their power and livelihood depended on it. However, I’m hopeful enough to believe that this motivation is not an issue and can be safely ignored.

Clearly, closing the gap is a problem in search of a doable solution, as it has been for decades. And while there are such starkly different views on what closing the gap would look like, no solution seems remotely possible.


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Muddy
Muddy
September 9, 2023 11:14 pm

A world without gaps.
Actually, gaps in populations which have nothing to offer us, are fine (male, heterosexual, Caucasian: life expectancy, workplace injuries, etc). Perfectly natural. Irrelevant & disposable.

But gaps within the latest vehicle we are using to get us to our desired personal destination? … No good.

Good gaps. Bad gaps. Vague gaps. Beneficial gaps. Gaps that could be closed if we used non-human materials.

Boxcar
Boxcar
September 10, 2023 8:54 am

“Closing the Gap” is just a cliche,, like “The Voice”.
Both serve no purpose other than to channel debate into meaningless tributaries.
Don’t respond.
Make them prove their message.

lotocoti
lotocoti
September 10, 2023 8:56 am

Cherbourg lies out that-away a bit.
While Goggle Maps reveals a reasonably tidy town,
the census data shows a place which ought not exist.
Private home ownership is 0.0% and the largest source of
local employment appears to be maintaining that folly.
Tragically, suicide seems to be the only growth industry in town.

Muddy
Muddy
September 10, 2023 9:06 am

I make no apologies for the cynicism in my comment above. ‘Closing the Gap’ is just another shiny bauble – though an emotionally powerful one – designed to bedazzle the natives (of all types).

In the public sector, there is an amazing amount of duplication of services due to the pathologising of non-indigenous service delivery. A friend I knew working for the local Home and Community Care service was not permitted to enter the home of an indigenous person and clean their toilet, because she could not have done so in a ‘culturally appropriate’ manner. No doubt that reads as exaggeration, but no.

There is an indigenous driver training business in my area, though I do not know if they receive taxpayer funding. I’d be surprised if they didn’t.

My point being that a good percentage of the funds spent on ‘closing the gap’ is make-work, symbolic activity, justified by the theme of the last decade: Cultural Appropriateness.

Being the cynic that I am, I believe that the concept of cultural appropriateness was introduced and promoted to justify why those in positions of authority had failed for three or four decades. So we now have the same management class as has failed for half a century, and the same underlying concept of segregation and what was once derisively labelled as paternalism, but with new(ish) wrapping paper labelled ‘Closing the Gap.’

I’ve commented many times of my belief that remote and regional indigenous Australians are being kept in a type of serfdom by their own elite and a parasitic consultant class, and the inVoice if it passes, will simply formalise this economic deprivation of liberty. Importantly, though, reparations will allow them to purchase a big screen TV for their cells.

Baubles for everyone.

Muddy
Muddy
September 10, 2023 9:10 am

lotocoti
Sep 10, 2023 8:56 AM

Cherbourg lies out that-away a bit.

I have relatives in nearby Murgon. There’s a tangible feeling in the air when you walk down the main street, and unfortunately, if the inVoice goes down and there’s a negative reaction from certain elements (stoked by the media), Murgon will be one of those places that is damaged.

Christine
Christine
September 10, 2023 10:18 am

Murgon. Perhaps it’s a sign of the unclosed “gap” that individuals from Cherbourg can be seen shopping in town in their pyjamas; or more likely it’s a deliberate demonstration of a “couldn’t care less” attitude that’s on the rise. The billions spent on supposed “gap closing” hasn’t encouraged many to make any sort of effort.

Damon
Damon
September 10, 2023 10:41 am

I grew up in a middle class family. I had many opportunities that I wasted. I finally figured out that to succeed, I had to work. It worked. I’m moderately affluent. I suggest that a boot up the arse would do more for aboriginal welfare than any Voice.

thefrollickingmole
thefrollickingmole
September 10, 2023 10:45 am

The 20% in misery is a small price to pay for becoming the hereditary rulers of the Australian continent.
Feudalism by birthright, the “Im right Jack” class will be farting through silk for eternity.

Muddy
Muddy
September 10, 2023 10:58 am

Damon.
Accepting personal responsibility for your life choices doesn’t leave much room for (well-remunerated) nannies, or the State.

And no, there is no contradiction in the oldest culture on the planet being too infantile to look after itself.

Mole.
Yup, that’s what this is about: Formalising a privilege-by-birthright class (the elites and their consultants that is; the average remote indig. will still remain in serfdom, hypnotised by trinkets).

Vicki
Vicki
September 10, 2023 11:02 am

Watching “Outsiders” & heard a great line :

“No amount of evidence will convince an idiot”

Love it!!!

Vicki
Vicki
September 10, 2023 11:13 am

I’ve commented many times of my belief that remote and regional indigenous Australians are being kept in a type of serfdom by their own elite and a parasitic consultant class, and the inVoice if it passes, will simply formalise this economic deprivation of liberty. Importantly, though, reparations will allow them to purchase a big screen TV for their cells.

Absolutely Muddy. It is a shame that the media don’t often get opinions from those on the ground in outback communities or from people who have even travelled in remote areas.

Incidentally, I happened to see Megan Davis on TV this morning. She is no dope and is one smart lady. Same in respect to Pearson & Mayo. All received an excellent tertiary education form the “nasty whities” . What a tragedy they haven’t applied their skills to eradicating the disadvantage in the remote communities. But that would involve acknowledging the central importance of western education and a local economy that operates in the wider world.

Damon
Damon
September 10, 2023 11:14 am

What are the Republicans going to do about the installation of a new hereditary ruling class?

Damon
Damon
September 10, 2023 11:20 am

Vicki, yeah. Would even the University of Melbourne consider appointment of an ‘aboriginal’ astronomer? Top 10? it’s becoming a laughing stock.

Ceres
Ceres
September 10, 2023 4:19 pm

Good points Peter but no way would Section 51xxvi of the Constitution be able to be repealed with another referendum. Aborigines and their improvement will be a toxic controversial topic for a long time.
As for Lesser and in particular Chris Kenny, he has been prolific on TV and in “the Australian” don’t fear, it’s only advisory and parliament can reject advice. He seldom mentions the potential for High Court legalese nor the fact that the words are “make representations” not advice. A difference.
He is looking at the cover but not the contents

Muddy
Muddy
September 10, 2023 5:44 pm

Slightly off topic & rhetorical:
Why is it that diversity is practically mandatory for the broader national culture, but indigenous culture is not to have its purity diluted?

1940s & 50s Australia, predominantly western European, is now regarded as neolithic, yet 1750s indigenous beliefs, norms & practices (as far as is imagined) is the height of ‘high culture?’

This is more proof – if any were needed – that the subject/s itself is merely a tool with which to hammer/drill/hack a path through the frameworks which support our present way of life.

If a tool with more promise of destruction were discovered, indigenous Australians would be discarded by their representatives without hesitation.

This is what I believe we are doing poorly: letting ourselves become distracted by the tool, rather than focussing on the user.

Roger
Roger
September 10, 2023 7:27 pm

To present the gap as a difference between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians seriously mischaracterises the problem.

Like the gender pay gap.

Yet the media run both at every opportunity.

Goebbels would be astonished at their audacity.

Fair Shake
Fair Shake
September 11, 2023 2:26 am

No amount of evidence will convince an idiot”

Mark Twain i believe.

2dogs
2dogs
September 11, 2023 2:34 am

The existence of the gap is necessary for the continued employment of Aboriginal activists.

While their job description involves complaining about the gap, the last thing they want is for the gap to actually be fixed. They would lose their meal ticket.

To ensure the continuance of the gap, they focus their attention on policies that sound good, but have a harmful effect. For example, policies that prevent aboriginal children from being raised in non-aboriginal families ultimately have the effect of perpetuating aboriginal disadvantage.

Crossie
Crossie
September 11, 2023 6:46 am

Cultural isolation is not possible in the modern world and no culture remains intact once it comes into contact with another. Exchange of ideas affects both cultures and leads to progress and improvements. That is how Eurasia and Northern Africa went from Stone Age to space age in the span of 5,000 years.

The only culture I know of that still seeks to live apart from the wider world are the Yanomami in the Amazon jungle and I don’t think they are recipients of any Brazilian welfare payments. Even they are losing adherents where people get fed up with jungle life, leave and get a job.

Aboriginal remote communities are not natural or authentic practice of a culture, they are being fed, housed and medically treated by the mainstream population. Those communities are museum exhibits.

GBC
GBC
September 11, 2023 9:30 am

Having witnessed the massive growth of the “Aboriginal industry” over the last 50+ years with billions spent, virtually no tangible results, the chance of “closing the gap” as they say is zilch.
It is in the interests of many overpaid paid public servants, consultants, and even Aboriginal people themselves in the industry to protect their lifestyle interests. It is a well known fact that well financed Aboriginal organizations are set up and employ only family, outsiders may get a start as show but don’t stay long. Nothing is going to change despite many words of wisdom from people in high places.

Bootstrapper
Bootstrapper
September 11, 2023 10:22 am

No amount of evidence will convince an idiot”. Or an ideologue!

Bernie Masters
Bernie Masters
September 11, 2023 11:21 am

The book Dystopia in the Desert accurately describes why and how the gap exists. The gap is caused by cultural decisions taken by Aboriginal people living in regional and remote communities, aided by white people who earn their living from servicing these communities.
Thanks for an accurate and timely article.

Nos_Pullum
Nos_Pullum
September 11, 2023 1:31 pm

Can ‘the Gap’ be broken down by geography & economics, not just race?

My guess it would show urban Aboriginals in essentially the same place as their non-Aboriginal neighbors.

You’ll never fix the problem if you’re looking at the wrong thing.

flyingduk
flyingduk
September 12, 2023 2:48 pm

As Jordan Peterson pointed out, you cant have equal outcomes because humans are not identical in outcome related parameters (age, physical and mental capabilities, consientiousness etc etc etc).

Nor should you seek to, unless you want to forego the spectacular margin contributions which the Paretto phenomenon bestows on the ‘top 1%’ in any endeavour.

flyingduk
flyingduk
September 12, 2023 2:49 pm

You’ll never fix the problem if you’re looking at the wrong thing.

Whispers furtively .. ‘IQ’

Tom Atkinson
Tom Atkinson
September 15, 2023 12:27 am

According to Jacinta Price, the “gap” is not between indigenous and non-indigenous, but between those living in the cities and those living in the remote communities.

Gabor
Gabor
September 15, 2023 12:50 am

Crossie
Sep 11, 2023 6:46 AM

Aboriginal remote communities are not natural or authentic practice of a culture, they are being fed, housed and medically treated by the mainstream population. Those communities are museum exhibits.
14

The sooner those in power realise that, the sooner the problems will be solved.
Which means, never in our lifetimes.

John H.
John H.
September 15, 2023 1:11 am

Tom Atkinson
Sep 15, 2023 12:27 AM
According to Jacinta Price, the “gap” is not between indigenous and non-indigenous, but between those living in the cities and those living in the remote communities.

She’s right. Remote communities are a bad idea. Originally to enable people to live their traditional lifestyle but they don’t want to do that. They can’t own land and develop it. That is a disaster because it leaves them with nothing to do. Human beings decay in those circumstances.

shatterzzz
September 15, 2023 2:01 am

Epstein didn’t kill himself ..!
https://ibb.co/nbbbbZs

shatterzzz
September 15, 2023 2:03 am

Damn .. last comment ……wrong place! ………..
That’s what happens when you can’t sleep! ……… duuuuuuuuuuuuh!

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