Closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is a national priority. If we are to create a better future for Indigenous Australia, the time for action is now.
The Australian Government has set ambitious targets for closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage with respect to life expectancy, child mortality, access to early childhood education, educational attainment and employment outcomes.
Meeting these targets will not be easy. It will require sustained action across all levels of government, all sectors and the length and breadth of the country. Governments, Indigenous people and the private sector must work together if we are to make inroads.
The Prime Minister's National Apology on 13 February 2008 to Indigenous Australians, in particular the Stolen Generations, was a first necessary step for moving forward from the past. The National Apology built trust and provided a bridge of respect for addressing on-the-ground challenges.
The Australian Government is committed to a bi-partisan and evidence-based approach to closing the gap in life outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Promoting economic participation, reducing welfare dependency, strengthening communities and better engaging Indigenous people in developing solutions are key to tackling Indigenous disadvantage.
Since the election in November 2007, the Budget measures, commitments fulfilled at Additional Estimates and redirected funding amount to more than $1.2 billion over five years in Indigenous funding (see Appendix 1).
The Australian Government's commitment to turn around Indigenous disadvantage is supported by $425.3 million in new funds in the 2008‑09 Budget (see Appendix 2). The funding is provided across eight portfolios, but will be spent as part of an integrated whole-of-government strategy.
This Budget delivers the Government's election commitments and implements policies that will improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Budget measures build on $580.0 million in major initiatives announced in February for closing the gap in life expectancy, infant mortality, education and employment. In addition, the Government has redirected $222.5 million in funding to address key priorities.
Not only is the Australian Government committing extra resources, it is introducing reforms within and across governments to ensure that resources are used strategically and effectively.
In this endeavour, our most important partners are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.
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