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Ideas for Australia: Closing the gap is proving hard, but we can do better by working developmentally

Mark Moran writes in The Conversation (21.4.16) about the persistent obstacles to ‘closing the gap’ in life outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, suggesting that a location-specific ‘developmental’ approach could be more effective than current policies.

‘The significance of government services and funding to the livelihoods of Indigenous people goes well beyond the experience of other Australians. Australian townships and developing communities overseas are generally underpinned by a market economy. By contrast, most remote Aboriginal communities are characterised by the very lack of one.

‘Government programs and services are largely how the outside world and economy interfaces with remote communities. Pragmatically, this translates for many as their main entry point for “closing the gap”. And the dominance of public finances gives government a level of power that it does not enjoy elsewhere in Australia.

‘Faced with intractable disadvantage and international scrutiny of the plight of Australian First Peoples, Australian governments have responded on a massive scale, often in partnership with private sector and NGO providers. Indigenous affairs has become a highly crowded space.

‘Remote Indigenous communities of fewer than 1000 people can be supported by more than 80 programs and services. The ratio of programs to people served is arguably one of the highest in the world. Somehow, among this, some people are not reached and remain underserviced.’

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