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Introduction

I grew up near a remote West Australian town. As one of the few white kids in our outback community to attend an Indigenous boarding hostel, I look back with fondness on this family of kids who looked out for each other. We were brothers and sisters and some of my best mates in school were my mentors. Those school friends have died, all of them too young. Since then, I have made friends with people around Australia and the world, and among them are Indigenous people who have the values that I was taught as a child are the most important. 

It is a pretty game government that would appoint a philanthropist and entrepreneur to review their programmes knowing we would not take an incremental or bureaucratic approach. In business and philanthropy I make every dollar count: you must have an eye on the market at all times and be absolutely accountable for performance and cost. In this world, the effectiveness of initiatives must be absolute or discarded. 

This review recommends a strategy that delivers a complete end-to end solution, without the baggage of attachment to current government policies and arrangements. Implemented in full, it will end the disparity between Indigenous Australians and other Australians and comprehensively build our society. 

My early life gave me a life-long passion to experience parity between Indigenous Australians and other Australians. This will only occur through gainful valuable employment. The nation’s most glaring failure is the huge disparity in employment of Indigenous Australians and other Australians. This does not have to continue.

The most important discovery I made in writing this report is that there is no disparity in employment between first Australians with a decent education and other Australians. A decent education means leaving school with Year 12 or equivalent qualifications and the ability to go on to further education and training. There is employment parity now for first Australians with Certificate III or IV level training that most apprentices undergo, diploma or university qualifications.

Therefore, I have used the full breadth and scope of my terms of reference to ensure the recommendations include everything required to ensure we achieve parity in education outcomes for first Australians. We must doggedly remove the impediments, raise our expectations dramatically and pursue accountability for Indigenous education until we reach parity in outcomes between all Australian kids. 

Hoping for a different result while doing things the same way defines insanity. My approach relies on a dedicated national, state, community and family team effort. Changed attitudes and behaviours from parents, community Elders, teachers and principals—but particularly from governments—are essential. Only this will bring the disparity to an end.

Thank you to everyone who gave their time, views and shared passions with me. I am greatly inspired by the energy, innovation and determination of everyone I have met across Australia. Your yearning to see an end to the disparity and make the most of the nation’s capital will be realised if these solutions are implemented in total by our governments.

Andrew Forrest