The recommendations in this report represent an interdependent and comprehensive package of measures. If implemented, they will prepare those who are capable but lack the necessary skills and motivation with the training to enter the workforce. They will create opportunities, engage and provide incentives for first Australians, prevent disadvantage by initiating intensive early childhood development and education, and support the most vulnerable to make sound life choices and manage their finances. They will provide strong incentives recognising that only first Australians themselves can make the necessary lifestyle changes, and only employers and the market can deliver real jobs.
Measures such as intensive prenatal and early childhood services, strict education focus, tax incentives and the proposed Healthy Welfare Card are imperative. These are some of the flagship measures in the report that are designed to achieve the seismic change needed to end the disparity.
Each chapter in this report links to the other chapters and includes specific recommendations and implementation strategies. The measures bolster each other and rely on each other to give the cumulative impact necessary to end the disparity. They are not presented as a smorgasbord (to be picked and chosen from) but are proposed as an integrated suite of policy solutions to the growing issue of first Australians’ disengagement.
The extent of disengagement where welfare has taken hold is such that only comprehensive and coordinated change introduced across the board will succeed where past efforts have failed. The initiatives are necessarily broad and powerful to meet the growing challenge of first Australian disparity for the benefit of every Australian.
Expressed simply, if the recommendations are not implemented in full or, if the ministers and the departmental heads who advise them decide to pick and choose recommendations, we will not end the disparity. In particular, federal, state and territory governments need to publicly proclaim their determination to create the parity which all Australians yearn for in a cohesive and collaborative way.It is important not to use these measures as chips in a funding bargain.
Australia’s economy and society has been held back by this issue and it has had an impact on the standard of living of every Australian. We should be well past throwing money and paternalistic solutions at Indigenous Australians. Instead, we need to set and drive high expectations and equal opportunity. Apart from the social responsibility of every Australian, the economic benefit of ending the disparity will compound to billions of dollars and eventually, through economic multipliers, to tens of billions dollars each year.
Seismic, not incremental, change is required and the time for decisive action is now. These solutions are not expensive and parity is completely achievable with sufficient will from each of us.