OUR SAY: Orange programs vital in closing Indigenous gap

COMMENT: The picture painted yesterday by Prime Minister Tony Abbott of the gap between Aboriginal and non Aboriginal Australians explains why Indigenous programs underway in Orange are so important.

Orange is a far cry from some of the remote Indigenous settlements of inland Australia Mr Abbott cited, where the worst examples of poor education, poor health, high unemployment and short life expectancy are evident, but the gap between Aboriginal and non Aboriginal Australians is not a consistent one.

As Mr Abbott said when delivering his first Closing The Gap report to Parliament, the more remote the population the greater all these problems seem to be.

But that does not mean Aboriginal people living in regional centres like Orange, or even in metropolitan areas, are not feeling the effects of social and financial disadvantage.

In remote Australia getting Aboriginal students to attend school every single day is a huge challenge. It is now a five-year government goal set by Mr Abbott yesterday.

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In Orange the goal would be to see more Aboriginal students stay on to complete years 11 and 12 and then go on to tertiary education.

In remote Australia providing the most basic regular health and dental care is the challenge. In Orange it is encouraging the Aboriginal community to access the far better health care that does exist, either through general health services or the Orange Aboriginal Medical Service.

Despite modest but steady improvements in health and education outcomes for Indigenous Australians the wider community should be appalled by the gap that remains.

Viewed from remote inland Australia the gap is a yawning chasm. Viewed from Orange it is a gap that can and is being bridged.

Indigenous numeracy and literacy programs run at Canobolas Rural Technology High School and services provided by the Orange Aboriginal Medical Service are a vital part of that process.

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