The importance of education

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Aboriginal man stands in front of trees
I am the Native Title Cultural Liaison Manager with the Goldfields Land and Sea Council, the Native Title Rep body in Kalgoorlie and my job there is the conduit between stakeholders, our people, with our organisation progressing native title claims and we’re getting involved with a lot of the social issues around the place, particularly I have been involved a lot with our Aboriginal youth and I have been quite strongly advocating for a youth centre in Kalgoorlie. We’re still pretty keen for that. I have a passion with the youth and I think it’s a crying shame that that generation, our future leaders are somewhat being neglected along the way and are being forgotten. I think in general, if you’re speaking to a lot of community members and asking what Closing the Gap is, they would probably say, “what do you mean?” I think people who work with agencies and organisations, we hear of it and all of a sudden there’s 10 years that have elapsed from what I can understand. We provide services but I don’t think it’s getting to the grassroots people. And with our kids secondary education, it’s so important to progress through to year 12 then obviously they can go on to other levels. At the moment, we seem to be losing a lot of those kids, they are falling through those gaps, they are either being suspended from those high schools, from the schools that they attend and there’s no support system in place and that’s why we have been advocating quite strongly for a hub, that you have all of the service providers, government, local, state, federal level to buy-in and provide services to our kids there, they are calling out for help. Even youth suicide, there’s a gap there, our kids seem to be falling down so whether the gap, how deep it is or how wide it is, it’s a real worry and hopefully the message may come across collectively that we are able to trigger some thought processes to take it to the right direction saying alright, these are gaps that obviously need filling. I think there’s got to be skin in the game in the next ten years of Closing the Gap. There’s got to be more buy in, there’s got to be succession planning in the Aboriginal organisations. There’s got to be other Aboriginal staff working in there, and I don’t mean any disrespect to those people, but we should be filling those positions with young Aboriginal people coming through and employing them in that position. Closing the Gap has to be bipartisan, all governments have to support it. What annoys me at times, when I speak to one agency or one government and they say, “that’s not our jurisdiction, that’s federal”. All youth, they don’t come under one jurisdiction, they belong to all of us, so we need to make sure we look at it collectively as a group of people who really care for our mob. If I could say anything to the youth, I would encourage them and say to them, please stick to your education, albeit tough and I would be saying to agencies out there, be earnest and serious, get out of your silos and give them the support that they deservedly need because otherwise that gap is going to get wider because we don’t have the professional and skilled people to take this to another level and to close that gap.