The problems plaguing our remote Indigenous communities are nothing new: we’ve all heard about the astronomically high rates of alcohol abuse, crime, domestic violence, languishing education and employment levels, and intergenerational welfare dependency. As a result, there is an alarming and growing gap between remote Indigenous people and the rest of Australia.
Since the Whitlam era, government policies and resources have tried and failed to solve these problems. Billions of tax dollars have been spent with minimal improvement. Lofty gestures of symbolism – from apologies to campaigns to have an Indigenous voice in parliament and to change the date of Australia Day – draw some attention to this tragedy. But they don’t fix any of these problems.
Regardless of the outcome of the Voice referendum, policymakers need to replace old, discredited agendas with new ideas that could help improve the lives of our most disadvantaged communities. After the policy disasters of the past half-century, there must be a glimmer of hope on the horizon.