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Image: Michael Coghlan (Flickr)

Indigenous Australia and the 2016 Budget: The great Australian fiscal silence

25th May 2016

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Professor Jon Altman has a disciplinary background in economics and anthropology. From 1983–90 he was a postdoctoral fellow, research fellow and senior research fellow in the Department of Political and Social Change in the HC Coombs Building.

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By Jon Altman

In 1968 anthropologist Bill Stanner spoke of the Great Australian Silence in relation to the historical mistreatment of Indigenous peoples, a national myopia. The just announced 2016 Budget could be similarly termed ‘the Great Australian Fiscal Silence’, a fiscal myopia incommensurate with the level of need.

In February 2016, in launching the 8th Report on Closing the Gap, Malcolm Turnbull began with a well-rehearsed rhetorical flourish in the Ngunnawal language. Tony Abbott may have been the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs for a couple of years, but could he match this? Yet Turnbull’s linguistic performance stood strangely at odds with the report he would go on to launch, a report that tells, yet again, of multiple failures to meet the very basic Closing the Gap targets. These annual reports are starting to sound like yearly ritual pleas for absolution by the nation’s leaders: we are trying so hard and yet we are failing, we must try harder.

Read the entire article on Arena.

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