So ends another year which, sadly, delivered no particular highlights for Australia's First Nations Peoples. A suicide epidemic continuing to sweep the communities, failure to achieve any meaningful improvement in Close the Gap targets, more deaths in custody, more people jailed, falling education and health standards, increased homelessness and racism with yet more likely now Federal Attorney-General, George Brandis proposes a watering down of the Racial Discrimination Act to allow people like Andrew Bolt to spew forth his own special brand of vindictive rubbish.
By any measure 2013 has again featured a singular failure by State, Federal and Territory governments to deliver anything but more of the same policies which have left so many Indigenous Australians dying, in jail, homeless and/or jobless. This was the legacy of the former Federal Labor Government and in particular the former Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin.
Now we have a new Federal government with a conservative bent to lead us into the new year featuring a newly created Indigenous Advisory Council and a billionaire miner charged with creating meaningful employment for Indigenous Australians.
This is why 2014 shapes as a defining one in so many ways. The new Prime Minister, Tony Abbott has promised a lot and the new year will tell us whether he delivers a better deal or be shown to be just another politician who, like his predecessors, has been full of words but very light on in action.
It has to be said the decisions and outcomes in the three-plus months since Mr Abbott's election in September does not auger well for First Nations Peoples to be overly hopeful of meaningful change in 2014. Unfortunately, Mr Abbott has so far surrounded himself with a white billionaire miner and unrepresentative Indigenous "friends" to advise him on what should be done.
So with Christmas almost upon us and this our last edition for 2013 we offer 12 decisions we would like to see Mr Abbott, the self-proclaimed "Prime Minister for Indigenous Australians" and every State and Territory government adopt. It is a wish list in no particular order of merit because they are all equally important as far as we are concerned but it is a list drawn from the comments and criticisms throughout this year by many of the legitimate Indigenous leaders of this country. If Mr Abbott genuinely wants to see positive change for our First Peoples these are in our view just some of decisions he, State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers should adopt.
Treaty and Sovereignty: Constitutional change to recognise Indigenous Australians is nice but meaningful change would be for Federal Parliament to acknowledge this country was stolen from its first inhabitants. Every other first world country has treaties in place with their First Nations People and Australia should do what is honourable and enter into a formal Treaty with the First Nations clans to return Sovereignty where it rightfully belongs.
Land rights and Native Title: Successive governments have bastardised Native Title and land rights. The foundation principle must begin with acceptance the land belongs to First Nations People and absolutely nothing should be permitted to take place on the land without the approval of the Traditional Owners. Until mining companies and governments are denied the ability to muscle and coerce Traditional Owners the Native Title system will continue to fail delivering true Land Rights to Indigenous Australians.
Dedicated seats for Indigenous Australians in State, Territory and Federal parliaments: How can Australia's parliaments claim to be truly representative of all peoples when the original owners of the land have no input into the laws governments adopt? Every government in Australia should adopt a system which provides dedicated seats for Indigenous Australians. Only this will ensure all decisions are taken with the input and consideration of our Indigenous representatives.
Education: The education systems throughout Australia are broken and particularly so for those schools with a large proportion of Indigenous students. If you are an Indigenous student it is more likely you will have lower quality education available to you than if you're non-Indigenous. Culture must also be acknowledged in all education curriculums. Indigenous students must have the right, if their parents wish, to have their children taught their native language.
Health: Medical services available to First Nations People is at third world standards in regional and remote Australia. Glue ear, kidney disease, cancer, blindness are just some of the diseases Indigenous Australians suffer at far higher rates than non-Indigenous Australians. Indigenous organisations such as NACCHO have proved time and time again they can deliver improved outcomes if they have control of the management and delivery of health services. Give the communities control and health outcomes would improve immediately.
End the suicide epidemic: More Indigenous Australians die from suicide than any other race in Australia yet State, Federal and Territory governments of all persuasions continue to ignore the crisis. The crisis will only end if governments are genuine and that means providing the funding and empowering leaders such as Tauto Sansbury and Robert Eggington to show us the way to end this tragedy and national disgrace.
End the homelessness: Thousands of families including young, innocent children are forced to live in humpys with no power, water or sewerage services. It is akin to the poorest countries in the world rather than one of the wealthiest. Funding for housing and government empowering the communities to take control to end the homelessness is what is required.
Jail rates and Deaths in Custody: More Indigenous Australians are jailed and more die in custody than any other race in Australia. Our jail rates are worse than those suffered by Africans during Apartheid in South Africa. More than 20 years ago the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody delivered a swathe of recommendations to end the deaths. Those recommendations would also go some way to reducing jail rates. All governments have ignored the vast majority of these recommendations. It is a national disgrace. It is still not too late for all governments adopt the recommendations and they should do so as a matter of urgency.
Compensation for Stolen Generations: The country has acknowledged and apologised to the victims of the Stolen Generations but sorry is not enough. The victims of the Stolen Generations and their families deserve to be fully compensated for what this country inflicted upon them.
A true national flag: If Australia truly wants to embrace our First Nations People we must change the flag to include the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags and not the flag of this country's invaders.
A true national anthem: As with the flag Australia must adopt a national anthem that recognises and includes acknowledgement of our First Nations People.
Invasion memorials: Australia has spent and continues to spend tens of millions of dollars honouring Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians who have fought and died for this country in white wars but there is no memorial recognising the Indigenous Australians who died fighting the invasion of this country or those men, women and children who were massacred by Europeans in various separate atrocities in every State and Territory of this country. Every capital city in Australia should have a Memorial acknowledging those men, women and children who were murdered and the brave Indigenous warriors who fought the European invasion during the 225 years since Europeans invaded this country.
So there you have it. Our wish list for 2014. We suspect few if any will be honoured next year but that is no reason not to stand up for what we believe is the morally right thing to do.
The National Indigenous Times honours and thanks all the legitimate Indigenous leaders of this country for continuing the fight for the rights of their people. We are truly in awe and continue to be inspired by their courage and determination.
The staff of the National Indigenous Times also takes this opportunity to thank the legions of readers and advertisers alike who continue to support us. Without your ongoing support we could not survive to spread your message.
We wish you all a safe happy Christmas and New Year break and look forward to rejoining the battle in the new year standing up for the rights of our most precious resource – the heritage, tradition and Culture of this country's first inhabitants.