Walking taller after apology

THE indigenous population is walking taller after Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made his famous apology to them in parliament two years ago, according to one Bundaberg community elder.

Norma Sarra spoke after Mr Rudd delivered his second annual Closing the Gap report to parliament yesterday with a pledge to boost funding for a scheme to support indigenous mothers and their children.

The annual report was promised by Mr Rudd to show what his government was doing to close the disadvantage gap between indigenous Australians and the rest of the community.

“There is no greater social challenge facing Australia than closing this yawning gap,” he told parliament.

“Today, I can report to the house that, on the ground, we are seeing the beginnings of change.”

As part of the government's plan to halve the child mortality gap by 2018, Mr Rudd pledged an extra $9.1 million over three years to extend support services for mothers and babies.

“Indigenous are more than twice as likely to die before the age of five than non-indigenous kids,” he said.

“This is a shameful statistic.”

Mrs Sarra, 80, said before Mr Rudd delivered his apology, Aboriginal people had been shoved into the background and had been unable to get a decent job or an education.

The elder, whose son Dr Chris Sarra was nominated for the 2010 Australian of the Year for his work in indigenous education, said she had seen an improvement in racist attitudes towards Aboriginal people.

“People have been made more aware; it's taken the pressure off,” she said.

“The prejudice against Aboriginal people is not as bad now.”

She said she was starting to see Aboriginal people doing well and getting a good education.

“People are feeling more confident of themselves,” Mrs Sarra said.

“The younger ones can be encouraged to be educated, so they can stand next to anybody in the community.”

Mrs Sarra said she admired Mr Rudd for making the apology.

“At least he had the guts to stand up and say those things,” she said.

“It's good that he said it, although it was 200 years too late.”

“It's taken the heat off Aboriginal people, because we used to cop it all the time.”

She said her community had a voice now.

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