MEDIA RELEASE - Confronting ‘trust gap’ crucial to Closing the Gap

21 March 2024





Two prominent community organisations have implored all levels of government to urgently address the “trust gap” keeping Indigenous Australians from improved life outcomes.

Gunawuna Jungai (GJ) and Act for Kids are calling for the focus to shift on bridging this divide to ensure significant and urgent advances are made in Closing the Gap initiatives.

GJ CEO Kieran Smith said the term “trust gap” referred to the justifiable lack of trust First Nations people had in systems including health, education, and welfare across all tiers of government.

“There is a lack of trust in the system from Aboriginal people. That translates to people not presenting for health appointments, not making appointments or visiting community services – so they’re sitting outside the system.”

Mr Smith said the distrust stemmed from systems being purpose-built for non-Indigenous Australians, making it difficult for others to navigate.

“First Nations people don’t want to go to hospital because they don’t trust the hospital,” he said.

“The system demands that Aboriginal Australia follow its terms, so First Nations people just give up and they stay outside the system.

“The one who broke the trust is the only one who can repair the trust. The onus is on the system to reach out to Aboriginal Australia.

“Aboriginal Australia is standing there with open arms, waiting patiently and respectfully.”

Gangalidda Traditional Owner Barry Walden is the Board Chairman of GJ, a community controlled, community owned company built to represent the whole Doomadgee community in remote northwest Queensland.

Mr Walden said the allyship of GJ and Act for Kids was a strong example of how trust could be built between communities, organisations and government departments.

Act for Kids has been delivering services in a proud partnership with First Nations people in Doomadgee since 2008.

“If we’re so adamant that the solutions exist within community and culture, then why aren’t we learning about and accessing what they are?” Mr Walden asked.

“By sharing the inner workings and intimate community knowledge within government departments, and vice versa, a foundation for trust and collaborative partnership can be established.”

Act for Kids CEO Dr Katrina Lines said it was alarming that only five out of 19 socio-economic targets for Closing the Gap were on track.

“We know Indigenous children are eight times more likely to receive child protection services than non-Indigenous children,” Dr Lines said.

“It is distressing that children over-represented in out-of-home care remains one of four targets not on track.

“While the recent appointment of a National Commissioner for First Nations Children and Young People is a positive step, more needs to be done to ensure First Nations children are raised safe, in community and with culture.”

For photo, video and interview opportunities, please contact Adllins Media director Ange Collins on 0438 653 857 (for Gunawuna Jungai) or Act for Kids media officer Melanie Whiting on 0427 794 666.