My name is Andrew Olsen and I am a proud Dhughetti and Anaiwan man from the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales. Today I have been asked to write about ‘closing the gap’.
As an Aboriginal man I am often asked my opinion on a wide range of issues affecting Aboriginal people. I find this expectation a little unfair.
To look at me you would never guess that I am Aboriginal as I do not fit the stereotypical view often portrayed in main stream media. I was born in a major city, grew up regional city and attended my local university.
I was however raised by a single mother who had little education and was welfare dependant. Growing up I never thought my childhood was any different as I had every opportunity imaginable.
Today is Closing the Gap Day, a day all Australian’s are asked to come together and take meaningful action to improve health equality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
The Closing the Gap Initiative is more than a 10 year plan, it’s about breaking an intergenerational cycle of disadvantage. When I was young I never knew how disadvantaged Aboriginal people were. All I knew was that too often we would travel to see sick relatives or attend funerals. For me, those trips were an opportunity to see my Aunties and Uncles or meet other extended family members.
Some of my favourite memories were listening to my Aunts and Uncles talk about the ‘good old times’. I never knew the hardship they went through just because they made it sound so fun.
I remember my mother telling me about how she didn’t gain a formal education and how she would have loved to have gone to university if this had been available to her. I didn’t understand that due to the government policies of the time my mother wasn’t allowed to go to school past second form. I couldn’t have imagined how big those issues would be in creating inequality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
I am reminded every day of the ‘gap’ as part of my role as KPMG’s Indigenous Employment Consultant. My job is to assist the firm with recruiting high calibre Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. I see this as my small part in working towards equality as I am able to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through employment. It gives me the opportunity to change people’s lives one job at a time.
Today I encourage you to find out one fact about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Perhaps that random fact is about the average life expectancy* of Aboriginal people or perhaps you can find out more about how you can help.
Perhaps this small amount of information will lead you to a much bigger conversation that in time will lead to positive change.