Get behind Census and improve our mob, urges Parker

Yuwallarai woman Kirstie Parker has urged Indigenous Australia to get behind the Census.

As CEO at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence and a leader on national issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, Ms Parker has recently become a Community Supporter of the 2016 Census to help influence positive change.

“I think Australia as a nation needs to better understand its First Nations population and that includes knowing the size of it and where we are,” she said.

“Because of historical legacy, our peoples and communities have traditionally been neglected in terms of health, education, housing and so on. We need to ensure that every Australian is provided for in terms of our basic citizenship rights.”

In addition to gathering accurate data to improve services, Ms Parker says it’s also an important part of measuring our national journey towards closing the gap.

“When we see annual reporting against close the gap targets, in some cases we don’t know if we are making improvements because we don’t have the baseline data. We need to know if we are doing things better. We need some reference point and the Census can really assist us with that.

“I would say to our communities, that if you believe in closing the gap across these important areas, we need the Census information.”

Building on the positive practical outcomes, Ms Parker says it also sends an important message to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

 “Until 1967, our mob was not counted in the national census. In a sense it was like we didn’t count at all or that we didn’t matter. The Census sends a message to our communities that that we do matter. It provides a sense of inclusion.”

Ms Parker acknowledges there is some community concern about providing personal information and around how it may be used, but believes the fear is lessening.

“I do know there are people who think it allows government to surveil them and that any personal information can be used against them. It’s a very live and contemporary concern for our people. But if we accept that the ABS doesn’t share identifying information and doesn’t use it for any other purpose, then we know it’s going to help rather than hinder.”

“This is our way to help ensure service providers and governments are doing what we rightfully expect them to do for our communities.”

To find out more about the Census, search “Census.”

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