President of the Uniting Church, Rev. Alistair Macrae, expressed anger over the persistent disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. "With a life expectancy gap of around ten years, infant mortality rates three times higher than the national average, and grossly disproportionate incarceration rates, we have failed the First Peoples of this land."
"But today must be about more than the horrific statistics. There are critical social issues that we can't keep on ignoring," said Rev. Macrae. "Poor housing, inadequate health services, failed education policies and a lack of meaningful employment represent a top-down approach by our Government that simply does not work."
Chairperson of the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, Rev. Ken Sumner said, "We need to be thinking about ways to close the gap on every day of the year - not just today. This means long-term commitments, adequate financing of programs and bipartisan support to address the issues.
Rev. Sumner said that 2012 could be a watershed moment for Australians. "We have the opportunity to make a difference. The recent groundswell of support for the campaign against the Stronger Futures legislation shows that tens of thousands want to reset the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians."
Rev. Macrae said, "The theme of this year's Close the Gap Day is 'Power through Partnership'. Unless our Indigenous brothers and sisters are empowered to make the decisions that impact their lives and their communities, then we will never see the changes we want and need materialise. This is the meaning of genuine partnership, and it is the only way to end the disadvantage faced by so many."