26. Closing the Gap No1 - 10 Years of confusing Government meetings

The late Charles Nikunu Yunupingu, skin name or calling name Bulany, asked Richard Trudgen to explain what the English phrase Closing the Gap meant. This was despite the fact that Charles was the Yolngu person who chaired most of the government meetings at Galiwinku held to discuss the government policy of Closing the Gap with the community.  He was also the Yolngu Matha interpreter in all those meetings.

Sadly throughout all these meetings neither Charles or anyone from the Yolngu Community nor the government workers had the cross-cultural or bilingual, awareness, knowledge, or skills to check whether the main reason for the meeting was being understood by the Yolngu community. This also means that the government workers involved were not hearing where the people were at, or what their concerns were.

He was a qualified teacher, incredibly intelligent, able to spell English and Yolngu Matha terms without any difficulty.  Even English terms that he did not understand. Yet like most of his contemporaries, he struggled with the academic level of English as they do. A fact that is unrecognised by Government authorities and English speakers people on the ground. And which creates the greatest disconnect between the two culture groups.

Closing the Gap is a government initiative started 10 years ago to improve Aboriginal people’s health, education and employment opportunities across Australia.

Many dozens of meetings have been held in Yolngu communities where government personnel talked to community leaders about looking for ways to “Close the Gap”. Unfortunately, the Yolngu leaders did not understand what “Closing the Gap” meant, leading to ten years of wasted resources and confused Yolngu leaders.

Many Yolngu people did not know that the Government was concerned about fixing the same issues that Yolngu parents and leaders have also been concerned about. Consequently, community leaders have been unable to participate effectively in program development and rollout. The problems with low English skills and the lack of English to Yolngu Matha resources also continue to undermine Government attempts to try and turn things around.

Using a live dialogue method, these 6 podcasts work through the meaning of “Closing the Gap” and talk about how it relates to life expectancy, child mortality, education, and employment.

There are 6 Stories in this podcast. Please see time stamps below –

  • What does Closing the Gap mean? – 0:00
  • Confusion in Government meetings with the communities. – 14:32
  • Closing the gap in life expectancy and child mortality. – 29:32
  • Need community working with Government to close the gap. – 45:54
  • Closing the gap in education. – 58:11
  • Closing the gap in employment. – 1:10:49