With a lowered life expectancy of 10 years among the Indigenous population, it was evident on national close the gap day on Thursday that there is still a long journey ahead.
Students, community members and local services gathered in the Moree Secondary College multipurpose centre to explore the current local issues and how they are being combatted.
Jake Muggleton and Brodie Dawson of Moree Secondary College spoke on national education statistics, most of which had not reached the national targets set out in 2014.
“While we are in reach of our goal, we need to work quite a bit harder to reach those targets,” Jack said.
Pius X project officer Ray Dennison believed part of the problem was the focus on more year 12 graduates rather than improving early education targets.
The school’s senior leader of community engagement Janine French spoke on their SistaSpeak and BroSpeak mentoring programs, which won the Aboriginal Social and Emotional Wellbeing Award last year.
Inspector Martin Burke gave an overview of police interactions with the Indigenous population.
Out of 154 interactions with young people from July 2016, two out of three were Aboriginal. Inspector Burke said wherever possible, police try to divert youth away from the criminal justice system to sports, education and leadership programs.
He said the statistics were shocking but hoped the community could see how things were changing, particularly through the IPROWD training program.
Ray praised IPROWD for employing Aboriginal people and improving their relations with police.
A roving microphone allowed local services to introduce themselves.
Anglicare’s Jamalla Williams was there to talk about her work with pregnant teenagers in Moree, Boggabilla, Toomelah and Mungindi. She mentors the girls, helps them through their doctor appointments and teaches life skills.
Pius X counsellor Annabelle Simpson took students through an exercise to help them identify stress and healthy coping mechanisms.
Drug and alcohol worker Stephanie Duke answered questions and busted myths, and challenged event-goers to walk in a straight line while wearing ‘beer goggles’ which mimicked the effects of intoxication.