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Now to the story...

Australia, Canada compare notes on indigenous health, poverty

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 3 Oct 2002.

Canada and Australia have held groundbreaking talks on how best to tackle
the problems of the two countries' Aboriginal populations.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Philip Ruddock has met with Canadian
counterpart Robert Nault in Canada and says he is keen to learn more about
Ottawa's plans to help Aboriginal populations improve their lives.

"There is a great deal of interest in Australia in areas where we both
face very similar difficulties with populations that have been
marginalised and dispossessed over generations and how you move forward,"
Mr Ruddock said.

Although Canada's 1.4 million Aboriginal peoples receive some $8 billion
annually from the Federal Government, they remain plagued by poverty,
often-deplorable living conditions, high rates of suicide and health

Mr Nault, the Minister for Indian Affairs and Northern Development, is
pushing ahead with plans to give Aboriginal bands more self-government and
make them more accountable for the funds they receive.

Canada has more than 600 separate groups of native people, who are also
known as First Nations.

The plight of the First Nations is a painful embarrassment to Canada,
widely considered to be one of the world's most advanced countries.

In December 2000, television cameras were on hand to record shocking
images of depressed native children sniffing gasoline in the remote region
of Labrador.

Mr Ruddock says he was particularly interested in what Canada has done to
encourage Aboriginal peoples to get into business and thereby improve
their standard of living.

"I think people are moving away from what has been called the rights
agenda, to focus on how you can deal with some other rights, rights to a
reasonable education, standard of health, housing, a reasonable future and
secure employment," Mr Ruddock said.

"Our First Nations peoples encourage me to look at Canada all the time,
because they've seen developments here they might like to see at home."

Australia's indigenous people are likely to die 20 years earlier than
non-indigenous Australians and 15 times more likely to be imprisoned.

Later this week, Mr Ruddock is due to travel to the western Canadian
province of British Columbia, where a host of native groups are
negotiating land rights agreements with the provincial government.

Mr Nault says he was happy to exchange views with another country that
could benefit from Canada's experience.

"I'm very interested in how they, by using our mistakes, I can say that
very bluntly, [can] develop strategies that would be more appropriate in a
modern context," Mr Nault said.

"There's no doubt we think we have come a long way and if they can learn
from us, great," he said.

"If we can learn something from them, then so much the better."



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