Page last updated at 10:36 GMT, Thursday, 26 February 2009

Helping Aborigines 'to take time'

Kevin Rudd (file image)
Mr Rudd said transforming Aboriginal communities will take years

Progress has been made on improving living standards for indigenous Australians but further gains will take time, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says.

In a report a year on from his historic apology, Mr Rudd said foundations had been laid to improve housing, security and health for Aboriginal communities.

But he said generations of indigenous disadvantage could not "be turned around overnight".

Aboriginal leaders have lamented a lack of progress since the apology.

Ask many what has changed since then and "not much" or even "nothing" is the fairly common response, says the BBC's Nick Bryant in Sydney.

Aborigines are Australia's most disadvantaged minority, with high rates of unemployment, alcoholism and crime. Their average lifespan is 17 years less than the national figure.

'Bumps and setbacks'

Mr Rudd had planned to deliver his progress report closer to the 13 February anniversary of "Sorry Day", but the bushfires pushed this back.

Nick Bryant
There is deep-felt resentment that not more has changed since the apology

In a speech to parliament, he said houses were being built, more police were on the beat and more children were gaining access to healthcare.

"In the past year the foundations of our closing the gap agenda have been laid - and they are strong foundations," he said.

He defended controversial policies introduced by John Howard's government that ban the sale of alcohol in some communities and part-quarantine welfare payments so that recipients cannot spend them on alcohol.

The policies were a response to reports of high levels of child abuse and neglect in Aboriginal communities.

"I know the programme of income management is controversial, but we have maintained it for a simple reason - it has been shown to work in many communities," he said.

A government co-ordinator for remote indigenous services would be appointed to "cut through bureaucratic blockages" and ensure programmes for Aboriginal communities were better planned and executed.

"The transformation of communities and of lives will take many years and there will be bumps and setbacks along the road," the prime minister warned.

"The alternative is to do nothing. We are determined to have a go," he said.

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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES Rudd defends Aborigine progress - 41 hrs ago
Canberra Times New vision a year on from 'Sorry' - 41 hrs ago
The Australian Health checks for urban Aborigines - 47 hrs ago
Khaleej Times Australia PM defends Aboriginal progress - 52 hrs ago

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