A WIRADJURI elder says closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage remains a long way off becoming a reality in Wagga.
Uncle James Ingram's comments follow the release of the Closing the Gap report, which reveals the federal government failed to meet targets in improving levels of Indigenous childhood mortality, employment, life expectancy and school attendance. Only two targets were achieved - early childhood education and year 12 completion.
Despite the First Nations population in Wagga being almost double the state average, Uncle James said the Riverina was forgotten when it came to funding.
He said neither state nor federal departments for Aboriginal affairs had offices in Wagga, and with "so many" name changes over the years, no one knew where to turn.
"My people want to help solve these problems, but we aren't even allowed through the door," he said. "If you go into any government organisation attending to Indigenous affairs, you find a lot of non-Indigenous people ... and they don't know one thing about helping my people ... otherwise it would have already been done."
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Uncle James said closing the gap starts by taking young people off the streets and onto country to become role models. He suggested programs such as rehabilitation for the incarcerated or traineeships that teach transferable, marketable skills to help gain employment.
"I would love to see extra funding for the CSU language program to employ more teachers to talk about identity, cultural and heritage," he said.
"We have a National Indigenous Science Engagement program at Mount Austin High School that I want to see right across the Riverina."
Wagga mayor Greg Conkey said it was a major concern that Australia had not come very far, but Thursday's Apology Day should be a time to reflect and consider a way forward.
"This is 2020, you would think we could achieve better results than what came out of this report," he said.
From a local government point of view, Cr Conkey said he was unsure how to address Aboriginal disadvantage because it was primarily a state and national issue.
However, he said it does impact the Wagga community and the council will continue its efforts to build strong relationships with the First Nations people.
"There is a long way to go and we need to address these situations," he said.
Speaking to Parliament on Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said despite the best intentions, investment in new programs and bipartisan goodwill, closing the gap had never been a partnership with Indigenous people.
"We perpetuated an ingrained way of thinking passed down over two centuries and more, and it was the belief that we knew better than our Indigenous peoples," he said.