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Government Looks to India to Help Close the Gap

7 April 2015 at 11:19 am
Xavier Smerdon
Could India hold the key to improving the lives of people living in Australia’s disadvantaged Indigenous communities? The Abbott Government thinks so.

Xavier Smerdon | 7 April 2015 at 11:19 am


Government Looks to India to Help Close the Gap
7 April 2015 at 11:19 am

Could India hold the key to improving the lives of people living in Australia’s disadvantaged Indigenous communities? The Abbott Government thinks so.

According to ABC’s AM news program, Doctor Kiran Martin, the founder of Indian charity Asha, has flown into Australia to meet with senior Government officials and Governor-General Peter Cosgrove.

She will also meet with aid officials, university leaders and corporate sponsors.

Since 1988 Martin’s charity has worked to improve education, infrastructure, financial security and healthcare services for around 500,000 people living in impoverished areas of New Delhi.

Martin told ABC that she felt her experience in lifting up some of India’s poorest people could be utilised by Australia to tackle its challenge of closing the Indigenous and non-Indigenous gap.

“While of course the conditions are different, and the circumstances in which both the populations live are quite different, I think there are some very important lessons that can be drawn,” Martin said.

“Asha's philosophy is to be right there in the heart of the slum, right in the midst of the garbage and the dirt and the bad sanitation, so that we can be relevant and we can serve the population and have the maximum impact.

"There's a community centre right in the heart of the slum, and I've trained hundreds of thousands of community health workers, women from the slums who are otherwise illiterate or semi-literate, to be the primary providers of health care in their communities.”

Martin has previously hosted former Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop in India and the ABC said that she had also received private sector support from some of Australia's biggest corporations who offer work experience to students from the slums.

"It has been quite remarkable because their personalities, they've completely transformed through the skill set they receive by this sort of engagement and then they've gone on to get amazing jobs — white collar jobs, it's remarkable," she said.

In offering advice to the Federal Government, Martin said welfare payments were not the answer to tackling poverty.

She said India is not a welfare state, and she does not believe that welfare payments lift people out of poverty.

"The shortcut is just to provide them with something but you're working with them, it's a very long road,” she said.

Alan Tudge, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister with responsibility for Indigenous Affairs, will meet with Martin later this week and told ABC that he agreed with parts of her approach and that he would also like to see and end to welfare dependency.

"In my view, and in the view of many of Australia's leading Indigenous leaders, [welfare dependency has] absolutely impeded progress," Tudge said.

"They don't have those problems in India, but they of course have other problems and, namely, very deep income poverty, so there are going to be some differences to those developmental challenges.

"But at the same time I think there will be some things that we can learn from Asha, and apply them in the Australian context."

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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