By ROD MOSS
The Closing the Gap initiative, implemented in 2021, targets Indigenous disadvantage with regards to the birthweight of babies, general health, housing, pre-school enrolments, school readiness, out-of-home care, incarceration, suicides amongst them.
The design and delivery of policies, programs and services hope to achieve greater efficacy through genuine collaboration between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Straight people. But the expression had circulated for years.
Ntaripe / Heavitree Gap, southern gateway to Alice Springs is the setting.
When the Closing the Gap expression first circulated an old Arrernte gent expressed his concerns: “What for they do that? How blackfella gonna get in and outta town?”
Before settlement passage through Ntaripe had been restricted to initiated men. According to Arrernte confidants, subsequent violation of this protocol had caused several nearby fatalities.
Given the mixed results of hitherto gap closing gestures (eg. Rudd’s Apology, Sorry Books, Reconciliation Walks, The Intervention, the Uluru Statement and impending referendum for a Voice to Parliament), the old man’s words sparked an idea.
Like Sisyphus straining against the odds and with the likely prospect of having to repeat his effort over and over, Lachie Purvis pits his strength against the boulder on Todd River’s hot dry sands.