JOURNALIST: Five years on from the apology, are we as nation where you hoped we would be or are we behind?
KEVIN RUDD: You know I believe we’ve made progress in five years. The apology is now I think accepted across the Australian community. Closing the gap is now a formal intergovernmental agreement between the Commonwealth and all the States. We now have data which is measuring our successes and our failures. We’re not sweeping stuff under the carpet anymore. So I regard that as progress.
JOURNALIST: Why do you see higher education as the key area?
KEVIN RUDD: Well, education determines all your futures. I imagine that’s something to do with yours as well and therefore whether it’s early childhood education, school education or whether it is year 12 completion, retention or finding a place at university. This is part of every Australian kid’s legitimate aspiration and frankly we need to make sure it’s part of every Aboriginal kid’s legitimate aspiration as well. Our good friends here from the University of South Australia know that from their own experience. We need to double the number of Aboriginal kids in our universities and beyond that see them taking up the premier positions in the research establishments of our universities as well. It’s part of the new Australia, inclusive, creative with our best and brightest Aboriginal kids out there in the forefront of our country’s leadership.
JOURNALIST: How do you think the Government has fared in these last five years? Is there more that should have been done?
KEVIN RUDD: I believe the Government has done what has been physically possible to do. Remember, when I delivered the first report to the Australian Parliament the year after the apology on closing the gap targets, guess what we discovered? There’s practically no data out there, which is reliable, on early childhood education, on attendance, on literacy and numeracy standards, on year 12 retention rates and even on the infant mortality data was very thin. So we’ve been getting the data right. You see against five of the six measures that we’ve made improvements against the benchmarks and the targets that we’ve set. We’ve got more work to do on literacy and numeracy. As I said we should look at the possibility a new target on higher education. We want to build the next generation of Aboriginal leadership in Australia. Part and parcel of that is making sure we have much fuller representation of indigenous kids in our universities and frankly our universities increasing the celebrating this nation’s aboriginality as well. Every now and then I get to open Aboriginal art exhibitions and sometimes in this country we need to pinch ourselves that we are looking at the oldest continuing art forms in the world. People around the world are stunned by the antiquity of Australian indigenous painting and what it represents. This is part and parcel of how we are branded to the world through the enormous creativity of Aboriginal artists. Can I say Aboriginal creativity needs to be increasing in the mainstream of all that we do and become an object, of what I would describe as, not just respect and reverence but pride on behalf of all Australians through our universities as well.
JOURNALIST: Are you disappointed that a constitutional recognition referendum won’t be held on that for some time? You said that you were disappointed, that you couldn’t believe that we didn’t have constitutional recognition in 2013. Are you disappointed that it will be some years off?
KEVIN RUDD: Well it takes a while to do things in the political process. You’ve got to get all the ducks lined up in a row. You’ve got to get everyone to agree on recommendations and that’s within Indigenous Australians, and that’s before you get to the ugly nature of the political process. It takes a while to do these things, my comments are more about where we are as a nation than a particular reflection on the government, but these are things which we must have a future sense of urgency about, I commend the Prime Minister on the Act which is going through the Australian Parliament today, which is a precursor to the constitutional recognition process through referendum.
JOURNALIST: Mr Rudd, what do you say to some commentary that perhaps you’re sort of making policy for the government as a backbencher now by announcing something like this? Does that –
KEVIN RUDD: All backbenchers in the Australians Parliament can out whatever recommendations forward that they wish, um, what I’ve said today is entirely consistent with the closing the gap targets that we’ve had long established. You may recall that I had something to do with those originally as well. The fact that I’ve been so bold to suggest that (Inaudible), I don’t think represents the end of western civilisation, so …
JOURNALIST: So does it indicate that you want back on the front bench or back into the leadership or do you want to continue to engage on an issue that close to your heart?
KEVIN RUDD: Well, I’ve been pretty much connected with these guys for a while, and I take the project seriously. And if I’m passionate about something, and I am about the future of Indigenous Australia, in all its dimensions, whatever I end up doing in life in the future, you’re going to find me in the trenches with these guys.
JOURNALIST: You seem very popular back in there with these guys, do you think you might be what Labor needs?
KEVIN RUDD: Well, one of the things I always feel heartened by is that when I’m sitting down with my Aboriginal brothers and sisters, um, I feel very much at home. I think, I hope, they feel at home with me, please nod intelligently over there (laughs), and it’s always moving spending time with folk who have been to hell and back, through their experience of being a member of the stolen generation. It’s very import ant to spend time, to listen, to understand something that frankly, most of us white folks don’t even have the beginnings of understanding. Imagine this as a five year old, the Protector of whoever, in South Australia, rips you away from your mum, I think you’d be scarred for life. Frankly, putting ourselves in the position, physically and emotionally, of Indigenous people who have gone through that is part of the healing process, frankly, for white Australians, understanding what is was like, um, and that’s why I’ll be in the trenches with these guys for a while yet. Gotta go, folks.