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New Closing the gap annual reports show limited progress in meeting targets

Posted on: 15 February, 2016
Issue: Vol 16 No 1, January 2016 - March 2016
Related to Closing the gap Cultural ways Deaths Policies Infants and young children Education Social issues Employment

Two critical reports were released last week; the Closing the gap: Prime Minister’s report 2016, and the Closing the gap – progress and priorities report prepared by the Close the Gap Steering Committee.

The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, released the 2016 report in Parliament, which is the eighth annual report card on the progress made towards meeting the nation’s targets to close the gap in life expectancy, early childhood, health, education and employment between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians.

‘Today, again, we’re seeing mixed results,’ Mr Turnbull said. ‘The life expectancy gap is still around ten years, an unacceptably wide gap, and this target is not on track.’

In an address to Parliament, Mr Turnbull said he would engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by encouraging ‘hope and optimism rather than entrenched despair.’ The Prime Minister said his government would redouble its efforts to engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. ‘Under successive governments, under both sides, progress against the Close the gap targets has been mixed, we have to be honest,’ he said. ‘We cannot sugar-coat the enormity of the job that remains.’

The Closing the gap report said progress had been varied across the seven education, employment and health targets. Out of the seven targets, two are on track to be met by 2020:

  • halving the gap in mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children under five within a decade (on track to be met in 2018)
  • improving year 12 attainment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students (on track to be met in 2020).

Other targets, which are not on track to be met by 2020, include:

  • halving the gap in the employment rate between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous people within a decade
  • improving literacy and numeracy achievements for children within a decade
  • closing the life expectancy gap within a generation
  • ensure access to early childhood education for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander four year olds in remote communities in five years
  • closing the school attendance gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous students.

The 2016 Close the gap progress and priorities report, released by Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chairs, Mick Gooda and Dr Jackie Huggins, has made a number of recommendations:

  • utilise the new Implementation plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health plan 2013-2023 to support closing the gap efforts
  • add an additional COAG Closing the gap target which focuses on reducing imprisonment rates
  • an increased focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a disability
  • a national inquiry into racism and institutional racism in health care
  • reform of the Indigenous advancement strategy.

‘This year, marks the tenth anniversary of the Close the Gap Campaign and ten years of hard work and achievement,’ said Mr Gooda. ‘We have seen some encouraging improvements over that time, but without concerted effort across governments and respectful engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, we as a nation will fail to close the gap…There is no quick fix for improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing. We need rock solid commitment with structures in place that will survive terms of government.’

Source: ABC, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Australian Human Rights Commission

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