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Issue #1767      March 1, 2017

Closing the Gap report

Six gap targets aren’t on track

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations say this year’s Closing the Gap Report demonstrates the absolute need for the federal government to work more closely with Indigenous people. Of the seven Closing the Gap goals, just one – halving the gap in Year 12 attainment – is on track.

This year’s Closing the Gap Report demonstrates the absolute need for the federal government to work more closely with Indigenous people.

This year’s report shows the other six – Indigenous mortality, life expectancy, early childhood education school attendance, literacy and numeracy, and employment – are not and, in some cases, are getting worse.

National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples co-chair Jackie Huggins said hearing the disadvantage gap was worsening made her “want to cry”.

“There’s a heavy blanket that surrounds you. You’re not able to move from that; it’s a wet blanket that sits over the top of your head,” she said at Parliament House after the report was released.

“That’s how it feels to me every single year. We need to break the deadlock here because we are just going backwards in our country. I would view this as an opportunity now and an absolute chance to turn this all around.”

Dr Huggins said it was time to “draw a line in the sand” and start doing much more to stem the “horrible” disadvantage. “While there have been some positive changes, the negatives totally overpower this in relation to where we are heading as a community,” she said.

“We say enough is enough, it is not good enough, and we deserve much better. Listen to our People, walk with our people.”

National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services’ Antoinette Braybrook said promises to close the gap will mean nothing without concrete action.

“Year after year we keep coming back and our people are still dying, still our people are being incarcerated,” she said. “Still Aboriginal women are being bashed and murdered, still our children are being removed. It’s really sad for us as Aboriginal people.”

NACCHO chief executive Pat Turner said Aboriginal controlled health services deliver the best model of integrated primary health care in Australia, and every Indigenous person should have access to these services.

“The Prime Minister (Malcolm Turnbull) committed to working with our people this morning and from this date on we expect nothing less,” she said.

“We can more than double the current 140 Aboriginal medical services that will improve health outcomes.

“Early childhood education delivered in a culturally respectful manner by our own people, trained to work locally in their communities, must be a priority.”


NSW Aboriginal Land Council chair Roy Ah-See, who has recently been appointed to the Indigenous Advisory Council, applauded the Prime Minister’s commitment to work with Indigenous people and said he is looking forward to implementing Indigenous-led solutions.

“Our people are still dying more than a decade before other Australians, too many of our young people are incarcerated or placed in out-of-home care, too many of our women and children remain vulnerable to violence and too many of our people experience self-harm and mental health problems,” he said.

“As the report indicates, progress in addressing this disadvantage has been far too slow.

“We should applaud the gains that have been made in literacy and numeracy, the numbers of young Aboriginal people completing Year 12 and the improvements we are beginning to see in health.

“These improvements show us that positive change is possible – particularly when Aboriginal people ourselves are the drivers of that change.

“This is a generational challenge and we have to keep the fight up because the lives of our children depend on it.”

Reconciliation Australia chief executive Justin Mohamed said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be hopeful about the Closing the Gap report because the gains that have been made came at a time of instability.

“If these positive gains can be achieved in an environment of uncertainty, imagine how much progress we would see with resourcing beyond one- to three-year funding cycles,” he said.

“Organisations and communities would be able to conduct their vital work in an environment of certainty. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities have the answers; they have been leading the way.

“The goodwill is there, but we need to be committed to harnessing it. The Redfern Statement provides an action plan designed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders. It is a blueprint to work for, and with, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies who know their communities.”

What the report reveals

A snapshot of results revealed in the 2017 Closing the Gap report:

  • Indigenous mortality: The target to halve the gap by 2018 is not on track, with the 2015 rate just outside the target range. Over the longer term (1998-2015), the child mortality rate declined by 33%.
  • Life expectancy: The target to close the gap by 2031 is not on track based on data since the 2006 baseline. Over the longer term, total mortality rate declined by 15% between 1998 and 2015, with the largest decline from circulatory disease (the leading cause of Indigenous deaths). However, the mortality rate from cancer (the second leading cause of death) is rising and the gap is widening.
  • Early childhood education: The target is for 95% of all four-year-olds to be enrolled in early childhood education by 2025. In 2015, 87% were enrolled.
  • School attendance: The attendance rate in 2016 was 83.4%, similar to 2014 (83.5%) compared to the non-indigenous rate of 93.1 %. Progress needs to accelerate to achieve the 2018 target.
  • Literacy and numeracy: The target to halve the gap by 2018 is not on track. Latest data shows of the eight areas measured (reading and numeracy for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9), only one (Year 9 numeracy) is on track.
  • Year 12 attainment: The target to halve the gap by 2020 is on track. Nationally the proportion of Indigenous 20-24 year-olds who achieved Year 12 or equivalent increased from 45.4% in 2008 to 61.5% in 2014-15.
  • Employment: The 2018 target to halve the gap is not on track. While there has been an increase in the Indigenous employment rate since 1994, there has been a decline since 2008. In 2014-15, the Indigenous employment rate was 48.4%, compared with 72.6% for non-Indigenous Australians.

Source: The Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap report.

Koori Mail

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