February 12, 2020
Only two of the targets set in the Federal Government’s Closing The Gap strategy are on track, the annual report tabled in Parliament on Wednesday shows.
These are Early Education (the government is aiming to have 95 per cent of Indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025; in 2018, the figure was at 86.4 per cent) and Year 12 attainment (the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students reaching Year 12 is closing).
However other targets – Child Mortality, Life Expectancy, School Attendance, Literacy and Numeracy, and Employment – are not on track.
In 2018, the Indigenous child mortality rate was 141 per 100,000, twice the rate of non-Indigenous children, and the employment rate was 49 per cent, compared with 75 per cent for non-Indigenous Australians.
Life expectancy is 71.6 years for Indigenous men (8.6 years less than non-Indigenous males) and 75.6 years for Indigenous women (7.8 years less than non-Indigenous females).
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services (NATSILS) has called on the Federal Government to learn from previous failures to meet the Closing the Gap targets.
It has urged the government to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to control and deliver the programs and services that Indigenous communities need.
“This report clearly shows that the gap will continue to widen if reforms aren’t translated into tangible, fully funded actions that deliver real benefits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout the country,” NATSILS co-chair Cheryl Axleby said.
“The Federal Government needs to commit to funding solutions to end over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and they must be implemented alongside other areas of disadvantage in the Closing the Gap strategy – health, education, family violence, employment, housing – in order to create real change for future generations.”
A Coalition of almost 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies has proposed a set of structural Priority Reforms to be included in a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap to change the way governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“The proposed reforms … must be taken seriously,” NATSILS co-chair Nerita Waight said.
“We must be the architects of policies that affect our lives and the governments must recognise our right to self determine.
“There must be a commitment in place to creating and strengthening the full involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in shared decision-making at national, State, local and regional levels.”