The Morrison Government calls for Close the Gap process to be reassesed and a new approach adopted as the report identifies only two of seven targets on track.

The Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, today has released the latest Closing the Gap report. The report noting that whilst there have been improvements in early childhood enrolments and Year 12 completion, results in the areas of health and employment are poor.

The early childhood enrolment target of 95 per cent of all Indigenous four-year-olds is aimed to be achieved by 2025. The latest report notes that Indigenous early childhood enrolment in 2018 stands at 86.4 per cent. 

For Indigenous peoples between 20 and 24 years, the rate of Year 12 attainment in 1990 sat at 32 per cent. This has increased to sit at 65.3 per cent in 2016.

This increase means the Government is on track to achieving its target of halving the gap.

Whilst Mr Morrison noted that “things are better than they were,” significant improvements need to be seen to meet targets in the areas of:

  • Life Expectancy
  • Child Mortality
  • School Attendance
  • Literacy and Numeracy
  • Employment

With mortality rates of Indigenous people increasing last year and the 2018 Indigenous employment rates standing at 49 per cent compared to the non-Indigenous rate of 75 per cent; the government has far to go to reach their targets.

The Morrison Government has noted that whilst they have success in some areas, Closing the Gap’s reporting method has masked the progress made by the Government and failed to develop and foster positive and sustainable relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait communities.

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Ken Wyatt, spoke to ABC News Radio this morning, discussing the lack of results in five target areas.

“Well, there’s multiple factors. We don’t deliver the services on the ground. We’ve got to work much more closely with States and Territories. The Aboriginal communities must be involved in this process; our peaks is certainly involved,” Wyatt explained.

“But at the local levels, that’s where we have to turn our attention to, because parents are the first educators in a child’s life. Community is important. We don’t engage with them as well as we should.”

“And certainly, in the refresh of the Closing the Gap, working with the 47 peak organisations, we’re having very real talks around how do we change the agenda?”

An effort is being made by the Prime Minister in 2020, to meet with state and territory leaders and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations to establish methods to see effective and sustainable results at a local, regional and national level for Indigenous Australians in the coming years.

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHOS) and Co-Chair of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap, Pat Turner, explains that the government needs to realise the report tells the same story of failure each year.

“The danger of this seemingly endless cycle of failure is that it breeds complacency and cynicism, while excusing those in power. People begin to believe that meaningful progress is impossible and there is nothing governments can do to improve the lives of our people,” Turner said. 

“The truth is that the existing Closing the Gap framework was doomed to fail when it was designed without the input of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We know what will work best for our communities and the Prime Minister even acknowledges in this report that our voice was the missing ingredient from the original framework.”

The Coalition of Peaks has signed a formal partnership agreement with every Australian government, where decision-making on design, implementation and evaluation of a new Closing the Gap framework will be shared. Through this partnership, the Coalition of Peaks has put forward structural priority reforms to the way governments work with and deliver services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Governments say they are listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. However, the true test in listening is translating the priority reforms into real, tangible and funded actions that make a difference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people right across our country.”

“This historic partnership could be the circuit-breaker that is needed. However, if they view this process as little more than window dressing for the status quo, the cycle of failure evident in today’s report is doomed to continue.” 

The Honourable Linda Burney MP shared her thoughts with ABC today on the report and what the government needs to do moving forward.

“I think one of the really crucial things that was made, once again, by Anthony today and the prime minister, is the importance of bipartisanship,” she said.

“The social justice condition of Aboriginal people is dire. We have seen improvements in some areas, but it’s still dire.”

“And the only way it’s going to be fully addressed is through a partnership with First Peoples. That’s in place. And that’s very good. But it has to be a partnership, in my view, across the parliament.”

Access the report here: 

By Rachael Knowles