Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Close the Gap parliamentary breakfast in Canberra last Thursday. Picture: Mick Tsikas / AAP
Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the Close the Gap parliamentary breakfast in Canberra last Thursday. Picture: Mick Tsikas / AAP

‘Closing the Gap’ worryingly slow

TARGETS to halve the gap in child mortality by 2018 and have 95 per cent of all indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025 are both now on track.

The only target found to be on track in 2017 - to halve the gap in Year 12 attainment by 2020 - also remains on track.

However, the remaining four targets, including a key one to close the 10-year gap in life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians by 2031, are lagging.

As well, three of the remaining four targets - to halve the gaps in employment, reading and numeracy, and in school attendance for indigenous students - are due to expire in 2018.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will outline the report card's full details and an update on the strategy today.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion says while some targets are not on track to be met, there has been "solid progress" in other areas compared with a decade ago.

"While we celebrate these important accomplishments, it remains clear we need to continue to work in partnership with indigenous communities to deliver improved outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into the future," he said.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd, whose Labor government introduced the Closing the Gap strategy after his historic apology to the stolen generations in February 2008, said the original targets were always going to be hard to meet because "overcoming 200 years of disadvantage is a bloody hard thing".

"So when people say they're too hard and we're not on track to meet them all, I say, 'so what?'," he told Sky News.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd introduced the Closing the Gap strategy in 2008. Picture: David Moir / AAP
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd introduced the Closing the Gap strategy in 2008. Picture: David Moir / AAP

"The key thing is ... that of the seven targets we set, we are on track to realise three of the seven. but in all of them what you see is either some improvement, significant improvement, or a lot of improvement if not full realisation of the targets.

"So I say today let's not bash the targets, let's enhance the targets but we should not water them down."

CLOSING THE GAP PROGRESS REPORT

• Close the gap in life expectancy by 2031: On track with overall mortality rate down 15 per cent (from 1998 to 2015)

• Halve the gap in child mortality by 2018: Down 33 per cent (between 1998 and 2015)

• Have 95 per cent of all indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025: On track

• Close the gap in school attendance by the end of 2018: Little progress

• Halve the gap in reading and numeracy for indigenous students by 2018: On track in the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania

• Halve the gap in Year 12 attainment by 2020: On track

• Halve the gap in employment by 2018: On track in New South Wales


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