Closing the Gap Report -- F for failure

Sara Hudson

17 February 2017 | Ideas@TheCentre

SH turnbull indigenous closing the gap speechIf the Closing the Gap Report was a school report, the government would get an F.

Of the seven targets, only one is on track to be met — year 12 attainment. And this is primarily because the rates for non-Indigenous attainment have not changed significantly… hardly a good news story for government.

The other six targets not on track are:

  • Close the life expectancy gap within a generation (by 2031).
  • Halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade (by 2018) — although there was a 33% decline in child mortality rates between 1998 and 2015, this downward trend has plateaued.
  • Close the gap in school attendance by the end of 2018 (new target set in 2014) — attendance has stagnated at 83% for Indigenous students since this target was introduced.
  • Halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievements for children within a decade (by 2018) — only Year 9 numeracy is on track.
  • Halve the gap in employment outcomes within a decade (by 2018) — rates of ‘recorded’ employment declined after 2008 when CDEP participants ceased being classified as employees by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
  • Ensure access to early childhood education for all Indigenous four year old’s in remote communities within five years (by 2013, revised in 2015).

When the early childhood target for all remote Indigenous four year old’s was missed, the government revised the target instead of accounting for the failure. Rather than ensuring access to early childhood education in remote communities, the government set a new target for 95% of all Indigenous four-year-old’s to be enrolled in early childhood education by 2025.

But the statistics show the gap is in the Northern Territory and remote areas, with only 73% of Indigenous children in the Northern Territory attending preschool in the year prior to school, compared to 92% of Indigenous children nationally and 96% of non-Indigenous children nationally.

There are two possible conclusions from all these failings — the government’s policy approach to ameliorate Indigenous disadvantage is deeply flawed and/or the Closing the Gap policy is a mistake.

However, what’s the bet that come 2018, rather than abolishing the policy, the government simply revises the targets again?

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