Why isn’t Closing the Gap working?
August 5, 2020
The Closing the Gap report began in 2008, after the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) pledged to close key gaps in December 2007 and approved the National Indigenous Reform Agreement which set out six Closing the Gap targets:
- To close the life expectancy gap within a generation
- To halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade
- To ensure access to early childhood education for all Indigenous four-year olds in remote communities within five years
- To halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievements for children within a decade
- To halve the gap for Indigenous students in year 12 attainment rates by 2020
- To halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade
Additional targets were added in 2014 and 2015 to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous school attendance within five years and to have 95 percent of all Indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025.
As he delivered the 2019 Closing the Gap Report, Prime Minister Scott Morrison admitted that “while guided by the best of intentions, the process (of Closing the Gap) reflected something of the hubris of this place. It did not truly seek to partner with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”. The Prime Minister went on to admit that Closing the Gap was a top down approach where “Canberra could change it all with lofty goals and bureaucratic targets. It was set up to fail. And has, on its own tests.”.
This refreshing approach admitted the failures of the Closing the Gap targets, where only two targets – early childhood education enrolment and Year 12 attainment – are on track to be met in 2020.
Closing the Gap Targets are currently being refreshed through a new process, working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to create targets, rather than creating targets for them.
However, as targets are being set, there needs to be new policies to tackle these targets. A Voice to Parliament would provide the foundation for policies to be created with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to close the gap, rather than for them.
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