Tony Abbott is correct that the findings of the seventh Closing the Gap report are profoundly disappointing.

“Despite the concerted efforts of successive governments since the first report, we are not on track to achieve most of the targets,” the PM told Parliament this morning.

Abbott acknowledged that indigenous Australians face “entrenched and multigenerational disadvantage”, but also said they were sold short by the “tyranny of low expectations”.

The same thing could be said of successive governments on the issue of indigenous disadvantage.

Life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is “harder and shorter”, as Bill Shorten told Parliament this morning:

“Poverty and disadvantage are rife. Illiteracy, depression, addiction and suicide are common. Home ownership is a distant dream. Jobs are twice as hard to find. A young person leaving school is more likely to go to jail than university. A woman is 30 times more likely to know the pain and fear of family violence — and 15 times more likely to be driven from her home as a result.”

These and other facts should outrage Australian voters every day — not just in the second week of February each year.

The “gap” that we all focus on for one day in the political year is one measured in lives, in health, in misery, in a lack of economic opportunity and a poverty of economic outcomes. Non-Aboriginal Australians simply wouldn’t tolerate policies that resulted in one of their own communities suffering such consistently poor outcomes.

Peter Fray

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