Nearly all the government’s Closing the Gap targets are not being met, according to the 2017 report from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, released Tuesday in Parliament.

Year 12 or year 12-equivalent attainment is the only target currently on track: the proportion of indigenous 20- to 24-year-olds with year 12 or equivalent qualifications reached 61.5% in 2014-15, up just over 45% in 2008. 

All other targets are not on track, according to the report

Child mortality Indigenous child mortality has fallen 33% between 2008 and 2015, compared to a fall in all child mortality of 31% The target to halve the gap in child mortality by 2018 is not on track this year. The target is to halve the gap in mortality rates for indigenous children under five by 2018.

Early childhood education The target is for 95% of all indigenous four-year-olds to be enrolled in early childhood education by 2025 (replacing an unmet 2013 target). The 2015 figure is 87%, compared to 98% of non-indigenous children.

Life expectancy The target is to close the gap in life expectancy by 2031 and is not on track; the indigenous mortality rate fell 15% between 1998 and 2015; indigenous mortality rates from cancer are rising.

School attendance The target to close the gap in school attendance by the end of 2018. The attendance rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in 2016 was 83.4%, the same as 2014, and well below the attendance rate for non-indigenous students, 93.1%. 

Literacy and numeracy The target is halving the gap in literacy and numeracy for indigenous students by 2018. Only indicators for year 9 numeracy are on track; the indicators for literacy and numeracy for years 3, 5, 7 and literacy in year 9 are not on track, despite improvements.

Employment The target is to halve the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians in employment by 2018 is not on track, and in fact progress is being lost — the indigenous employment rate has fallen since 2008 and is now at 48.4%, compared with 72.6% for other Australians. 

The report also notes the ongoing separation of Indigenous children from their families, amid warnings of a “new Stolen Generation”

“Indigenous children are much more likely to experience child abuse and neglect. In 2014-15, Indigenous children aged 0-17 years were 6.7 times as likely to be the subject of substantiated child protection notifications as non-Indigenous children. These problems are complex and intergenerational.”

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten called for the addition of a family target around keeping children out of care, as well as repeating his call from last year for a justice target.

Peter Fray

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