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Two major Closing the gap reports were released today: the Closing the gap: Prime Minister’s report 2014 and the Close the gap progress and priorities ('shadow') report prepared by the Close the Gap Steering Committee.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott delivered his first report on progress in Closing the gap in Indigenous disadvantage in Parliament. This is the sixth annual report card on the progress made towards meeting the nation's targets to close the gap in life expectancy, early childhood, health, education and employment between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
The report card outlined the commitments made by the new government, including consolidating the administration of Indigenous programs into the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and establishing the Prime Minister's Advisory Council, chaired by Mr Warren Mundine.
The report card also outlined progress made towards addressing the Closing the gap targets. Two targets, those adressing the gaps in child mortality and Year 12 attainment, are on track to be met. Three targets, those addressing the gaps in life expectancy, reading, writing and numeracy, and employment, are currently not on track. Data will be available in April to assess whether the target addressing pre-school programs for Indigenous children in remote communities has been met by its 2013 deadline.
The Prime Minister said, 'Our challenge is to turn good intentions into better outcomes. For the gap to close, we must get kids to school, adults to work and the ordinary law of the land observed.
We should want nothing less for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than we want for every Australian. While there has been a small improvement in Indigenous life expectancy, the report says progress will need to “accelerate considerably” if the gap is to be closed by 2031.’
The Close the gap progress and priorities report (also known as 'the shadow report') is released annually by the Close the Gap Steering Committee. This report charts current progress and calls on the government to commit to further actions. The 2014 report calls on the Australian Government, in partnership with Indigenous people, to:
The Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Mr Mohamed urged all governments to recommit to a national agreement to provide funding certainty to programs and services that are working, and also for the Australian Government to move to implement the most recent health plan.
'The programs targeting maternal and child health, largely delivered by ACCHOs, are having an impact.
'Other services and programs are also showing gains. Generational change comes slowly but the incremental gains being made reinforce the need to maintain focus and investment over the long term.
'A new national partnership agreement is now long overdue and all governments must come to the table and demonstrate their commitment to improving the health of Aboriginal people.
'NACCHO would also like to see the Federal Government commit to delivering on the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health plan. Too much was invested by Aboriginal people in its development to have it be just another report gathering dust on a Ministerial shelf.'
Sources: Australian Government, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation