The annual Closing the Gap report released today, intended to provide a snapshot of the areas of health, education and employment, has revealed that progress in these areas is too slow – resulting in continued disadvantage for Australia’s First Peoples.
The report contends that any improvements “…are not enough to meet the majority of the outcomes set by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG)”.
Of particular concern for SNAICC are the early years education targets. Having only been established in 2015 (aiming for 95 per cent of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander four-year-olds to be enrolled in early childhood education by 2025), it is not yet possible to measure progress on this target.
The previous early years education target – ensuring access for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander four-year-olds in remote communities to early childhood education – expired unmet in 2013.
SNAICC is also concerned that the current target is not broad enough. It fails to report on the 2017 Report on Government Services statistics that show that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0-5 are less than half as likely to access an early childhood education and care services, meaning they are in many cases already behind by the time they reach their pre-school year.
SNAICC CEO Gerry Moore comments:
Data from past reports shows us that there is significant ground to be made up to ensure all Australian children have access to early childhood education and care.
“There is so much evidence that shows us just how important it is that children receive early childhood education and care, particularly to ensure they can successfully transition to school and have strong lifelong outcomes in the future.
“In his report the Prime Minister talks about governments and Aboriginal people working together to make decisions, and about translating policy into action. As the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children – the collection of the leading experts in this area – the Prime Minister has not heard our calls to amend the Jobs for Families Childcare Package, so that our most vulnerable children will not be further disadvantaged.
“Early childhood education targets are not going to be met if reforms are introduced that lead to less of our children being able to access services.”
– Gerry Moore, SNAICC CEO
Additionally, the Closing the Gap report has failed to capture the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children removed by child protection authorities – a key driver of poor lifelong outcomes for children.
In order to reduce this over-representation, SNAICC strongly recommends the adoption of a COAG target (to eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids in out-of-home care by 2040) as called for by the Family Matters campaign.
Infant Mortality: NOT ON TRACK
The target to halve the gap in child mortality by 2018 is not on track this year. The 2015 Indigenous child mortality rate is just outside the range for the target.
Over the longer-term (1998 to 2015), the Indigenous child mortality rate declined by 33 per cent.
Life expectancy: NOT ON TRACK
The target to close the gap in life expectancy by 2031 is not on track based on data since the 2006 baseline.
Early Years Education: NOT YET MEASURABLE
In December 2015, COAG renewed the early childhood education target, aiming for 95 per cent of all Indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025. The baseline data for this new target is for 2015. The data shows that in 2015, 87 per cent of all Indigenous children were enrolled in early childhood education in the year before full-time school, compared with 98 per cent of their non-Indigenous counterparts.
School Attendance: NOT ON TRACK
There has been no progress in closing the gap on school attendance (it has actually fallen by 0.01 per cent) resulting in the attendance rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students being 83.4 per cent while the figure for non-Indigenous kids remained steady at 93.1 per cent.
Literacy and numeracy: NOT ON TRACK
The latest data show of the eight areas measured (reading and numeracy for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9), only one (Year 9 numeracy) is on track.
Year 12 attainment: ON TRACK
Nationally the proportion of Indigenous 20-24 year-olds who had achieved Year 12 or equivalent increased to 61.5 per cent in 2014-15 (from 45.4 per cent in 2008).
Employment: NOT ON TRACK
While there was an increase in Indigenous employment rate between 1994-2008, there has been a decline since 2008. In 2014-15, the Indigenous employment rate was 48.4 per cent, compared with 72.6 per cent for non-Indigenous Australians.