26 September 2023

PC finds Closing Gap program yet to open

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Two years on from the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, the Productivity Commission (PC) has found that five out of 17 Closing the Gap targets are not on track.

Releasing its second Closing the Gap Annual Data Compilation Report, the Commission found only 34.3 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were assessed as being developmentally on track when they commenced school.

It found the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out of home care had increased since 2019, from 54.2 per 1,000 children to 57.6 per 1,000 children, as had the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in prison, from 2,142.9 per 100,000 to 2,222.7 per 100,000.

The Report found deaths by suicide had also increased, from 25 per 100,000 people in 2018 to 27.9 per 100,000 people.

Meanwhile, the PC found the target for a 15 per cent increase in areas covered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s legal rights or interests in the sea has improved, but is not on track to be met.

Commissioner at the Productivity Commission, Romlie Mokak said the Report provided a point-in-time snapshot of progress to help all parties maintain momentum and progress against the targets.

“While progress has been made toward developing the data we need to see if these actions are happening, we don’t yet have the data,” Mr Mokak said.

“Developing these data remains an important priority.”

Calling the results ’disappointing’, Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney said it was clear more work needed to be done.

“For too many years, First Nations data collection has been hard to come by and as we build these repositories, we capture the past and set the future,” Ms Burney said.

“There are some disappointing results in the latest figures – it’s clear that more work needs to be done,” she said.

“The Closing the Gap architecture can only work when all parties are invested and there is a coordinated effort from all jurisdictions in partnership with First Nations peoples.”

Ms Burney said she was keen to understand more about how the Priority Reforms were being implemented across the country.

The PC’s 35-page Report can be accessed at this PS News link.

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