” Malcolm Turnbull’s crucial 10th annual Closing the Gap report on Monday is on track for disaster, with only one of seven targets to end indigenous disadvantage set to be achieved amid questions about the program’s relevance.
Targets to close the gap on child mortality rates, early childhood education, school attendance, literacy, employment and life expectancy are either unlikely to or definitely will not be met, key data obtained by The Australian shows. As with last year’s report, only Year 12 attainment rates are on track to halve the gap for indigenous Australians aged 20-24 by 2020.”
Monday 12 Feb, the PM provides his #ClosingtheGap report to Parliament 11.00 am
” The 10-year review launched yesterday suggests the program’s health targets be retained but that they be “complemented by targets or reporting on the inputs to those health targets”, as well as calling for a specific increase in health infrastructure and spending, and for greater First Nations participation in decision-making.”
The trends are contained in an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare assessment distributed to participants at a hastily called two-day summit bringing together prominent indigenous Australians in Canberra to consider a Closing the Gap “refresh”, including expanding the number of targets.
That summit ended in bitterness yesterday with a formal statement from the powerful four Northern Territory Land Councils denouncing it as peremptory and rushed. “Governments had 10 years to get it right,” the statement from the chairmen of the Northern Land Council, Central Land Council, Tiwi Land Council and Anindilyakwa Land Council said. “Ten years ago, they did not talk to us.
After 10 years of failure why are they rushing us now? Why don’t they give us time to consult our people and elected members properly about these life and death issues?”
The NLC and CLC will not hold their next executive meetings until June, by which time the government plans to have completed its refresh — leaving the two councils unable to present their proposals to their members.
The pushback came after a 10-year review of the Council of Australian Governments scheme found it had been marred by poor accountability and a lack of indigenous policy input, and was badly implemented from the beginning.
Malcolm Turnbull angered participants at the Parliament House launch of that study yesterday when he left to meet another commitment halfway through.
Labor indigenous affairs spokesman Patrick Dodson called the Prime Minister’s departure “indicative of the deafness, the absolute derision and the contempt which this government is meting out to the Aboriginal people”.
Reconciliation Australia co-chair Tom Calma, who launched the Close the Gap steering committee’s review after Mr Turnbull had gone, admitted the departure “wasn’t a surprise” but said it was “unfortunate he had to leave; it’s never a good look when we’ve all come together”. Further fire came with the revelation the government hopes to conduct 14 regional indigenous consultations in coming weeks as it pushes ahead with its refresh.
The regional process would mirror last year’s multi-million-dollar Referendum Council regional dialogues on indigenous constitutional recognition, whose results at Uluru were dismissed out of hand by Mr Turnbull.
Critics say the government could find it hard to encourage participants in the earlier process to show up for more of the same, having believed the resulting Uluru Statement from the Heart contained practical measures for improving indigenous outcomes — including its parliamentary advisory voice and treaty mechanism.
Kyllie Cripps, acting director at the University of NSW indigenous law centre, said the fact latest Closing the Gap figures closely mirrored last year’s was a case of governments “pretending they’re doing something when they’re not”.
“This has been a constant criticism of Closing the Gap reporting, because it’s a reduplicating of data that’s already out there,” Dr Cripps said. “It would easily cost $200,000 to produce the report each year, which is money that could be better put elsewhere, for instance a women’s refuge or other services.”
Referendum Council member and UNSW pro-vice chancellor Megan Davis described the report as “regulatory ritualism, pretending to fix something when you’re not”.
Bill Shorten said Mr Turnbull’s “disdainful attitude” towards the Uluru Statement was perpetuating the poor outcome. “The idea that you could paternalistically, in the Prime Minister’s office, make decisions on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Australians without them being involved in the decision-making, is just guaranteed (to not work),” the Opposition Leader said.