” In March 2019, I entered into the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap, a landmark agreement to work together to develop the new Closing the Gap framework
For the first time, we have constructed something that sits at the very centre of government and demonstrates a strong commitment to Indigenous Australians having a real say.
That’s what was missing from the original Closing the Gap framework.
As we turn the last page on that framework, we take the evidence of the last twelve years and provide the final results. These results are not what we had hoped for, and it’s important to acknowledge them.
But it’s also important to celebrate the stories and successes that lie beyond the targets. On almost every measure, there has been progress.
I look forward to honouring our commitment to partnership. I want to make sure Indigenous Australians are genuinely positioned to make informed choices, forge their own pathways and reach their goals.
I want to make sure all governments renew our efforts to help close the gap.
We can all play a part.
Together we can all improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this generation and the next. “
Selected extracts from Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s forword to the Closing the Gap report
Download the 2020 Closing the Gap Report HERE
“Never have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies from across the country come together in this way, to bring their collective expertise, experiences, and deep understanding of the needs of our people to the task of closing the gap.
We have an unprecedented opportunity to change the lived experience of too many of our people who are doing it tough.
It is hard not to get overwhelmed by the lack of progress ( 2020 CTG Report ) , a widening gap in life expectancy, soaring rates of incarceration, with our people dying in custody
I’m hopeful the renewed policy will be a “circuit breaker”.
There is “goodwill” and “desire for change”, and the new Closing the Gap targets could be signed off by June.
We’re aiming for a maximum of 15 targets [and] all the targets should be national.
[There will be] new ones like justice, for example … and for the first time there will be actual Aboriginal involvement in designing this process.”
Ms Pat Turner AM, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and co-chairing a project to refresh the Closing the Gap framework.
“This demonstrates the need to adopt a new approach to Closing the Gap.
Key to this is shared accountability and shared responsibility – governments, Indigenous Australians and their communities and organisations.”
Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt welcomed the gains in early childhood and school education, but acknowledged progress has been slow in other areas . See Part 3 below for the Ministers CTG Editorial
Part 1 :This year, the Closing the Gap report marks a new era. An era of partnership based on an historic agreement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Last year, I hoped this report would be on a new Closing the Gap framework.
But, this is not a process we should rush. Getting it right is worth the time it takes. So while we don’t yet have a new framework in place, a new process has begun. A process that is truthful, strengths-based, community-led, and that puts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the centre.
In March 2019, I entered into the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap, a landmark agreement to work together to develop the new Closing the Gap framework.
It’s a commitment by the Commonwealth, all states and territories, the Australian Local Government Association and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations to work together in genuine partnership.
This is no small achievement. For the first time, we have constructed something that sits at the very centre of government and demonstrates a strong commitment to Indigenous Australians having a real say.
That’s what was missing from the original Closing the Gap framework.
As we turn the last page on that framework, we take the evidence of the last twelve years and provide the final results. These results are not what we had hoped for, and it’s important to acknowledge them. But it’s also important to celebrate the stories and successes that lie beyond the targets.
On almost every measure, there has been progress.
There have been heartening improvements in key areas of health and education. These are the things that create pathways to better futures.
It’s clear we have more to do, but we must do things differently. Without a true partnership
with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we will hamper our own progress.
The new framework is based on true partnership, and on a commitment by all governments
to work together, and to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The new Joint Council on Closing the Gap is developing priorities, realistic targets and metrics that all governments and the Coalition of Peaks can commit to achieving. At the core of this new process is the expertise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, guiding local action and local change.
Our refreshed Closing the Gap will focus on how we deliver services, as well as what is being delivered, and on solutions, not problems.
This means changing the way we work. It means expanding the opportunities for shared decision-making and making sure all mainstream agencies provide high quality programs and services. It means making sure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have better access to
high-quality services, including building community-controlled sectors, and ensuring we have the data needed for ongoing improvement. It means making sure we have the systems in place to share responsibility, and to measure our progress. Without this, we can have no meaningful action and no real progress.
For example, we are investing in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led data to support
decision-making at a local level. This will mean richer data to build programs that work for people in the place they live. It will also help to develop regional profiles to better understand how we are tracking towards Closing the Gap targets and other community priorities.
In making this commitment, together we have made a new path. Together we are setting out towards a goal we all share: that is, for every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child to grow up with at least the same opportunities in life as every other Australian.
I look forward to honouring our commitment to partnership. I want to make sure Indigenous Australians are genuinely positioned to make informed choices, forge their own pathways and reach their goals. I want to make sure all governments renew our efforts to help close the gap.
We can all play a part. Together we can all improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this generation and the next.
Part 2 : Key findings from the 12th Closing the Gap report
Target: Halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade by 2018 – Not met.
In 2018, the Indigenous child mortality rate was 141 per 100,000 – twice the rate for non-Indigenous children (67 per 100,000). While the Indigenous child mortality rate has improved slightly, the rate for non-Indigenous children has improved at a faster rate.
Early Childhood Education
Target: 95 per cent of all Indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025 – On track.
In 2018, 86.4 per cent of Indigenous four-year-olds were enrolled in early childhood education compared with 91.3 per cent of non-Indigenous children.
Target: Close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous school attendance within five years by 2018 – Not met.
Most Indigenous students attended school for an average of just over four days a week in 2019. Gaps in attendance start from the first year of schooling and widen into high school.
Literacy and Numeracy
Target: Halve the gap for Indigenous children in reading, writing and numeracy within a decade by 2018 – Not met but some improvements.
In 2018, about one in four Indigenous students in Years 5, 7 and 9, and one in five in Year 3 remained below national minimum standards in reading. Year 3 literacy rates are improving.
Year 12 Attainment
Target: Halve the gap for Indigenous Australians aged 20-24 in Year 12 attainment or equivalent attainment rates by 2020 – On track.
In 2018/19, 66 per cent of Indigenous Australians aged 20-24 years had attained Year 12 or equivalent. Over the decade, the proportion of Indigenous Australians aged 20-24 years attaining Year 12 or equivalent increased by 21 percentage points.
Target: Halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade by 2018 – Not met (stable).
In 2018, the Indigenous employment rate was 49 per cent compared with 75 per cent for non-Indigenous Australians.
Target: Close the life expectancy gap within a generation by 2031 – Not on track.
Life expectancy is 71.6 years for Indigenous males (8.6 years less than non-Indigenous males) and 75.6 years for Indigenous females (7.8 years less than non-Indigenous females). While there have been improvements in Indigenous mortality rates from heart disease, stroke and hypertension, cancer rates are increasing.
Through these foundations we have the ability to close the gap for indigenous Australians across a range of areas – getting it right at an early age can mean getting it right for life.
I am heartened by gains, including in early childhood and education and its long-term impact.
As a government, we do however, acknowledge that progress has been slow in other areas.
The past ten years have not delivered the results they should have – and there’s no shying away from the responsibility we share to get the next ten right, and the ten after that.
This demonstrates the need to adopt a new approach to Closing the Gap.
So, how do we take our successes in the education field and replicate them across other markers and indicators?
It’s not a simple answer but key to this is shared accountability and shared responsibility – between all governments and indigenous Australian communities and organisations.
We are committed working in partnership with indigenous Australians to optimise outcomes over the life course
And we have issued a call to all governments to continue to work together on national priorities for collective action and supporting local communities to set their own priorities and tailor services to their unique context.
For the first time in the Closing the Gap process, indigenous expertise is at the centre of decision making – this represents an opportunity to set, implement and monitor closing the Gap along with indigenous Australians.
2020 marks the next stage in an unprecedented partnership between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations, the Australian government, states and territories.
The Morrison government, through the leadership of the Prime Minister, is bringing together COAG and the Coalition of Peaks to deliver the new Closing the Gap National Agreement.
Our Closing the Gap Refresh will deliver shared responsibility and accountability.
Indigenous Australians at local, regional and national engagements are embedding knowledge and leadership, co-designing systems, policy and operational frameworks, and working with government to action change.
We are taking the time to ensure indigenous Australians and traditional owners are empowered and in a genuine position to make informed decisions.
In this new way of working, we share priorities – with indigenous Australians and with state and territory governments – in the fields of early childhood, education, employment and business opportunity, community safety, suicide prevention and health, as well as supporting local people to drive local solutions.
We must also continue to encourage conversations across the nation – so we become more comfortable with each other, our shared past, present and future. This has often led to local action to realise positive change.
This is why as the Minister for indigenous Australians, I have been tasked by the Prime Minister to develop a new whole of government indigenous early childhood strategy.
This will be a new way of working together to achieve our shared goal – working with experts, families, frontline service providers and communities.
Longer term we know that education has a direct impact on the ability for indigenous Australians to obtain employment.
The employment gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians narrows as education levels increase.
Since 2014 through the indigenous Advancement Strategy we have provided significant investments to indigenous youth and education initiatives throughout Australia.
Currently some 30,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth are being supported on their education journey through mentoring, scholarships and leadership programs like AIME, Yalari, Clontarf and the GO Foundation.
With this support, we will see this cohort of youth come through completing year 12 and progressing through further education, training and employment.
There was effectively no gap in the 2016 employment gap between indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians with a Bachelor degree or above (around 83 per cent employed for both)
Completion of Year 12 also considerably boosts employment outcomes for younger indigenous Australians compared with early school leavers.
The employment rate in 2016 for young indigenous Australians aged 18-29 who had completed Year 12 was between 1.5 and 3 times the rate for those without Year 12 qualification, depending on gender and remoteness locations.
Young, employed indigenous Australians with Year 12 qualifications were more likely than early school leavers to be employed full time, and be in a skilled occupation.
In the last 10 years, the number of indigenous Australians accessing higher education as more than doubled and currently almost 20,000 indigenous Australians are attending university.
This is worth celebrating. Every improved outcome and achievement needs to be celebrated and used to build momentum for greater improvements.
Governments, indigenous Australians and communities have a shared commitment to closing the gap; change will happen and we must not be afraid to learn from each other.
Indigenous Australians are the key agents of change. Governments need to draw on their insights, knowledge and lived experiences to deliver on Closing the Gap, for current and future generations.
We owe it to future Australians, both indigenous and non-Indigenous to build a better future.
We owe it to all Australians that they feel as though they have a future ahead of them that will deliver worth and value for work.
We will continue to work every day, to get more children to school, to support pathways into long-term employment, to address and reduce suicides right across the nation and to empower and give a voice to those who need it most.
For the first time government is walking this journey hand-in-hand with indigenous Australians.
I am optimistic that we can Close the Gap, not overnight, but overtime, in partnership and through genuine engagement with all indigenous Australians.
Ken Wyatt is the Minister for indigenous Australians