More progress on Closing the Gap needed

·3-min read

More than half the socio-economic targets outlined in the Closing the Gap agreement will fail to be met.

That's according to the Productivity Commission's annual data compilation report, although it stressed the data should be treated with caution, being the first set since the baseline year of 2021.

The commission says progress on healthy birth weight for babies, enrolment of children in pre-school, youth detention rates and land mass subject to rights and interests (4,027,232sq km) are on track.

However, other areas, including children starting school developmentally on track (34.3 per cent), children in out-of-home care (57.6 per 1000), adults in prison (2222.7 per 100,000) and people who took their own life (27.9 per 100,000), are not on track.

Data in those key areas has worsened, while there has been improvement in sea country subject to rights and interests (90,555sq km), but not enough to be declared as on target.

However, Productivity Commission chair Michael Brennan urged those interpreting the data to be careful, and bear in mind that it is early days under the agreement.

"This new information provides some emerging stories, but it is still too early to say if lives are improving under the agreement, as the most recent available data are for 2021, which is only one year after the agreement commenced," he said.

"While it may be some years before we know for sure whether this most recent agreement is working to improve people's lives, progress will become clearer with each year of reporting."

Of the 17 national assessments, eight don't have new data available since the baseline year.

The report also notes Indigenous people living in regional and remote areas face barriers to better outcomes in a disproportionate way.

"That is, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people generally experience increasingly poor outcomes as remoteness increases, whereas non-Indigenous people do not (or not to the same extent)," the report reads.

"Supporting indicators that are now available can also help provide a more complete story on the socio-economic outcomes."

The national agreement on Closing the Gap was signed in 2020.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese - who is attending this weekend's Garma festival in the Northern Territory - said Closing the Gap and changing the Constitution to include an Indigenous Voice went hand in hand.

"It's not a matter of some symbolism, as some people would see it," he told parliament.

"(It's) a matter of empowerment. Giving people respect is a first step to overcoming some of the challenges."

Mr Albanese said his government had plans to invest in Indigenous justice, environmental rangers, healthcare workers and housing, as well as improving partnerships with the states.

TARGETS ON TRACK

* Healthy birth weight - 89.5 per cent (0.7 per cent increase in two years; target 91 per cent)

* Early childhood enrolment - 96.7 per cent (20 per cent increase in five years; target 95 per cent)

* Youth detention rate - 23.2 per 10,000 people aged 10 to 17 (27.3 per cent decrease in two years; target 30 per cent decrease)

TARGETS OFF TRACK

* School-starters developmentally on track - 34.3 per cent (0.9 per cent decrease in three years; target 55 per cent)

* Adult incarceration rate - 2222.7 per 100,000 adults (3.7 per cent increase in two years; target 15 per cent reduction)

* Out-of-home care rate - 57.6 per 1000 children (6.3 per cent increase in two years; target 45 per cent decrease)

* Suicide rate - 27.9 people per 100,000 people (11.6 per cent increase in two years; target "significant and sustained reduction'')

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