Eight Years On, Federal Government Still Failing To Close The Gap For Aboriginal People


For the eighth year running, the annual Prime Minister’s Close the Gap report card – which details the progress in bringing equality to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples – has revealed the federal government is failing in its delivery of services to First Nations people.

In Parliament this morning, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull delivered his first Close the Gap report. He described the outcomes as delivering “mixed results”, with the government failing to meet its own targets in mortality rates, early childhood education, reading and numeracy, school attendance and employment.

Only two areas – halving the child mortality gap by 2018, and halving the gap in Year 12 attainment by 2020 – are on track.

“The target to halve the gap in child mortality by 2018 is on track. Between 1998 and 2014, Indigenous child death rates declined by 33 per cent and the gap narrowed by 34 per cent,” Turnbull told Parliament.

“While Indigenous mortality rates have declined since 1998, the life expectancy gap still is around 10 years – an unacceptablly wide – gap and this target is not on track to be met by 2031.

“The original early childhood education target expired in December 2013, and was unmet. As such the renewed target aims to achieve 95 percent pre-school enrolment for all Indigenous four-year-olds by 2025.

“The reading and numeracy target has had mixed results, with four of the eight measurement points for students achieving national minimum reading and numeracy standards being on track.

“Closing the Gap in education is achievable. For example, for year 3 reading target to be met, we need 640 additional Indigenous students to be reading at the national minimum standard to meet that target. Surely we can achieve that.

“A new target to close the gap in school attendance by the end of 2018 has seen little change in the attendance rates for Indigenous students for 2015, and the gap remains sizeable.

“However data tells us on a given school day the vast majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are attending school. We are seeing more young people staying at school, placing the target to halve the gap in Year 12 attainment by 2020 on track.

“More Indigenous young people are finishing high school and more and more of those young people are enrolling in tertiary education. The past decade has seen a 70 percent increase in the number of Indigenous students in higher education.

“As in previous years, the target to halve the gap in employment by 2018 is not on track. However, I am optimistic that factors such as gains in Indigenous education, economic growth and strong Indigenous businesses will have a positive impact on these results in coming years.”



Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. In more than three decades of journalism he's had his home and office raided by the Australian Federal Police; he's been arrested and briefly jailed in Israel; he's reported from a swag in Outback Australia on and off for years. Chris has worked across multiple mediums including print, radio and film. His proudest achievement is serving as an Associate producer on John Pilger's 2013 film Utopia. He's also won a few journalism awards along the way in both the US and Australia, including a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards. Since late 2021, Chris has been battling various serious heart and lung conditions. He's begun the process of quietly planning a "gentle exit" after "tying up a few loose ends" in 2024 and 2025. So watch this space.