Second Closing the Gap report shows same areas worsening

By Anna Macdonald

July 28, 2022

Linda Burney
Incoming Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The Productivity Commission has published its second report on Closing the Gap, showing four areas are on track and five are not, out of a total of 17 socioeconomic targets.

The four on track are: healthy birthweight of babies, the enrolment of children in preschool, youth detention rates and land mass subject to rights and interests.

The five that are not are: children commencing school developmentally on track, out-of-home care, adult imprisonment, suicide deaths, and sea country subject to rights and interests.

The report said the results should be read in context, pointing out a trend where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living in remote areas experience greater hardship than non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in those same areas. 

Chair of the Productivity Commission Michael Brennan said it was “too early” to tell whether Closing the Gap agreement was improving lives, although the chair noted some trends were emerging.

“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,” Brennan said.

Amongst some of the 2021 data in the report, 57.6 per 1,000 children were in out-of-home care.

Last year’s report, as previously reported in The Mandarin, also showed an increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care at 56.3 per 1,000.

Incarceration rates are also trending upwards, with 2222.7 per 100,000 adults in prison being Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, compared to the previous report’s 2081 per 100,000 adults.

People who took their own life. 27.9 per 100,000 were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, an increase from the previous figure of  27.1 per 100,000. 

Commissioner Romlie Mokak cautioned, similar to Brennan, that it was still “early days” for monitoring Closing the Gap outcomes. 

“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.

“Developing these data remains an important priority,” Mokak said. 

Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney called the findings of the report “disappointing”.

“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,” the minister said.

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