Stalled Progress: Closing the Gap Report Highlights Government's Failure
13 February 2024 - The latest Closing the Gap report, released today, reveals a disheartening picture of the nation's efforts to address Indigenous disadvantage. Despite years of initiatives and funding, only four out of 19 targets are on track to be bridged, a fact that has drawn sharp criticism from the Productivity Commission.
"Systematic Approach Needed" - Productivity Commission
In no uncertain terms, the Productivity Commission has called out the government's lack of a systematic approach in its strategies, urging a fundamental change in addressing Indigenous affairs. The report highlights four key areas where the situation has worsened: early childhood development, children in out-of-home care, adult imprisonment, and suicide prevention.
Albanese Government Responds: New Initiatives and a National Commissioner
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is set to hand down the 2023 Closing the Gap Annual Report and the 2024 Implementation Plan, which will assess progress and commit to new initiatives. These include hundreds of millions of dollars for job programs, communications, and justice issues in Indigenous communities.
In a significant move, the government is also announcing the establishment of a National Commissioner for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People. This role will address the unacceptable rates of out-of-home care and promote the rights and wellbeing of Indigenous children.
Focus on Truth-Telling, Treaty, and Self-Determination
Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, emphasized the importance of advancing truth-telling and self-determination, despite the failure of the Voice to Parliament referendum. She also reiterated the commitment to treaty making at state and territory levels.
The report outlines four priority reform areas: data sovereignty, community control, changing the way governments do business, and self-determination. These areas will form the foundation of the government's renewed focus on Indigenous affairs.
Remote Jobs and Economic Development Program - A beacon of hope in the otherwise grim report is the announcement of a new Remote Jobs and Economic Development Program. This program aims to create 3,000 jobs in remote areas, providing a much-needed economic boost to these communities.
As the dust settles on the latest Closing the Gap report, one thing is clear - the government's approach to Indigenous affairs needs a reset. The creation of an Indigenous Children's Commissioner and the focus on truth-telling, treaty-making, and self-determination are significant steps in the right direction. However, the road to closing the gap is long and fraught with challenges. It is a journey that requires not just commitment, but a fundamental shift in the way we, as a nation, view and engage with our Indigenous communities.
The clock is ticking, and the stakes are high. The question now is, can we rise to the challenge and finally close the gap?