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Closing the Gap report card: room for improvement

Indigenous communities in remote and urban areas experience heightened levels of disadvantage in spite of government commitments, says Sue Hutchinson.

The Australian Government made a formal commitment in 2008 to close the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in health, housing, early childhood, education, economic participation and remote service delivery.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) set measurable targets in order to monitor progress.

In this year's Closing the Gap report, presented to Parliament in February, Prime Minister Julia Gillard revealed that, while good progress is being made in some areas, little has changed in others.

The current life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is 11.5 years for males and 9.7 years for females.

It is clear that sustained effort across many areas will be required to meet the 2031 target, especially strategies focusing on the chronic diseases that contribute to more than three quarters of the gap in mortality rates.

Currently, Indigenous children are twice as likely as non-Indigenous children to die before they turn five years old.

This situation is slowly improving; the aim to halve the gap in under-five mortality within a decade (2018) is on target, with child mortality rates falling.

Young Indigenous children living in remote areas now have much improved access to quality early childhood education, enhancing their learning and development and preparing them for school.

The participation target will be met this year; with 95 per cent of Indigenous children in remote areas enrolled in preschool programs.

While the target to improve Year 12 attainment is ahead of schedule, the aim to halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy for students is making mixed progress.

In terms of housing, across Australia we are on track to rebuild or refurbish 4876 houses by 2014.

This is fundamental to improving the health, education and employment of Indigenous people.

Close the Gap day will be held on 21 March.

Closing the Gap Prime Minister's Report 2013 .

Close the Gap Day information

Photo : *Data source: abs.gov.au Life expectancy at birth by Indigenous status, 2005 – 2007