Closing the Gap targets won’t be met: Productivity Commission

Aboriginal flag flies next to Australian flag

It is becoming increasingly clear that a number of the ‘Closing the Gap’ targets will not be met, according to a Productivity Commission report released today.

The Council of Australian Governments committed to a number of targets for reducing
the disparity in life expectancy, health, education and employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The report monitors progress against these targets.

Despite considerable effort and investment, little or no progress has been made at the national level in closing gaps for life expectancy and reading and numeracy. Employment gaps have increased rather than narrowed.

“Meeting the targets for life expectancy, reading and numeracy and employment seems an
unlikely prospect at this stage”, Peter Harris, Chair of the Productivity Commission, says.

On the positive side, the report shows that good progress has been made in reducing outcomes gaps in child mortality and Year 12 (or equivalent) attainment rates at the national level.

And while the target of providing access to early childhood education for all Indigenous four
years olds in remote areas was not met, the evidence points to positive outcomes.

A much greater emphasis must be placed on policy evaluation, the report states.

“If we are to see improvements in outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians we need to move further into the detail, examining which policies and programs work better than others and why,” says Harris.

“Our current focus is on setting targets and monitoring outcomes. This must be complemented by evaluation.”

The report also states that there is a strong case for rationalising the current framework for reporting on Indigenous outcomes and disadvantage.

“There is a wide array of information available to tell the story of Indigenous disadvantage,
but surely the nature and significance of that disadvantage is not in dispute. Removing some
of the duplicate reporting could be a means of freeing up resources for policy evaluation,”
Harris says.

This is the first year the Productivity Commission has produced The National Indigenous
Reform Agreement Performance Assessment. The assessment was previously undertaken
by the COAG Reform Council.

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