LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Aboriginal Corporation welcomes the latest Closing the Gap report card, calling for an emphasis on continued commitment and long-term investment by the Council of Australian Governments to meet meaningful targets in Aboriginal disadvantage.
Overall there has only been a small improvement across the nation in closing the life expectancy gap for Aboriginal people. However, looking at averages across the nation does not tell the story of significant improvement in Aboriginal life expectancy rates in the Northern Territory.
The NT is the only jurisdiction currently on track to close the gap by 2031. This achievement is in large part, the result of governments working in genuine partnership with Aboriginal community-controlled health services and investing new funds where they are most needed.
This is strong evidence that the significant investment in the NT, especially the investment in Aboriginal primary health care, is working.
The fact that the nation is on track to achieve its goal to halve the gap in year 12 educational attainment by 2020 is important. Achieving better educational outcomes is largely a precursor to stable, meaningful employment at a reasonable income level.
However, the improvement in education is not uniform and a lot more needs to be done in remote communities across the NT.
Although the addition of a new target on closing the gap in school attendance rates may be useful, Congress is disappointed that the new target was not more directly focused on closing the gap in actual educational outcomes.
Attendance at school is important but it it’s only a means to a successful outcome which is completing year 12 studies and being fully literate and numerate. If children have entered school without the developmental capacity to learn and do well then attendance alone will not be sufficient to address the gap in educational and employment outcomes.
Congress suggested that the new target could have been to close the gap in the Australian Early Development Index scores of children aged five years, as this is the key to closing the gap in both school attendance and successful educational outcomes.
We need a “bottom up” strategy to addressing school attendance which ensures our kids enter school capable and ready so that school is where they want to be not where they have to be.
Congress also welcomed the improvement in Aboriginal child mortality rates. It is a concern that there has been no progress on some targets, especially the employment target, but there is a wide ranging review currently underway on this issue which will hopefully lead to some useful new approaches.
In the meantime, it is vital that all Australian governments, through COAG, recommit to the long term cooperation and investment that is clearly working though the Closing the Gap National Partnership Agreements.
Donna Ah Chee
CEO, Central Australian Aboriginal Congress
LETTER TO THE EDITOR