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Four lessons from 11 years of Closing the Gap reports

Nicholas Biddle writes in The Conversation (14.2.19) about the federal government's release of the 11th annual Closing the Gap report, highlighting how some policy targets seem easier to meet than others, while some are 'just plain unreliable'.

'Scott Morrison today became the fifth prime minister to deliver a Closing the Gap report to parliament – the 11th since the strategy began in 2008. Closing the Gap has aimed to reduce disadvantage among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with particular respect to life expectancy, child mortality, access to early childhood education, educational achievement and employment outcomes.

'Almost every time a prime minister delivers the report, he or she states the need to move on from a deficits approach. Which is exactly what Morrison did this time. But he also did something different. Four of the seven targets set in 2008 were due to expire in 2018. So last year, the government developed the Closing the Gap Refresh – where targets would be updated in partnership with Indigenous people.

'The current report and the work leading up to it has led to new targets, such as a “significant and sustained progress to eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care” and old targets framed differently. For example, the headline new outcome for families, children and youth is that “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children thrive in their early years”. This is on top of more specific targets such as having 95% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander four-years-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025 – which this year is on track.

'Looking back on the past 11 years, there are several things we’ve learned. This includes those targets that seem easiest to meet, as well changes in the demographics of the population that complicate the measuring of the targets.'

 

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