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Why Aboriginal Disadvantage within Australia is real.

(and why we need to be better at ‘Closing the Gap’)  

In April 2007, Catherine Freeman OAM and lan Thorpe OAM, launched the Closing the Gap Campaign and the Australian government made a formal commitment to address Aboriginal  peoples’ disadvantage in Australia. This became widely known as the 'Closing the Gap' initiative. 

But what actually IS Closing the Gap and what does that mean for all Australians? 

The “gap” refers to the vast health, education, employment, and life-expectation inequality  between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. This inequality includes a range of areas  such as: 

• shorter life expectancy 

• higher rates of infant mortality 

• poorer health 

• and lower levels of education and employment 

The ‘Closing the Gap’ strategy has indeed resulted in some improvements over the years  since its establishment in 2008. However, national statistics indicate there is, sadly, still a  long way to go. Additionally, in 2017, the federal government came under pressure to target  and lower the imprisonment rates of Aboriginal people. Other areas where the statistics  show an increasingly concerning divide between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians  exist around removal of Aboriginal children from their families and community, and in family  violence. 

The harsh truth is that while on the  outside the ‘Closing the Gap’ initiative   may seem to be achieving its original   objectives, it is in fact not.  Recently, the ‘Closing the Gap’ report led  by Scott Morrison, showed that only 2 out  of the initiative’s 7 targets were on track to  

be met. These included improvements in  early childhood enrolments and in Year 12  


Excitingly, a report shows that in the years 2018/19, 66 per cent of Aboriginal Australians aged 20-24 years had completed Year 12 or equivalent – this showed an increase over 21 per cent over the preceding decade.  Concerningly, however, the results in both health and employment are not performing to target and continues to be a significant concern.  

For example, the Aboriginal child mortality rate in 2018 was 141 per 100,000 –more than double the same statistic for non-Aboriginal children at 67 per 100,000. Additionally, life expectancy for Aboriginal males is 71.6 years (or, 8.6 years less than non-Aboriginal males) and 75.6 years for Aboriginal females (or, 7.8 years less than non-Aboriginal females).

Finally, in 2018 the Aboriginal employment rate was just 49 per cent compared to a 75 per cent employment rate for non-Aboriginal Australians of working age.  

Perhaps the problem is this: Whilst having targets in place looks nice on paper, the initiative is ultimately lead and controlled by the Australian Federal Government – a government that some may argue was established to disadvantage Aboriginal people since colonisation. Unfortunately, this means we, as the original and rightful inhabitants of this country, start  behind the ball from the moment we are born; this is why we must continually fight for our  rights and the rights to be heard and seen.  

14 years on from the establishment of the initiative, the failure to meet these targets is  profound evidence that the Government needs Aboriginal voices leading the charge. Making  way for these voices to be heard loudly and clearly in Parliament would indicate significant  progress in addressing the key problems surrounding our communities and families.  

Really, all we are asking for is the power to shape our future and the futures of our young people, as we know what needs to be done.  

Putting us in the driver’s seat doesn’t mean we are going to leave you behind. We’re inviting  the Federal Government of Australia to simply takes a small step back – to watch how it’s  meant to be done, to LEARN from us and to establish a better understanding about how to  work and engage with Aboriginal communities. Because only by doing that will be stand a  chance at bettering the lives of Aboriginal people and truthfully achieving the important goals  of the Closing the Gap initiative. 

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