Failure to make progress closing the Indigenous employment gap

Tony Abbott will table the latest closing the gap report in Parliament on Wednesday. Alan Porritt/AAP

Tony Abbott will outline limited and mixed progress on targets for addressing indigenous disadvantage in a report to federal parliament on “closing the gap”.

No progress has been made against the target of halving the employment gap within a decade.

But the target to halve the gap for indigenous people aged 20-24 in year 12 or equivalent attainment rates is on track to be met.

The regular closing the gap reports, tabled in parliament, were initiated by Kevin Rudd in 2008, with the first report delivered in 2009.

While there has been a small improvement in indigenous life expectancy, the latest information indicates progress will need to be accelerated considerably if the gap is to be closed by 2031.

The target of halving the gap in child mortality within a decade is on track to be achieved.

In 2012 88% of indigenous children in remote areas were enrolled in a pre-school program. Information for last year, showing whether the 95% benchmark for this target has been met, is not yet available. New data on school attendance is also awaited.

Progress towards halving the gap in reading, writing and numeracy within a decade has been disappointing, with only two of eight areas showing significant improvement since 2008.

Abbott will tell Parliament on Wednesday that “our challenge is to turn good intentions into better outcomes.”

“While progress has been made in some objectives, it is clear we are still failing in too many. For the gap to close we must get kids to school, adults to work and the ordinary law of the land observed.”

A report commissioned by Reconciliation Australia and done by Deloitte Access Economics, released this week, models the economic benefits of closing the gap. It estimates that by 2031 the Australian economy would be more than 1.15% larger in real terms than would otherwise be the case - a gain of about $24 billion in 2012-13 dollars.

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