Closing the Gap Report 2018

14 Feb 2018: The 10th Closing the Gap report, handed down on Monday by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, showed that of the seven Closing the Gap targets, three are on track to be met – compared to just one in 2017.

The Closing the Gap targets focus on areas of health, education and employment. The three targets that are on track are:

  • to halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five by 2018
  • to have 95 per cent of all Indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025, and
  • to halve the gap in year 12 attainment by 2025

The four targets that are not on track to be met are:

  • to close the gap in school attendance by 2018
  • to halve the gap in reading and numeracy by 2018
  • to halve the gap in employment by 2018, and
  • to close the gap in life expectancy by 2031

Following is an overview of the respective Closing the Gap targets and the current progress in each.

The information and data included below is taken from Commonwealth of Australia, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s Report 2018. There is a link to the report below.

Infancy and early childhood

To halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five by 2018

The target to halve the gap in child mortality by 2018 is on track. The Indigenous child mortality rate has declined by 35 per cent over the long term (1998 to 2016), and by approximately 10 per cent since the target benchmark of 2008.

The child mortality rate for Indigenous Australians remains higher than for Non-Indigenous Australians, with the Northern Territory recording the highest figure and the widest gap.

The signs pointing to continued improvement in this area are an increase in access to antenatal care programs, a significant decrease in the rate of women who smoke during pregnancy and increases in rates of immunisation.

For 95 per cent of all four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025

This target is on track with 91 per cent of Indigenous children enrolled in early childhood education in the year before full-time school in 2016 (the latest figures available).

Most state and territory jurisdictions achieved the benchmark target of 95 per cent, with Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia recording 100 per cent enrolment rates for Indigenous children.

Education

To close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous school attendance by the end of 2018

The target to close the gap in school attendance is not on track. In 2017, the attendance rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children was 83.2 per cent, while for non-Indigenous children the attendance rate was 93 per cent. These rates a reasonably consistent with 2016.

There has been very little change in the rate of school attendance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from 2014 (83.5 per cent) to 2017 (83.2 per cent), except for The Northern territory where the rate has fallen in that time from 70.2 per cent to 66.2 per cent.

Indigenous attendance is lower in remote areas than in major cities and inner regional areas, ranging from 86.8 per cent in major Cities and Inner Regional areas to 64.6 per cent in Very Remote areas. The gap remains largest in Very Remote areas.

By year level, the gap is largest in Years 9 and 10.

To halve the gap in reading and numeracy for Indigenous students by 2018

This target is measured using NAPLAN data with progress tracked in reading and numeracy for Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 students, measuring 2017 data against 2008 baseline data. Although the gap has narrowed in all areas since 2008, overall this target is not on track.

Nationally, the target to halve the gap in reading and numeracy is on track in just one of these areas – Year 9 numeracy.

The best results and the largest reduction in the gap have been for reading in Years 3 and 5 and for numeracy in Years 5 and 9.

Measuring the data by State and Territory shows that the ACT is on track for halving the gap for reading and numeracy at each age level. The target for Year 9 numeracy is on track in every State and Territory.

Aside from Year 9 numeracy, Year 5 is the year level showing the best results nationally with both reading and numeracy on track in five of the eight jurisdictions.

To halve the gap for Indigenous Australians aged 20-24 in Year 12 attainment or equivalent by 2020

The target to halve the gap in Year 12 attainment by 2020 is on track.

The gap has narrowed by 12.6 percentage points in the past decade: from 36.4 percentage points when the Closing the Gap was introduced in 2008, to 23.8 percentage points in 2017.

The proportion of Indigenous 20-24-year-olds who have achieved Year 12 or equivalent increased from 45.4 per cent in 2008 to 65.3 per cent in 2016, while over the same period the rate of Year 12 attainment by non-Indigenous students also increased from 84 percent to 89 per cent.

Year 12 or equivalent attainment has increased in all states and territories over this period, but the largest increases came in South Australia, Western Australia and Northern Territory.

Higher Education

Higher Education does not feature specifically in the seven Closing the Gap targets. However, the report states that Indigenous university enrolment numbers have more than doubled over the past ten years – from 8,803 in 2006 to 17,728 in 2016.

Indigenous students nevertheless remain under-represented in universities, comprising 1.7 per cent of the domestic student population, compared with 3.1 per cent of the Australian population.

Indigenous undergraduates also have much lower completion rates. Only 40.5 per cent of Indigenous students who commenced university studies in 2010 had completed a degree by 2015, compared with 66.4 per cent of non-Indigenous students.

Employment

To halve the gap in employment between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by 2018

This target is not on track.

The Indigenous employment rate has decreased over the past 10 years from 48 per cent in 2006 to 46.6 per cent in 2016. Over the same period, the non-Indigenous employment rate has remained at around 72 per cent, which means that the gap has in fact widened.

The employment rate for Indigenous women has increased over the past decade, from 39 percent in 2006 to 44.8 per cent in 2016, however the employment rate for men has decreased over the same period.

By jurisdiction, employment rates for Indigenous people increased in NSW, Victoria and the ACT over the past 10 years, remained steady in Tasmania, but fell in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Northern Territory.

Healthy Lives

To close the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by 2031

This target is not on track. There has been no significant change in the mortality rate for Indigenous Australians since 2006 and while life expectancy has increased marginally, it is not sufficient to close the gap.

The most recent Indigenous life expectancy figures published in 2013 show that the gap for males is 10.6 years, with life expectancy for Indigenous males at 69.1 years compared to 79.7 years for non-Indigenous males.

For females, the gap is 9.5 years, with life expectancy for Indigenous females at 73.7 years compared to 83.1 years for non-Indigenous females.

Over the long term, 1998 to 2015, there has been a significant decrease in mortality rates for Indigenous people caused by chronic, circulatory, respiratory and kidney diseases. However, in the same period, there has been a significant increase in the number of deaths by cancer. The gap is widening in this area with a 23 per cent increase in cancer mortality among Indigenous Australians compared to a 14 per cent decrease for non-Indigenous Australians.

Closing the Gap Refresh

With four of the existing Closing the Gap targets expiring in 2018, the Australian Government is working with the states and territories and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to refresh the Closing the Gap agenda.

The government is inviting submissions from organisations and the public to identify the priorities for the future of Closing the Gap.

Click here to read more.

Resources

Click here to view the summary of the Closing the Gap report.