The Prime Minister of Australia delivered the 11th annual Closing the Gap report today.

Last year, three of the seven targets were on track and this year only two are on track. The gap appears to be widening, not narrowing.

Simon Schrapel, CEO of Uniting Communities: ‘It seems that after more than ten years of attempting to close the gap, it is widening rather than narrowing. Today’s government report reflects that even fewer targets are on track than those reported last year– this is a disappointing and regressive step.

‘While the report’s findings are of great concern, they are not particularly surprising in light of the repeated cuts to funding for frontline community services, the lack of commitment on the part of Federal and State governments to negotiate a funding agreement for remote housing, and the expansion of punitive income management and work-for-the-dole programs which are leaving people worse off and in a state of increased poverty and hardship.

‘While government funding has been directed towards employment – with more than an estimated $1.3 billion directed to the remote work-for-the-dole Community Development Program – the target to halve the gap in employment by 2018 is not on track. Similarly, increased expenditure on the Remote School Attendance Strategy has not resulted in the school attendance target being met. We need to closely examine why the gap is not closing, even where funding is being directed at the target areas. We know that funding investments or program changes won’t be successful if they do not involve First Nations peoples.
‘Uniting Communities welcomes the Government’s commitment to include a focus on closing the education gap, but calls for urgent action to address the high number of First Nations children in outof-home care, noting that First Nations children are 10.1 times more likely to be in out of home care than other children.’

Schrapel went on to say: ‘While the Closing the Gap Refresh process – involving First Nations organisations and including new priorities such as reducing the rate of First Nations young people in detention and adults in incarceration – is a step in the right direction, it’s essential that there is a genuine commitment from the Coalition Government to engage with communities and to support codesigned and community-driven initiatives that will contribute to closing the gap and improving people’s living and working conditions. This needs to be accompanied by a commitment to establishing a Voice to Parliament’.

For media comment
Simon Schrapel AM
Chief Executive Officer
0411 643 132