This year’s Closing the Gap report delivers a result that has become all too familiar in comparing outcomes between Indigenous and non Indigenous Australians: not enough progress is being made, Dr Nicholas Biddle writes. There is improvement in some areas, but stagnation in others.
The government is right to highlight progress reducing infant mortality (which is on track to meet its target) and the fact that Indigenous children are more likely to have been immunised than non Indigenous children by the age of five. Make no mistake: if sustained, these are massive achievements.
But other areas such as early childhood education, school attendance, literacy and numeracy, employment and life expectancy are not on target. This is a policy failure and a societal failure.
It is tempting when looking at the year on year progress to become despondent, to feel that nothing works, or to assume it must be the fault of Indigenous Australians that the gaps aren’t closing.
To consider perhaps starting again on policy. But, as argued by Mick Gooda, that would ignore that there has been positive change, especially in the long run. It would also be a terrible disservice to the fantastic work that thousands of Indigenous Australians are doing for their people at the community, regional, state/territory and national level.
One example of this is early childhood education (ECE). In an analysis that I co-authored with Lilia Arcos-Holzinger, we undertook the first investigation (that we know of) to document the effects of early education on a range of cognitive and developmental outcomes of Indigenous children.