Australia still not closing Indigenous gap

Over-representation in the child protection system remains an area of Indigenous disadvantage.
Over-representation in the child protection system remains an area of Indigenous disadvantage.

Australia is not closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage, new research from federal experts has revealed.

The gap in life expectancy will not be closed within a generation based on current trends, the Productivity Commission said on Wednesday.

Death from suicide has surged in the past decade, showing no shift towards "a significant and sustained reduction in suicide towards zero".

In 2019, the suicide rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was 27.1 per 100,000 for NSW, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory combined.

The Aboriginal youth suicide rate is four times that of other young people nationwide.

A target of reducing the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults held in incarceration by at least 15 per cent by 2031 will also be missed.

Instead, the rate is increasing.

Over-representation in the child protection system is another area of failure.

The aim is to reduce the rate of Indigenous children (0-17 years old) in out-of-home care by 45 per cent by 2031, but the numbers point in the opposite direction, eclipsing 56 per cent last year.

For babies and youth, some trends point to a more solid foundation for future wellbeing.

The proportion of babies born healthy and strong is improving, putting the healthy birth weight target on track to be met by 2031.

Increasing the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children enrolled in early childhood education to 95 per cent by 2025 is also on track to be met. It stood at 93.1 per cent in 2020.

Reducing the rate of young people in detention by at least 30 per cent is also set to happen.

Nationally, the rate in detention on an average day was 25.7 per 10,000 children in 2019/20, down from 31.9 per 10,000 in 2018/19.

But showing the stark difference for Australian youth, that compares to just 1.4 non-Indigenous young people in detention per 10,000.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt says the data delivers on the Morrison government's 2020/21 budget commitment of $10.1 million to provide independent oversight and accountability of progress.

"This means people can clearly see what is working and what areas need more focus to meet our shared goals," he said.

A new national agreement was struck with 50 Indigenous community organisations after the 2020 closing the gap report showed only two targets were on track.

It was hoped the new, more ambitious targets and involvement of the Council of Peaks would be a circuit breaker.

The commission's 'dashboard' has been issued ahead of the newly expanded annual report due next month.

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Australian Associated Press