Closing the Gap began in response to a call for governments to commit to achieving equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in health and life expectancy within a generation.
It is the story of a collective journey – a shared commitment to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to live healthy and prosperous lives.
In 2020, there is a greater focus on partnership between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It heralds a new way forward, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people share ownership, responsibility and accountability to drive progress for current and future generations.
To accelerate improvements in life outcomes, programs and services need to be designed, developed and implemented in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have called for a community-led, strengths-based approach, one that values their experience.
That is why in 2019, the Council of Australian Governments and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations signed the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap. This historic Partnership places Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as shared decision-makers at the table.
Through the Partnership, the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap is being developed to set out priorities for the next ten years and outline targets and measures that will enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to forge their own pathways and reach their goals.
Progress against the Closing the Gap targets has been mixed over the past decade. As four targets expire, we can see improvements in key areas, but also areas of concern that require more progress.
- The target to halve the gap in child mortality rates by 2018 has seen progress in maternal and child health, although improvements in mortality rates have not been strong enough to meet the target.
- The target to halve the gap for Indigenous children in reading, writing and numeracy within a decade (by 2018) has driven improvements in these foundational skills, but more progress is required.
- There has not been improvement in school attendance rates to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous school attendance within five years (by 2018).
- The national Indigenous employment rate has remained stable against the target to halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade (by 2018).
Two of the continuing targets are on track.
- The target to have 95 per cent of Indigenous four year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025.
- The target to halve the gap for Indigenous Australians aged 20–24 in Year 12 attainment or equivalent by 2020.
However, the target to close the gap in life expectancy by 2031 is not on track.
Jurisdictions agreed to measure progress towards the targets using a trajectory, or pathway, to the target end point. The trajectories indicate the level of change required to meet the target and illustrate whether the current trends are on track. See the Technical Appendix for further information.