Indigenous reform 2011-12: comparing performance across Australia

Indigenous health Policy Aboriginal Australians government relations Australia

This report found that Australia was on track to halve the gap in child death rates within 10 years. In education, more young Indigenous people were completing Year 12 and studying post school qualifications, but Indigenous children were not doing well in reading and numeracy.

Key findings:

There has been good progress on 3 of 6 Indigenous reform targets, but concerning results for the other three.

The National Indigenous Reform Agreement sets six targets to address Indigenous disadvantage. We report on progress toward COAG's targets each year. This year, we have enough data to report on components of all six targets, though our reporting for some targets is only partial (see Appendix A).

For 3 targets, Indigenous outcomes are catching up with those of other Australians

Australia is on track to halve the gap in child death rates by 2018. From 1998 to 2011, the gap between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous child (0–4 years) death rates reduced from 139.0 to 109.9 deaths per 100 000. The Indigenous child death rate fell by an average of 5.7 deaths per 100 000 per year over this period. Data are for the total of NSW, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory only.

In 2011, 91% of Indigenous children in remote communities were enrolled in a preschool program in the year before formal schooling. This result is close to COAG's target—only 4 percentage points improvement is needed to achieve 95% enrolment by 2013.

From 2006 to 2011, the rate of Indigenous Year 12 or equivalent attainment rose from 47.4% to 53.9%. The attainment gap narrowed by 4.4 percentage points. The largest reduction in the gap was in the Northern Territory (6.8 percentage points). Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory, the ACT and the nation as a whole are on track to halve the gap by 2020.

Results in three areas—Indigenous reading and numeracy, death rates and employment outcomes—are of concern

Between 2008 and 2012, for Years 3, 5 and 7, the national gap narrowed in reading but widened in numeracy. For Year 9, the gap widened in reading and narrowed in numeracy.

There were significant improvements for Indigenous students in Year 3 reading at the national level, and in Queensland and Western Australia. Over five years, however, there were no significant improvements in Indigenous numeracy in any year or jurisdiction. Nationally, Indigenous numeracy rates declined in Year 3 and Year 7.

Only the Northern Territory is on track to close the gap in Indigenous death rates within a generation (by 2031). Death rates decreased in Queensland but not by enough to meet its target. Although the death rate also decreased for Western Australia, that jurisdiction does not have a published trajectory or target. There were no significant changes in the death rate in NSW and South Australia and they are not on track to close the gap. Data are available only for these five States.

Looking at the five-State total, in 2011, Indigenous people died at nearly twice the rate of non-Indigenous people. We note that this target has a long timeframe. Efforts to improve Indigenous life expectancy may take many years to show results.

From 2006 to 2011, the employment gap widened on three measures—employment, unemployment and labour force participation. Only NSW reduced the gap in the employment rate in the period 2006–2011.

Post school qualifications improve employment outcomes and provide pathways to further education and training for Indigenous people. While Indigenous post school qualification rates improved in all States and Territories from 2006 to 2011, non-Indigenous outcomes generally improved faster. The post school qualifications gap widened in Australia and most jurisdictions, but narrowed slightly in NSW and the ACT.

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