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Closing the Gap Program: Critical Evaluation

Assessment 2 Q3 2018

Three readings to help: You must read these Articles

  • Alford and Muir, 2004

  • Altman, 2006

  • Biddle, 2011 

TOPIC:

The ‘Closing the Gap program’ was introduced by the Australian Government in 2008 to address the issue of inequality in overall health and life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. Ten years later (2018) the Government has reviewed the program and recommended a reset in achieving its overall goal.

Critically evaluate (i.e., discuss the pros and cons of) the Government’s “Closing the Gap Program” which has been in operation over the past 10 years and make your recommendations as to how you would address the issue of reducing indigenous inequality by the original target date of 2030.

You are expected to refer to the grading rubric included in the learning guide and ensure that you address all the requirements that should be addressed in your essay.

Details

  • Time will be devoted in class to work on the essay within your discussion groups.  
  • A good place to start your essay is to use the readings for week 5 and the Lecture notes.
  • In addition, in vUWS under week 5, there are other readings referring to development strategies from the Australian Government and the Cape York Institute that take different approaches. As with the ‘Biddle’ reading, the Cape York Institute follows a capabilities approach and you may want to use the capabilities approach to consider the issues. 
  • The final part of the assessment asks you to think about your own social position and how that has influenced your thinking about the best strategy to close the gap. One or two paragraphs towards the end of the body of the essay is all that is required for this and it should be seen as a caveat to your argument in the paper. That is, you can qualify your argument by stating that your views are affected by your own social position or strengthen your argument by explaining how you have derived your analysis from an ‘initial position’.
  • You will need a minimum of 7 references including the 3 listed above as essential reading. These could be academic articles and books, textbooks or United Nations or other organization’s development proposals. 
  • This assessment task assures course learning outcome 4.1 as follows:
Course learning outcome 4.1
Identify cultural issues in a variety of contexts and make recommendations for improved Business practice.


REQUIREMENTS (Note: section headings are not required)
Introduction
The purpose of the introduction is to make clear to the reader what the topic of discussion is, what your position on the topic is, and to give an outline of how your essay will unfold. Therefore an introduction typically has the following features: 
  1. A thesis statement that answers or responds to the essay question or topic by giving your position, or stating your argument, clearly and concisely. The thesis statement tells the reader what to expect from the essay.
  2. An outline that sets the sequence of arguments or issues for discussion in the body of the essay. 
Body
The purpose of the body of an essay is to support the claim made, or position taken, in the thesis statement. The body of the essay should flow directly from the introduction and be divided up into paragraphs that develop and support your thesis statement through to the conclusion. 
Each paragraph should include a topic sentence that presents the main idea of the paragraph (typically the first sentence) and supporting sentences that explain and elaborate on the main idea of the paragraph. These may include examples relevant to the topic of discussion and quotes or paraphrases from other sources to back up the claim made in the topic sentence.
Each paragraph should develop one main idea at a time and be structured logically. The structure of your paragraphs will depend on the main purpose of your essay. An essay which discusses the historical development of an idea may have paragraphs which are structure chronologically, whereas an essay which is arguing a specific position may be organised into sub-arguments or reasons. If a particular sequence of discussion is outlined in the introduction, then the structure of the body should adhere to this sequence.
In some cases diagrams, tables and charts may be useful in conveying information in a structured format. However, if you use them make sure you refer to them and discuss their meaning and usefulness for your argument.
Critical analysis and problem solving 
When critically analysing a problem or issue, you need to use appropriate theory and/or research to analyse the problem or issue and to come up with solutions where relevant. 
Your essay should also reflect awareness that the topic can be analysed in terms of different, sometimes conflicting theoretical frameworks. 
Conclusion
The purpose of the conclusion is to draw the main arguments and concepts of your essay together and to show how these arguments and ideas support your essay’s thesis. Therefore, the main features of a conclusion include:
1) A summary that briefly restates the main issues or arguments covered in the body of the essay.
2) A thesis restatement that shows how the main arguments or issues discussed confirm your position.
A conclusion should not introduce any new ideas or draw conclusion that are not supported by the body of the essay. 
Bibliography/ references
The Bibliography should include academic articles and data sources. Please ensure to include the full references/links and the date that you accessed the sites/data bases. Your reference list will be consistently formatted and will use the Harvard UWS referencing style. Full details and examples are available on the library website at http://library.uws.edu.au/citing.php.
Do not plagiarise. Plagiarism occurs when a student submits work in which ideas, words or other work are taken from a source (for example, a web-site or computer program, another student's essay or presentation, a book or journal article, a lecture, a performance piece or other presentation) and presented as if they are the student's own, without appropriate acknowledgement of the original author. In this definition of plagiarism, it is the act of presenting material as one's own without appropriate acknowledgement that constitutes plagiarism, not the intention of the student when doing so. 
Academic writing
Ensure that your writing is as clear, concise and precise as possible. When writing your essay, use simple English to express your ideas where possible. Avoid using “big” words or flowery language. Instead try to write clearly by using simple language and sentence structures to express complex ideas, and incorporate specialised or technical terminology when it’s needed. 
Qualify your statements to ensure they are reasonable and express precisely what you mean. Avoid making sweeping statements or unwarranted generalisations. When evidence could be interpreted in many ways, phrases such as “arguably”, “the evidence suggests”, “it seems” and “it is likely” can be used to modify, limit or adjust your claims so that they are more correct.
Ensure that you proofread your writing and that it is free from spelling and grammatical errors. You will lose marks for poor spelling and grammar and for essays that have not been adequately proofread and edited. 
Word limit 
Minimum of 1,100 words and maximum of 1,300 words.


Answer

Assessment 2 Q3 2018

“Closing the Gap Program”

“Closing the Gap” program was introduced by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) with the aim of eliminating the gap in the facilities and lifestyle of the indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.  The Government of the country in 2008 established the National Indigenous Health Equality council and the COAG had identified six areas which needed improvement and urgent attention of the government. Hence they set six targets in an effort to Close the Gap (Garden, G.J., 2018). However after 10 years of the implementation of the program it is observed that the lifestyle and living standards of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have changed and improved only marginally and more efforts are needed to achieve the targets.  Where three targets show good progress the progress on remaining targets is less positive. The government and the administrative authorities’ needs to understand there is need for collective efforts and continued actions in order to achieve the targets. Four out of seven set targets could not be achieved in 10 years of time. It would not be wrong to term the program as a failure. The government needs to work in collaboration and active involvement of the indigenous communities to meet the objectives (Close the gap- 10 Year Review, 2018.). 

The National Indigenous Health Equality summit was held on 18 March 2008 in Canberra with the intent to close the gap and promote Indigenous health equality targets. The agreement was agreed by the COAG in November 2008. The agreement resulted in commitment of $4.6 billion by COAG towards minimizing this Gap program (Australian Indigenous Health Info Net, 2018). The seven targets that were identified as the ways to reduce the difference and close the gap were (Garden, G.J., 2018):

  • The gap in life expectancy of the indigenous and non indigenous is huge and that is should be closed completely within one  generation
  • There was observed a high mortality rate among the children under the age of five years. The gap is to be halved by 2018 (in 10 years)
  • All the indigenous children living in the remote communities  should have access to education by 2013 ( in 5 years)
  • The school attendance gap between  children o the two communities to be closed completely by 2018 ( in 5 years)
  • The gap in reading, writing and numerical knowledge of the children to be reduced by half in 10 years, i.e. by 2018
  • The  increase the indigenous students by reducing the gap to half in 12 years, i.e. by 2020 and
  • To provide more employment opportunities and reduce the gap to half in 10 years, by 2018.

Four of the seven targets were set to expire in 2018. During the last 10 years from 2008 to 2018, the progress of the targets can be observed in the following table:

Table 1: Progress against the targets

7 Targets to be achievedNSWVICQLDSAWATASNTACTAus/Total
Reduction in mortality Rate--------
Providing education to children  
Increasing the School attendance of students         
Improving the Reading and numerical skills of children       
Increasing the Year 12  attainment of children    
Providing more Employment opportunities         
Increasing the Life expectancy   -  -- - 

 Indicates that the target is on track and - Indicates that the data is not available or does not follow any trajectory (Source: Australian Government, 2018 <https://closingthegap.pmc.gov.au/executive-summary>)

The sustained efforts of the Australian Government have been able to achieve better results in the areas of health, education.  The above table shows significant fall in the child mortality rate. The statistics show that the child mortality rate has fallen by 35% from 1998 to 2016. Smoking has declined by 9% and drinking during pregnancy has reduced to half. The gap in education has also been filled as the schools have observed increase in number of indigenous student in large numbers in basic as well as higher education (Closing the Gap, Prime Minister’s Report 2018).

While the three targets are on track, four targets like, employment, life expectancy, attendance in school and practicing reading and numerical application among the indigenous people are far from the objectives that were set in 2008 (Higgins, I., 2018). Analysts term this failure as more of policy, administrative and moral failure. In the last 10 years there came four different prime ministers followed by four different indigenous ministers and five health ministers. The targets and commitments somewhere got lost in between.  With four of the seven targets expiring this year, the government needs to set new targets and strict progress monitoring system.  It has been observed that despite the huge investments of $33.4 billion annually on indigenous needs  and $6 billion on specific indigenous needs, there has to be higher accountability on the progress made (Fitzpatric, S. 2018).

The statistics shows that even though the indigenous Australians are 3% of general population they make upto 27% of the jail population. In order to set this right the government might need to revise the targets to include employment opportunities, entrepreneurship trainings, and revise education elements that impart them with life surviving skills. Educating them on reducing family violence and child protection needs like tertiary education can also help in making the closing the gap targets achievable (Close the gap- 10 Year Review, 2018.).  

Having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives  on the committee board and resolving their outstanding land and sea claims are also some ways in which we can see the closing of the gap dream come true (Fitzpatric, S. 2018).  

Australia is one of richest continents however the harsh truth is that it still has a population continues to suffer as the most underprivileged people in the world (Daley, P., 2018). The reviews found that the long term goals to bridge the gap between indigenous and non indigenous Australians were abandoned for the short term political motives. The gap can only be bridges when the policy makers put their heart and hearty efforts in achieving the targets (Wahlquist, C. 2018).  The targets need to be very clear to the administrative personnel and there has to be regular monitoring. The measurement of the achievements has to be a regular task. The last 10 years spent are like the missed opportunity in bridging the gap. The policy makers and committee needs to think critically and identify the underlying issues instead to framing loosely binded broad targets.

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