Closing the Gap Program: Critical Evaluation
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 achieved||NSW||VIC||QLD||SA||WA||TAS||NT||ACT||Aus/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.