Much to do before we close the gap

Australia's black/white achievement gap will NEVER be closed.  Tribal Aboriginals are just too diffeent to adopt a white lifestyle.  The nearest that was ever approaced was when missionaries managed the settlements.  It has all been downhill since then.  Being an old guy (aged 80) I have personally  known Aborigines from the pre- and post-missionary eras and the difference is striking

The very low average IQ of Aborigines was rigorously  established by McElwain and Kearney with the Queensland Test and IQ is a strong correlate of educational achievement.

In the aftermath of the divisive Voice referendum, advocates for both the Yes and No campaigns spoke about the need to continue to address the very real disadvantages faced by members of the Indigenous community.

It is important that the rejection of the constitutionally enshrined Indigenous advisory body was not seen as Australia turning its back on its first inhabitants, and is not used as an excuse to downgrade the importance of reconciliation.

The rejection of the Voice was more about the initial failure of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to explain his model, and the subsequent failure to convince a wary electorate that such a change should be constitutionally enshrined.

Thankfully, since 2008, Australia has had a mechanism to track efforts to reduce Indigenous disadvantage. The Closing the Gap strategy was introduced by prime minister Kevin Rudd’s government, in conjunction with his national apology for the forced removals of Indigenous children.

In his apology, Mr Rudd spoke of “a future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity”.

When expressed as pure data – life expectancy, education levels, incarceration – the gap was and is staggering. Targets have always been deliberately ambitious and as a result they are often missed.

The latest state government Closing the Gap report reveals we are likely to miss many major targets, but the one that has been met deserves to be celebrated.

Queensland set itself the goal of having 95 per cent of Indigenous children enrolled in preschool education by 2025. That has already been achieved, up from 82.2 per cent in 2016.

Hopefully, this one success will carry through to other targets.

At present, the following targets are on track – the proportion of Indigenous babies born with a healthy birth weight, the number of Indigenous adults in full-time employment, and increasing the total landmass controlled by Indigenous people.

However, the areas where we are lagging are shameful.

Life expectancy still lags behind the broader community – by 7.8 years for males and 6.8 for females.

Incarceration rates for adults are actually increasing, rising to 2047 per 100,000 in 2022 from 1815 per 100,000 in 2019, while the number of young people in detention has only decreased slightly.

Heartbreakingly, suicide rates are also increasing.

And year 12 or equivalent education, as well as tertiary education rates, continue to lag.

There are two things we must remember when dealing with such damning data.

Education is key. Once those targets are being met, others will inevitably follow suit over time.

And secondly, Closing the Gap is just data. It’s only through sensible policies that have the support of the broader community that this shame of Indigenous disadvantage will be erased.


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