The recent release of the Productivity Commission report into the 'Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage' key indicators for 2016, paints a very grim picture for the ACT Government! After 8 years of 'commitment' for this initiative the gap has actually widened in the ACT! Not good enough!
Today I have called on the government of the ACT to take responsibility for the worsening position in areas of key disadvantage for the ACT’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. (Read my press release here).
The ODI Report is intended to be a public report card on progress by the COAG governments, individually and collectively, in overcoming indigenous disadvantage, and quite frankly it paints an unflattering position of failure to deliver on key services by this government in the last 8 years.
COAG has set several key targets for governments to close the gap in many key areas of disadvantage such as education, income, employment and prison rates by 2020. And what the report shows is that this gap is not only NOT closing, but in fact widening.
It is a substantial report, with a great deal of detail (some 3 half thousand pages of them, plus tables!) and of course it is going to take us a while to get across all the information it contained.
One area is in halving the gap in reading writing and numeracy by 2018. We know from this report, and of course the annual NAPLAN figures, that this is not happening in the ACT. In fact, the position has worsened across all these areas, and across all year grades. Probably the most startling, is the significant drop in the proportion of students who achieved at or above the national minimum standard in writing, which went from 73.4% of the Indigenous population in the ACT to a startling 57.8%. In the same period, there was also a drop for non-indigenous, but that was minor in comparison, 89.3% to 84.1%. Something in our schools is not working for our indigenous people, and we need to know what that is, and what can and is being done about this.
The estimated median gross weekly household income for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in the ACT has also dropped from $1055 to $805 a week, this compares very poorly with non-indigenous Australians in the ACT whose income was fairly stable at around $1300 a week over that same period.
The figures here are never that great for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in the ACT, but since 2008 have worsened, with the proportion of working age employed indigenous Australians falling from 72.1% to 62.9%. This is a startling result. When the employment for non-indigenous is again fairly stable at just above 80%
And of course this is a very current issue with the recent death in custody. As you know there is a coronial inquiry so we cannot comment on that case.
However, the report paints a bleak picture of the growing proportion of prisoners who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, which has increased from 10.4% in 2008 to 19.2%
Look there are some good figures in the report, not great, we do see an increase in the number of students who have completed year 12 with an ATAR of 50 or above, from 12.8% to 19.8%, but when compared to non-indigenous completions with numbers of 63.2% that’s not a great number.
There is obviously a need to do more or perhaps do better, or even differently. So we have asked the minister for Indigenous affairs to explain what is being done. They have had the last 8 years to make some significant changes, but haven’t. We want to know what money they have put towards hitting these targets
- What projects it had implemented in the past 8 years to close the gap
- What funding had been provided to these projects
- What evaluation had been conducted to ensure stated outcomes were being met
- What initiatives the government would implement to ensure that the situation would improve in future
We have been meeting with various Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander bodies and representatives to find out what they need, and we intend to continue to do that. But the government needs to be held accountable for what it has failed to deliver on to date.
We look forward to hearing from the minister.
Photo credit: Image taken from the front cover of report.