Data shows Indigenous gap closing too slowly: Minister

Minister Linda Burney says there is a lot of frustration surrounding the lack of progress.

Minister Linda Burney says there is a lot of frustration surrounding the lack of progress. Photo: AAP

The gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians isn’t closing fast enough, Minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney admits.

Productivity Commission data shows a number of key Closing the Gap targets are not on track and some are going backwards.

Closing the Gap is a strategy that aims to achieve equality for Indigenous people by improving health, social, education and economic outcomes.

“I know many people are frustrated by the lack of progress,” Ms Burney said.

Last month, in partnership with the Coalition of Peaks – which represents more than 80 Indigenous organisations – the federal government announced its implementation plan for Closing the Gap, which included more than $400 million in extra funding.

There are 19 socio-economic targets in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

The Productivity Commission has released data on nine of those targets, which shows two are on track to meet their goals, but seven are not.

Ms Burney said the data showed “encouraging” increases in employment and land rights, but in other areas figures were going backwards.

“It is particularly disappointing to see the target for healthy birth weights for babies has gone from being on track to not on track,” she said.

“More of the same isn’t good enough. We need to do things differently by working in partnership with communities to get better results.”

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians Malarndirri McCarthy told ABC Radio while some targets were going well, much work was needed for others.

“We were deeply troubled by the fact that certain targets are not being met, and we’re certainly working on that in terms of wanting to see children at school. We want to see the healthy birth weight increase,” she said.

“The increase in the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are employed from the ages of 25 to 64 is on track. So we do see an increase in employment, but we obviously still have a fair way to go.”

Meanwhile, Deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley has denied the coalition’s stance in rejecting legislation in setting up how referendums are carried was indicative of the party’s stance on the Indigenous voice to parliament.

She said a proposal to legislate the voice in parliament and then take it to a referendum was a sensible idea.

“You don’t get a blank cheque on the constitution … constitutional reform is really a big deal and you have to get it right,” she told ABC Radio.

“Every day we hear more confusion from the government, so many different positions, particularly on whether the voice would have a role to the executive of government or to the parliament.”


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