Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Continuing work to Close the Gap

The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, has welcomed the Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators 2011 Report, which highlights progress in closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians and demonstrates that continued effort is required.

The Australian Government committed to the Closing the Gap targets because we knew that previous haphazard approaches to ending Indigenous disadvantage had not been good enough.

The Closing the Gap targets commit all governments to an overarching framework and hold them accountable to specific targets. This, together with our unprecedented investment, is beginning to make a difference, but the Government recognises that this work will take time and continued effort.

Government cannot close the gap alone. Closing the Gap requires a genuine partnership with Indigenous Australians at all levels and the Government is committed to a relationship based on trust and mutual respect.

The 2011-12 Budget provided $526.6 million over the next five years for measures addressing Indigenous disadvantage.

Today’s report shows Indigenous outcomes have improved and gaps have narrowed in several key areas including mortality, infant mortality, education, and reliance on income support.

For Indigenous people living in Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory the mortality rate declined by 27 per cent from 1991 to 2009 and the Indigenous infant mortality rate declined by 48 per cent in these three jurisdictions over the same period.

The proportion of Indigenous people aged 18 to 64 whose main source of personal income was CDEP payments, government pensions and allowances fell from 60.9 per cent in 2002, to 45.5 per cent in 2008.

The Indigenous unemployment rate has almost halved since the 1990s, down from 31 per cent in 1994 to 16.6 per cent in 2008.

Indigenous home ownership rates and median household incomes have also increased.

Getting housing right is critical to closing the gap.

Since the commencement of the National Partnership Agreement on Remote Indigenous Housing in 2009 more than 800 new houses have been completed and 3,100 houses have been rebuilt and refurbished nationally.

Under this agreement, states and territories must meet ambitious housing targets, or face financial penalties.

For the first time last financial year, all jurisdictions met or exceeded their targets for new and refurbished houses.

The Government is particularly determined to continue our efforts to protect vulnerable children, which is one of the greatest responsibilities of all governments.

Through the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, we are leading the way on reforms that protect and ensure the safety and wellbeing of all children and young people right across the country.

In the Northern Territory, mobile child protection teams established in 2008 have provided support to almost 2700 child protection cases; and sexual assault mobile outreach service teams are providing services to children and their families, service providers and community members.

We have also provided extra funding for the Northern Territory Government to improve its child protection services in remote communities, including an extra 15 mobile child protection workers, and an extra 22 Aboriginal Family and Community Workers.

We continue to work to improve community safety for Indigenous people, with additional police, police stations, night patrols and community safe places.

The Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage report confirms that rates of Indigenous imprisonment have steadily increased. Too many Indigenous children have either a parent or family member in prison and the Australian Government is determined to tackle the community dysfunction that is driving the cycle of offending and incarceration.

The report observes that alcohol is regarded is a key risk factor for violence and offending in Indigenous communities and we will continue to work to combat alcohol abuse.

The Government has also committed $46.4 million over four years to fund improvements to data collection and help us continue to build a better evidence base for Closing the Gap.

To view a copy of the OID report, go to: