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Mortality, education gaps closing for Indigenous children
CLOSING the life expectancy gap remains one of Australia’s biggest challenges in overcoming Indigenous disadvantage, but child mortality rates and education targets have shown improvement, Prime Minister Julia Gillard revealed in her recent Closing the Gap 2012 report.
The report said that although two out of six targets were on track – halving infant mortality rates for Indigenous children under five by 2018 and ensuring access to early childhood education for all Indigenous four-year-olds in remote communities by 2013 – closing the life expectancy gap still required much more work.
The gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is estimated at 11.5 years for males and 9.7 years for females.Improving data collection is critical to measuring progress, the report said.
“Meeting the life-expectancy target will be challenging as, among other things, non-Indigenous life expectancy is expected to rise over coming years,” the report said.
“This means that Indigenous male life expectancy will probably have to increase by almost 21 years by 2031 to close the gap.”
The report said there was a time lag between interventions and improvements in outcomes.
A high proportion of Indigenous children living in remote communities were enrolled in a preschool program in the year before full-time schooling in 2010, and only about 300 children were not enrolled.
The report also said results measuring grade three, seven and nine students’ numeracy, literacy and reading skills showed Indigenous students were gaining ground.
While praising the report the only Indigenous member of federal parliament, Liberal MP Ken Wyatt, said it failed to look adequately at urban Aboriginal people.
“Over 75% of Aboriginal people live within urban capital cities and it’s a key area we’re going to have to do a lot more work in.”
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