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The proper resourcing missing; Aboriginal education gap remains

February 09, 2018

Three of the four education targets of the Closing the Gap Strategy will most likely not be met when the 10th annual report on the initiative is released in Canberra on Monday, the media is reporting.

Outcomes for Aboriginal and non-Indigenous Australians are expected to show the gap has not been closed in the areas of early childhood education, school attendance, as well as reading, writing and literacy rates. The only target still on track will be the Year 12 completion rate, as it was last year.

On Thursday, the Close the Gap Campaign released a 10-year review of the strategy with the news that life expectancy for our First Peoples is widening.

Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chair and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO said the strategy began with great promise but has failed to deliver.

“The life expectancy gap has in fact started to widen again and the Indigenous child mortality rate is now more than double that of other children,” Ms Oscar said.

Federation’s Aboriginal Education Coordinator Charline Emzin-Boyd asked when will Australian politicians “get it right” and engage with the Aboriginal community to find solutions and address “the lack of proper resources”.

“While we live in a First World country, with all its wealth and feeling very comfortable, there are so many who suffer Third World conditions on the poverty line for both white and black families,” she said.

“[Federation] fights for the resources for our kids in education and, of course, our Aboriginal kids, who are still the neediest of all.”

The Grattan Institute has also released a paper that shows the learning gap between Indigenous students in remote areas and students in capital cities was as much as eight years in some categories.

The Institute revealed that the average Year 9 Indigenous student in a very remote area scores worse on the NAPLAN writing test than the average Year 3 non-Indigenous student.

The paper also questions the use of the NAPLAN test as the metric for assessing the learning gap, saying that it set the bar too low and masked the scale of the challenge for educators and policymakers.

The 10-review of the Closing the Gap Strategy recommended a reboot of the program, which co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Rod Little says is the “last chance to get government policy right, in order to achieve the goal of health equality by 2030”.

“You must get the engagement on this right. No half measures. No preconceived policies that are imposed, rather than respectfully discussed and collectively decided,” he said.

Commissioner Oscar said that the Federal Government was not living up to its leadership responsibility, allowing the Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes National Partnership Agreement to expire, and under-investing in the national effort.

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