Australia accused of ‘effectively abandoning’ indigenous goals
The Australian government has “effectively abandoned” its central strategy to improve the lives of its indigenous people, a non-government review has said.
The Closing The Gap strategy, which began in 2008, sets out targets in areas such as health and education.
It is designed to reduce levels of indigenous disadvantage through the annual tracking of seven key measures.
A review group said Canberra had not made “real inroads” during the decade.
The coalition of experts, known as the Close the Gap campaign, particularly criticised a decision in 2014 to cut A$ 530m (£300m; $ 410m) from the government’s indigenous affairs portfolio.
“Cuts to services, and a revolving door of Prime Ministers, Indigenous Affairs Ministers and senior bureaucrats have all but halted the steady progress hoped for by First Peoples,” the group said in a statement.
Last year, the an update showed that Australia was failing on six of the seven key Closing The Gap measures.
One measure revealed that indigenous Australians continued to have a life expectancy of about 10 years less than non-indigenous Australians.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said at the time: “Even with successive Commonwealth and state governments investing more resources… we are still not making enough progress.”
The non-government group released its review ahead of the next official update, to be released by the government on Monday.
The review said progress had been made on chronic disease and child and maternal health, but authorities had failed to address underlying problems – such as housing and primary healthcare access.
“The nation is now in a situation where the Closing The Gap targets will measure nothing but the collective failure of Australian governments to work together and to stay the course,” it said.
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The Close the Gap campaign is a coalition of indigenous and non-indigenous groups, health bodies and non-government organisations. It is led by June Oscar, the independent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner.
Last year, Mr Turnbull’s government was criticised for rejecting a landmark proposal to establish a constitutionally enshrined indigenous advisory body to the parliament.