Federal Politics

Closing the Gap: Five numbers that should shame Australia

Indigenous Australians continue to die younger, be out of work more and have less education than other Australians, the annual Closing the Gap report has again revealed.

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In his national address, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull spoke of "mixed" progress against the seven targets across health, education and employment.

According to both political and community leaders, there are reasons to be optimistic, but the continual lack of success in some areas has led many Indigenous people to call for government to engage with them more and heed their advice, with some even suggesting scrapping the Closing the Gap strategy.

Here are five examples of the disadvantage still facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Indigenous people die 10 years younger than non-Indigenous people

The goal to close the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia by 2031 is not on track.

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Life expectancy for Indigenous men is 69.1 years, compared to 79.7 for non-Indigenous people. For women, it is 73.7 and 83.1 respectively.

However, leaders point to the significant decline in mortality rates from chronic and circulatory diseases in the last two decades and say that any change to life expectancy won't show up in statistics for some years yet.

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From 2010 to 2014, 505 Indigenous babies died

This makes up more than 83 per cent of the 611 Indigenous children who died in the same period.

However, the Closing the Gap target is on track and the gap has narrowed significantly, down 83 per cent since 1998. 

The Indigenous infant mortality rate is still 6.4 per 1,000, as of 2014, compared 3.6 per 1,000 in Australia generally.

60 per cent of Aboriginal students finish year 12

This statistic has improved significantly and the target is on track. However, it remains far lower than the equivalent 86.5 per cent for non-Indigenous Australians.

In the late 1990s, only 32 per cent of Aboriginal students were attaining a year 12 or equivalent qualification.

The employment rate among Indigenous people is 47.5 per cent

It went backwards from 2008, when it was up at 53.8 per cent. This compares to the overall employment rate in Australia of 72.1 per cent in 2013.

The report observes that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more vulnerable when economies are fluctuating, which has contributed to the worsening employment situation.

The figure is considerably improved since 1998 but is not on track, according to the Closing the Gap report.

An Aboriginal man is 15 times more likely to be jailed than a non-Indigenous man

This is not measured by the Closing the Gap report but, having labelled it a crisis, Indigenous leaders and the Labor Party want it to be.

Indigenous people make up three per cent of the Australian population but account for more than 25 per cent of the prison population. Aboriginal women are the fastest-growing demographic in the justice system.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda says it's "one of the most urgent crises facing us". 

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