Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s announcement that she will continue to open each Parliamentary year with a statement on how Australia is progressing in closing the gap in Indigenous disadvantage shows government commitment at the highest level, the Close the Gap Campaign said today.
Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chair Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda welcomed the announcement.
“I commend the Prime Minister for recommitting to this annual report to Parliament and believe it is vital that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues be placed squarely on the political agenda from day one of each year,” Mr Gooda said.
“In terms of health, the Close the Gap Campaign continues to work with the Australian Government and within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector to push for commitment to a national plan for achieving health equality which is supported by a national partnership of Indigenous peoples, their representatives and Australian governments,” Mr Gooda said.
“It is also critical that governments accept their accountability for closing the gap, and work in a bipartisan fashion to that end.”
Campaign Co-Chair Dr Tom Calma said the annual statement should become a tradition observed by all parties regardless of who is in power.
“Delivering a progress report to Parliament at the start of each Parliamentary year on each of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) target areas is one way we can be sure to keep on top of where we are succeeding and where we need to improve,” Dr Calma said.
“The Close the Gap Campaign also believes the annual report needs to be supported by an ongoing effort to improve data so measurements over time can be made.”
The annual report to Parliament addresses progress over the previous year in the six COAG target areas of:
2. closing the gap in life expectancy within a generation;
3. halving the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade;
4. ensuring all Indigenous four years olds in remote communities have access to early childhood education within five years;
5. halving the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievements for Indigenous children within a decade;
6. and at least halving the gap for Indigenous students in year 12 attainment or equivalent attainment rates by 2020.
For information or interviews, please contact Sunita Bose at Oxfam Australia on 0407 555 960 or Louise McDermott at the Australian Human Rights Commission on 0419 258 597.
Close the Gap is a coalition of more than 40 of Australia’s leading health, human rights and Aboriginal organisations. The campaign was launched in April 2007.