Fewer Indigenous children are dying before they reach primary school age and more are enrolled in early education, the annual Closing the Gap report card is expected to reveal.
But only three of the seven targets are on track after a decade, and goals to close the gap on school attendance, halve the gap in unemployment rates and school literacy and numeracy results, look set to expire having never been met.
The Prime Minister is due to deliver the 10th annual Closing the Gap address in Canberra on Monday, providing the yearly report on the progress to improve employment, education and health outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
Last year, the only measure that was on track was the target to halve the gap in Year 12 attainment by 2020.
This year it is expected that two more targets will be marked as on track — the goal to halve the gap in Indigenous child mortality rates and to improve early childhood education attendance.
Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt said last year’s result was a “failure”, and recognised the work of community organisations to improve the outlook this year.
“A couple of simple things have turned it around. One is our failure last year, and the other is the work being done on the ground by organisations,” he said.
“Many jurisdictions were very mindful of our failure … when that occurs you have people give renewed energy and effort to it.
“We still have a long way to go, particularly in terms of life expectancy.”
Employment, school attendance targets unfulfilled
Four of the seven Closing the Gap targets were supposed to be achieved by this year, but three of those measures look set to expire having never been met.
The three unfulfilled goals, to close the gap school attendance, to halve the gap in unemployment rates and school literacy and numeracy results, will be reviewed.
The Closing the Gap strategy was established a decade ago under the Rudd government, but is now undergoing a “refresh” from the Turnbull government.
Mr Wyatt has defended the targets, and knocked back suggestions they were too ambitious.
“If you don’t set ambitious targets, you never strive to achieve them, the problem with Aboriginal affairs is we’ve always gone for the lowest common denominator,” Mr Wyatt said.
“When they signed it [Closing the Gap strategy] it was a signalling of intent to achieve the highest possible benchmark even if it meant it was going to be challenging.”
Between 2011 and 2014, Indigenous children aged zero to four were more than twice as likely to die than non-Indigenous children.
Mr Wyatt said some factors that contribute to child mortality, including homicide and road accidents, will always be out of the control of governments and this target should be re-worked.
“What I like about the refresh is it gives us a chance to look at the targets, are they the rights targets or do we define them, like child mortality, in a slightly different way,” he said.
Sixty Indigenous leaders were summoned to Canberra last week for high-level consultations on how to overhaul the Closing the Gap scheme.
In a statement the delegates urged the government not to abandon the existing Closing the Gap targets, but suggested several new targets could be included.