Each year the PM reports to parliament on progress against the Closing the Gap goals, and this year’s report has just been released. It’s not the most exciting read in the world, but it does highlight a lot of good work being done around the country. It seems we’re making progress in numeracy and literacy, pre-schools for 4 year olds and childhood mortality. The biggest problem, though, is the lack of good data, and without this it’s going to be really hard to tell how well we’re going.
If you want a more independent (and critical) review of progress towards the goals, as well as being shorter and easier to read you should go to the Close the Gap Steering Committee’s Shadow report. Again, data issues are highlighted, but it explains much better the meaning of the statistics, and is much clearer on what needs to happen now. You wouldn’t know it from the PM’s report, but it’s actually an exciting time for Aboriginal leadership in health. The Indigenous Leadership Group of the Close the Gap Steering Committee is also now the National Health Leadership Forum of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples. It means that there is a real opportunity, if government wishes to make a real difference, of the plans to Close the Gap being developed by Aboriginal people. The government certainly makes the right noises on this in their report – it’s quite lovely to read these bits – but it’s worth remembering that there is still a whole big pile of mistrust over the continuation of the Northern Territory intervention among Aboriginal people, which is one of the reasons for anger (not riots) on Australia day.
Oh, and I should declare that I have represented the RACGP on the Close the Gap steering committee for about 18 months now, so of course I think their work is great!