The lack of Closing the Gap is an injustice experienced in these lands now called Australia today. The lack of Closing the Gap has been part of Brooke Prentis’ list of injustices and referenced in #ChangeTheHeart. The gaps that exist today between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples in these lands now called Australia are related to historical and ongoing injustices of colonisation, stolen land, stolen wages, and stolen generations. As Brooke tells us behind each report, each statistic, each Closing the Gap target not achieved, every gap not closed, are real peoples and real lives, “they are our Aunties, Uncles, Nans, Grandfathers, Mothers, Fathers, Brothers, Sisters, Nieces, Nephews, Cousin Brothers and Cousin Sisters.” History affects our present and if we don’t take action will affect our future. As you read the history of The Closing the Gap initiative may you take the steps into the story, the story of injustice in these lands now called Australia, and the need for action.
The Closing the Gap initiative began as a response to the then Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma’s 2005 Social Justice Report. This report called for urgent action to be taken so that the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples, particularly in regards to health outcomes and life expectancy, would be closed in the next 25 years. Non-government agencies began to take up this call, and the National Indigenous Health Equality Campaign was established. Following this, The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) committed to taking action to Close the Gap, with six targets identified.
In 2008, the Australian Government under the leadership of Kevin Rudd committed to developing an annual Closing the Gap Report to report on the progress of reaching the targets (which included areas of health, education and employment) The first Closing the Gap Report was tabled in parliament in 2009. The Closing the Gap report has been released on the 12th February each year, to coincide with the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, 13th February each year. However, in 2021, the report release was pushed back to July. We must never lose sight of the original correlation between when the report was tabled and the link to the National Apology to the Stolen Generations.
In Tom Calma’s 2005 Social Justice Report, the importance of a human rights based approach and full participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in all decision making processes were key themes. However, to the detriment of many lives, these were never made a priority. The gap has been widening, and in 2020 the Closing the Gap report found that only 2 of the 7 targets were on track.
A shift was made in 2020 with new priorities (such as increased support for community-controlled services for delivering programs and greater priority on Aboriginal peoples involved in decision-making) and new targets. However no additional funding was given in the Federal Budget.