This government failure is so much worse than Prince Phillip's knighthood.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he is hopeful the gap in Indigenous disadvantage will be bridged within the next two decades, but concedes the failures revealed in the Closing The Gap report, released today, are profoundly disappointing.

In an address to Parliament, Mr Abbott said the latest Closing the Gap report showed that overall, Aboriginal people were leading healthier lives but he acknowledged difficulties existed in improving Indigenous employment and education.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott called the Closing The Gap report “profoundly disappointing”.

He said he was committed to working harder to get kids to school.

“As far as I am concerned, there is no more important cause than ensuring that Indigenous people enter fully into their rightful heritage as the first and as first-class citizens of this country,” Mr Abbott said.

“We must strive and strive again to ensure that the first Australians never again feel like outcasts in their own country.

“In about 15 or 20 years, hopefully the gap will be closed, hopefully health outcomes will be much the same for Aboriginal Australians and the rest of us.”

The Abbott government hopes to close the gap in 15 to 20 years.

Mr Abbott reported to Parliament some improvements in education and health outcomes, but said the targets for closing the life expectancy gap, early childhood access, reading and numeracy and employment had either not been met or were not on track.

“Much more work is indeed needed because this seventh Closing The Gap report is, in many respects, profoundly disappointing,” he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten used his speech to Parliament to call on the Government to reverse budget cuts to indigenous services.

“This is an endeavour when every opposition wants the Government to succeed but when a government cuts $500 million from essential services we are compelled to point out what these cuts mean,” he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten criticised the government for cutting Indigenous programs.

Northern Territory Labor senator Nova Peris said the report showed Indigenous Australians had been let down.

“When you look at the Closing the Gap report, when you look at the incarceration rates, when you talk about juvenile reinvestment, that’s been neglected… we always talk about closing the gap in educational and health outcomes. That’s all gone backwards. There’s not a lot to smile about on a day like today.

“Australia is so rich in so many areas, but we’ve got a lot to be ashamed about in the treatment of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” she said.

Warren Mundine, chairman of Mr Abbott’s handpicked advisory council on Indigenous affairs, acknowledged the Government’s efforts were failing in a number of key areas.


“We have to turn that around now,” he said.

Senator Nova Peris said we should be “ashamed” of our treatment of Indigenous Australians.

The Close the Gap campaign urged the Federal Government to focus on greater access to primary health care services to detect, treat and manage chronic health conditions in Indigenous communities.

Campaign co-chair Mick Gooda said the 2015 Close the Gap Progress and Priorities Report, which coincides with the Prime Minister’s annual report card, identified high levels of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with undetected treatable and preventable chronic conditions that impact on life expectancy.

“The nation now has a real opportunity to make relatively large health and life expectancy gains in relatively short periods of time,” Mr Gooda said.

“We have seen some gains in maternal and child health but without strong and sustainable commitment from Government to ensure chronic conditions are detected, treated and managed, the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities is in jeopardy.”

The life expectancy for Indigenous Australians is currently 10 years less than non-Indigenous Australians.

Scullion acknowledges deep divide

In an opinion piece published today, Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion acknowledged the continuing deep divide between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

“There is no point pretending things are better than they are. The report will show we have a long road ahead if we are to close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage,” he wrote.

He defended the Government’s attempts to get more children attending school.

“Our Remote School Attendance Strategy is working with 73 schools and 69 communities to ensure children go to school every day,” he wrote.

“Now in its second year, the RSAS is showing promising signs of success.”

Indigenous Affairs Minister, Nigel Scullion says the government’s school attendance strategy is working.

Mr Mundine said there were some improvements in individual school attendance figures, but overall there was only a marginal increase.

While it has not been measured for the report, he said there needs to be more focus on the high number of Aboriginal children in custody.

“If you lock people up in detention centres you’ve virtually got them for life … we’ve got to put a huge focus on that area,” he said.

“To me, it was a ticking time bomb when I first came into the job. That time bomb is starting to blow up in our face.”

This article originally appeared on the ABC and was republished here with full permission.

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