Thursday, 20 March 2014
Questions without Notice
Closing the Gap
I thank the senator for the question and congratulate him on his first speech and on his first question. This is a very important question, on National Close the Gap Day. Today is a day of reflection. It involves around 165,000 people attending around 1,200 events around the country. I congratulate all of them and the National Close the Gap Committee. Despite billions of dollars being spent on a plethora of programs there have been few lasting outcomes.
The Closing the gap report, tabled in the House of Representatives, in February 2014, confirmed that there has been little to celebrate eight years after the Closing the Gap strategy commenced. National Close the Gap Day is part of a non-government Close the Gap campaign. A key focus is on health, an area my excellent colleague Senator Nash is working hard on. We all know that you cannot have a good health outcome for Aboriginal and Islander Australians without looking at the challenges that they face holistically. The government is making 'Children go to school' the government's No. 1 priority in Indigenous affairs.
The Prime Minister has announced a new COAG target. Under the Remote School Attendance Strategy the government is providing $28.4 million for 400 Aboriginal school attendance officers, covering 40 communities. There are already over 600 more children attending school compared to last year. I acknowledge that it is early days but, in one school term, we have started to narrow that gap.