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Rudd delivers report card on Indigenous Austr -

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Rudd delivers report card on Indigenous Australia

Alexandra Kirk reported this story on Thursday, February 11, 2010 12:28:00

ELEANOR HALL: The Prime Minister has just reported to the Parliament on the progress of his
multibillion dollar program to address Aboriginal disadvantage.

Two years ago Kevin Rudd pledged $5.5 billion to close the wide gap between Indigenous and
non-indigenous Australians on life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

The World Today's Alexandra Kirk has been listening to the Prime Minister and she joins us now in
our Canberra studio.

Alex, does Mr Rudd say that progress has been made?

ALEXANDRA KIRK: In a number of areas he does point to some progress being made. You may recall that
Kevin Rudd promised two years ago a new beginning for Australia, something setting what he called
clear achievable goals.

He made very big promises. Within five years every Indigenous four-year-old in a remote Aboriginal
community would be enrolled in and attending a proper early childhood education centre with proper
pre-literacy and pre-numeracy programs; that within a decade Australia would halve the gap in
infant mortality, literacy and numeracy standards and also employment outcomes between Indigenous
and non-Indigenous Australians.

And the other ambitious target he set was to close the 17-year life expectancy gap within a

Now the Prime Minister has told Parliament the Government is seeing the beginnings of change; that
there's a slow path to change.

On closing the child mortality gap Mr Rudd says 2009 data to measure progress against the
Government's target isn't yet available. But he says other sources which he hasn't named provide
some measure of change and that the gap is declining.

On early childhood education he says the trend is in the right direction; that the Government is
seeing the fastest pre-school enrolment growth in remote communities; that it's increased 31 per
cent between 2005 and 2008.

Now of course 2008 is when he began or he set the targets so we haven't got any more figures from

And it's clear that this isn't a precise science and the Prime Minister is finding that. And here's
a snippet of the Prime Minister's report card today.

KEVIN RUDD: Literacy and numeracy scores vary across grades. In 2009 there was an improvement in
the gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous students' reading for years three, five and seven.
For year nine students the gap slightly increased. The Government is taking action to expand
opportunities for Indigenous children at school.

In Aurukun one community in the trial school attendance rose from 44 to 66 per cent last year while
in Cohen it was 93 per cent, two points higher than the state average. This is a good achievement.

The number of Indigenous students achieving a year 12 or equivalent attainment is improving only
over the long term. In 2006 only 47.4 per cent of Indigenous 20 to 24 year olds had attained a year
12 or equivalent qualification, almost half as many as non-Indigenous young people.

Indigenous school retention rates from the start of high school to year 12 have risen from 30.7 per
cent in 1995 to 46.5 per cent in 2008.

Mr Speaker, our fifth target is to halve within a decade the gap in employment outcomes between
Indigenous and other Australians. On this goal there is a positive trend. Between 2002 and 2008 the
Indigenous employment rate rose from 48 per cent to 53.8 per cent.

This is still well below the non-indigenous employment rate so that in 2008 the most recent
available data indicates there was a 21 percentage point gap between Indigenous and non-indigenous

ELEANOR HALL: That's the Prime Minister, part of his address to Parliament today.

Alex, given the size of the task involved in closing the gap still, what action is the Prime
Minister now proposing?

ALEXANDRA KIRK: A number of measures, most of which are just allocating money from the existing
$5.5 billion bucket of money.

For example intensive support and assistance to schools from 29 remote communities that haven't
already received funding from the, for example, Trades Training Centres Program. There will be an
extra 17 sports academies to start in WA, the Northern Territory and Victoria.

And a small amount of new money. The Prime Minster has pledged an extra $9 million over three years
for extra health services for Indigenous mothers and their babies in nine communities across the
Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia for antenatal and postnatal
care, help with breastfeeding, nutrition, parenting skills and also better monitoring of how the
children are developing and also including the infants' immunisation status.

ELEANOR HALL: Alexandra Kirk in Canberra, thank you.