Teachers who work in remote indigenous communities will have their university debts waived under a new initiative to be announced today.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison will launch a $200 million program to keep indigenous children in school and attract teachers as part of reform to the Closing the Gap process.
The latest report card on Closing the Gap will be made public today and is expected to confirm a decade-long failure in the program, with only two of the seven targets on health, education, employment and life expectancy being met.
Mr Morrison told The Australian he would unveil a new three-tiered education program after recommendations made by Tony Abbott, the government’s envoy on indigenous affairs.
It will include wiping the HECS/HELP debt for 3100 teachers who commit to working for four years in one of 292 remote schools.
Children would also be supported to enter secondary education including through mentoring.
The Closing the Gap report will show that while efforts to get more indigenous children into early education are on track, improvements to life expectancy, infant mortality and employment rates are not.
Mr Morrison will say the targets need to be revised to make states and territories more accountable and give indigenous Australians more say.
“The Closing the Gap targets have been well-intentioned but ‘top down’, so it was always doomed to fail in both its ambitions and also its process,” Mr Morrison will say in a speech today.
“It didn’t genuinely bring on board states and territories in making sure they have accountabilities and sharing the objective and process with indigenous Australians.”
Mr Morrison will say the current method of measuring targets actually masks progress, discouraging further efforts.
For example, child mortality among indigenous Australians has decreased 10 per cent since 2008. But the target is not on track because the non-indigenous figure has declined at a faster rate.
The “refresh” of the Closing the Gap targets, initially set out in 2016, will ask indigenous Australians to develop their own.
The changes will also hold different levels of government to account and include new priorities on housing, employment, family violence and land and water rights.
State governments will be obliged to make annual public statements on the areas they are responsible for, such as health and education.
“Ensuring that the states and territories are a part of this … I think, will significantly improve the process,” Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion told ABC radio.
The draft targets include an effort to reduce the rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in detention by 11 to 19 per cent, and adults held in incarceration by at least 5 per cent by 2028.
CLOSING THE GAP TARGETS
• Early education: 95 per cent of all indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025. On track
• Year 12 attainment: Halve the gap in Year 12 attainment by 2020. On track
• Life expectancy: Close the gap in life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians within a generation by 2031. Not on track
• Child mortality rates: To halve the gap in mortality rates for indigenous children under five within a decade, by 2018. Not on track
• Employment: Halve the gap in employment by 2018. Not on track
• Reading and numeracy: Halve the gap in reading and numeracy for indigenous students by 2018. Not on track
• School attendance: Close the gap in school attendance within five years, by 2018. Not on track.
— with AAP