The latest Closing the Gap report shows that by most socio-economic measures, Indigenous Australians are still behind the rest of the population.

Just two of seven targets – early education and Year 12 completion rates – are closing, while the five others – child mortality, school attendance, literacy and numeracy, employment and life expectancy – have seen little or no improvement.

The Indigenous employment rate has improved by less than one per cent in a decade – now at 49 per cent, compared with 75 per cent for non-Indigenous Australians.

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt says is it a failure of Indigenous policy.

Experts say the failure to move most of the figures is due in part to ‘cultural counterfactuals’ – a lack of sensitivity to cultural differences.

Reflecting on previous reports with similarly minor improvements, the lack of progress has also been linked to a mismatch between policy ambition and actual change in the mechanisms of Indigenous affairs.

Experts have also highlighted a lack of careful evaluation and revision of the measures intended to achieve the targets.

The authorities say some of these things are changing.

“In 2020, there is a greater focus on partnership between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It heralds a new way forward, where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people share ownership, responsibility and accountability to drive progress for current and future generations,” documents accompanying the report say.

“To accelerate improvements in life outcomes, programs and services need to be designed, developed and implemented in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have called for a community-led, strengths-based approach, one that values their experience.

“That is why in 2019, the Council of Australian Governments and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations signed the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap.

“This historic Partnership places Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as shared decision-makers at the table.

“Through the Partnership, the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap is being developed to set out priorities for the next ten years and outline targets and measures that will enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to forge their own pathways and reach their goals.”

The full report is accessible here.