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Progress lagging on life expectancy gap

NATIONAL: More action is needed to close the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians to meet the 2031 target, a national report warns.

The life expectancy gap is 11.5 years for men and 9.7 years for women.

In 2008, federal, state and territory governments agreed on six targets to tackle indigenous disadvantage in life expectancy, health, education and employment.

Only the Northern Territory is on track to close the life expectancy gap, according to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Reform Council report released on Wednesday.

Heart attacks and strokes were the most common cause of Aboriginal deaths.

Death rates had declined in Queensland, but not at the needed pace, while NSW and South Australia were not on track to achieve the target, the COAG report said.

Western Australia’s indigenous death rates had also dipped, but the state had not set a target.

The report noted progress in reducing the death rates of Aboriginal children aged under five.

But it found half of Indigenous mothers were still smoking during pregnancy.

Literacy and numeracy skills of Indigenous children were also lagging behind, the report said.

On efforts to increase Indigenous employment, it said only NSW had seen some improvement.

The early childhood education target to improve access to preschool for all Indigenous four-year-olds in remote communities is expected to be achieved this year.

The federal government accepted the COAG report’s recommendation to set a new target to boost attendance levels in preschool programs.

Year 12 completion rates for Indigenous children had improved, and WA, SA, NT and ACT were on track to meet the 2020 target, the report said.

National Congress of Australia’s First People spokesman Les Malezer said the small improvements in the report were welcome, but it also came as a warning that more work was needed.

He reiterated a call for a justice target, to reduce the high representation of Aboriginal people in Australian jails.

AAP

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