February 12, 2018 / 6:46 AM / 7 months ago

Australia fails to 'close gap' in improving lives of Aborigines: report

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia is failing to meet more than half of its targets aimed at improving the lives of its indigenous people, including increasing life expectancy and improving literacy, a government report said on Monday.

There are about 700,000 aboriginal Australians in a population of 23 million, dating back about 50,000 years before the British arrived, but they suffer disproportionately high rates of suicide, domestic violence and imprisonment, tracking near the bottom in almost every economic and social indicator.

The tenth annual “Closing the Gap” report said Australia was failing to meet its targets in four-out-of-seven measures, including reading and writing among indigenous students, a key driver behind its failure to boost employment.

A bid to close the 10-year gap in life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians by 2031 is also behind schedule.

There were improvements in reducing child mortality rates, increasing high school attendance and improving early childhood education, the report said.

It comes a decade after then prime minister Kevin Rudd apologized to indigenous Australians, once administered under flora and fauna laws, for the atrocities committed against them.

Anger among indigenous Australians has been stoked further by failure of the government to give them constitutional recognition.

Aborigines believe such recognition would help target injustices, which they say are reinforced by Australia Day celebrations that mark the date the British “First Fleet” sailed into Sydney Harbour in 1788 and declared the land unoccupied.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull described the report as “promising”, acknowledging several measures were behind target.

“The solution to Closing the Gap rests within the imagination, ingenuity, passion and drive of indigenous people themselves,” Turnbull told parliament on Monday. “Governments must be the enabler of this success.”

Editing by Nick Macfie

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