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The Australian National University

How realistic are the prospects for 'closing the gaps' in socioeconomic outcomes for Indigenous Australians?

Discussion Paper 287 / 2008


‘Practical reconciliation’ and more recently ‘closing the gaps’ have been put forward as frameworks on which to base and then evaluate policies to address Indigenous disadvantage. This paper uses census-based analysis at the national level to examine trends in Indigenous wellbeing since 1971. There has been steady improvement in most socioeconomic outcomes as measured by standard social indicators in the last 35 years. This finding is at dramatic odds with the currently dominant discourse of failure in Indigenous affairs. However, evidence of convergence between Indigenous and non-Indigenous outcomes is not consistent. There have now been eight censuses since 1971, and this paper seeks to use information of best-case scenario trends to make some crude estimates of when the gaps might be closed in order to assess the realism of this emerging overarching goal of policy.

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