Plan for Closing the Gap success, Population expert urges 

CDU Senior Research Fellow Andrew Taylor, has released his research, which models the demographic effects of  success in “Closing the Gap”

A Charles Darwin University population expert has urged State and Territory governments to consider how ‘Closing the Gap’ will affect needs for health, housing and education by Indigenous people in the Territory and remote Australia.

Senior Research Fellow with CDU’s The Northern Institute, Andrew Taylor, has released his research, which models the demographic effects of  success in “Closing the Gap” in life expectancies between Indigenous and other Australians.

In 2007-2008 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to six ambitious targets for improving long-standing disparities in health, education and employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The “National Integrated Strategy for Closing the Gap on Indigenous Disadvantage” (colloquially Closing the Gap) includes eliminating the gap in life expectancies within a generation.

“Although the target is ambitions, this is a pressing research issue and all levels of government in Australia require knowledge on possible changes,” Mr Taylor said. “Whether or not we succeed in closing the gap entirely, forward planning for the COAG initiative is crucial.”

Mr Taylor’s research uses population projections modelling to compare and contrast demographic outcomes for the Indigenous population of the Northern Territory under various scenarios.

“Analysing shifts in population structures is vital to assist policy makers to make appropriate changes to plans for the future development of services and infrastructure programs and to ensure these are adequate and targeted according to changing demands and needs,” he said.

“Life expectancy gaps are greatest in remote Australia and in the NT. We found that success in closing the gap would not add dramatically to the size of the Indigenous population of the NT, but would substantially alter Indigenous age-sex compositions. Changes to demographic indicators used in infrastructure and services planning require planning and further research.

“For example, for both males and females, the projected increase in the population aged over 60 years would be significant under a situation where life expectancy gaps were closed.”

Mr Taylor also found that, while age dependency ratios would increase over time, fertility rates and economic dependency ratios were likely to fall initially, with implications for income support programs in all States.