Closing the Gap for Indigenous Australians - Indigenous policy - Closing the evidence gap 

Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaHCSIA)

Key Elements

The Australian Government has committed $1.7 million to this measure to build the evidence base required for the Government to achieve its target to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The measure has two elements:

  • the 2008 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) is being extended to address priority data gaps, particularly relating to Indigenous children; and
  • establishment of a national clearinghouse on best practice and success factors related to interventions that will 'close the gap' will be established.


Under the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), the need has been identified to improve the evidence base around Indigenous-specific strategies. Improvements in data on Indigenous children and a clearinghouse to enable the collection and dissemination of information will contribute to building a rigorous evidence base. This will assist in recording progress towards the targets set by COAG to close the gap in disadvantage between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

These projects will build on existing evidence-based approaches to address Indigenous disadvantage at all levels. They will help governments at all levels to effectively fund programs that will achieve the targets for Indigenous people.

The NATSISS survey provides information about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander populations of Australia aged 15 years and over for a wide range of social concerns including health, education, culture and labour force participation. The 2008 NATSISS survey is to be expanded by increasing the average length of each household interview by up to 20 minutes to include information about children less than 15 years and to collect data about maternal health and social capital.

New information collected through the extension of NATSISS will allow comparison at the national level with data already available for the non-Indigenous population. It will also provide context for complementary data collected in the Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children (LSIC) which is taking place in selected Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities across Australia. The LSIC does not provide nationally representative data, but instead collects information over time on babies and very young children. It covers health, school readiness, the family, community participation and culture. As part of the LSIC, parents and carers will be asked for permission to be re-interviewed every six-to-twelve months for at least four years.

Whilst there are numerous clearinghouses on specific topics relating to social policy, there is currently no single clearinghouse on the broad range of topics which inform policy and practice aimed at improving Indigenous outcomes. A clearinghouse is a knowledge management service, run by research specialists, which provides a centralised repository of information and resources focussed on a specific field of knowledge which can be accessed by interested stakeholders. A clearinghouse will provide a unique central source of evidence which will be an important part of the policy development and monitoring process into the future.

This clearinghouse will build an evidence base that details effective Indigenous interventions and their success factors. It will also maximise access to information by linking relevant databases and encouraging networks among potential information users in academic and community based organisations and across all levels of government.


The expansion of the NATSISS will be carried out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. This includes the preparation of questions and sampling strategy, the collection of data in 2008, and analysis and release of results.

Work has begun on scoping the design of the clearinghouse, including specifications, cost and options for its establishment.

States and Territories have agreed to jointly fund both elements of this measure with the Commonwealth on a 50:50 basis.

Total Government Funding

The Australian Government has committed total funds of $1.7 million for both elements of the data improvement project over two years.

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