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Why can't we fix this and Close the Gap?

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February 11, 2018

It's 10 years since then prime minister Kevin Rudd apologised in parliament to indigenous people.

The lack of progress towards improving the lives of indigenous Australians despite 10 years of the Closing the Gap strategy has left Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders frustrated and impatient.

"Why can't we fix this for 700,000 people of our population in such a rich country? It's not impossible," co-chair of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, Jackie Huggins, says.

Dr Huggins will be among indigenous leaders in Canberra this week for the 10th anniversary of former prime minister Kevin Rudd's 2008 apology to the stolen generations and subsequent introduction of the Closing the Gap strategy.

Mr Rudd won widespread acclaim for - and ignited great hopes with - his historic apology and strategy to improve the health, education and employment prospects of indigenous Australians.

But a decade on little progress has been made towards achieving the seven key targets designed to close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is due to hand down the 10th annual report card on the strategy on Monday amid expectations it will again show slow progress.

The targets include closing the 10-year life expectancy gap by 2031 and reducing child mortality, but the only one on track to be met is having more indigenous students stay on to Year 12.

Dr Huggins believes the lack of progress lies with the government's failure to involve indigenous people in guiding and implementing the strategy.

She says Mr Turnbull has the opportunity to change that with his planned "refresh" of the strategy, which she hopes will add new targets that make the states accountable for child protection.

"We are feeling frustrated and tired and really impatient now that something needs to happen," she told AAP.

"We really felt something was moving in our country and unfortunately it's come to a complete stop."

Mr Rudd warned back in 2008 that "none of this will be easy".

Today, he defends the need for ambitious targets but dismisses the notion there has been little progress.

"In all of them progress has been made, some quite slow, a number quite reasonable, and one of the seven is on track to be realised," he told AAP.

"This is a good thing."

Mr Rudd returns to Canberra on Monday to address the National Press Club before delivering a speech at parliament house on Tuesday, the 10th anniversary of his apology.

He wants the government to "stay the course" on Closing the Gap and for Mr Turnbull to commit to long-term funding for the strategy plus introduce new targets on incarceration rates and indigenous children in care.

He also wants local indigenous groups to be more involved in developing and delivering programs.

Reconciliation Australia chief executive Karen Mundine agrees and believes it's vital the government also reconsiders its rejection of calls for elected advisory body in parliament to give indigenous people a voice.

"You might set national targets but how do you deliver on the ground if indigenous community-controlled organisations aren't involved in the design," she said.

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