PARTNERING WITH INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS TO CLOSE THE GAP

An historic agreement is set to change the way governments and Indigenous Australians work together on Closing the Gap.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new Closing the Gap Partnership Agreement between the Federal Government, states, territories and the National Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (Coalition of Peaks) would ensure decision makers worked closer than ever to deliver real change for Indigenous Australians.

“The Closing the Gap Partnership Agreement will focus all of our efforts to deliver better health, education and employment outcomes for Indigenous Australians,” the Prime Minister said.

“It recognises that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must play an integral part in making the decisions that affect their lives. This agreement will put Indigenous peoples at the heart of the development and implementation of the next phase of Closing the Gap, embedding shared decision making and accountability at the centre of the way we do business.

“In order to effect real change, governments must work collaboratively and in genuine, formal partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples because they are the essential agents of change. The change we all want to see will only come if we work together.”

The Agreement was developed collaboratively with the Coalition of Peaks, the largest group of Indigenous community-controlled organisations, and committed to by all levels of government. It builds on the December 2018 decision by the Council of Australian Governments to establish a formal partnership on Closing the Gap between governments and Indigenous Australians.

The partnership will include a Joint Council on Closing the Gap, which for the first time will include ministers nominated by jurisdictions, together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives chosen by the Coalition of Peaks.

Minister for Indigenous Affairs Nigel Scullion will co-chair the first meeting of the Joint Council alongside Pat Turner, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and on behalf of the Coalition of Peaks.

“The Joint Council represents an historic step forward in the practical working relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and governments,” Minister Scullion said.

“This is the first time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives and ministerial leaders have met formally as part of a Joint Council to progress the Closing the Gap agenda and improve the lives of Indigenous Australians no matter where they live.

“To support this historic partnership, we will deliver $4.6 million to the National Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations to ensure the representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are able to engage and negotiate as equal partners with governments to design and monitor Closing the Gap.

“This is a new way of doing business that reflects that the top-down approach established in 2008 while well-intentioned, did not truly seek to partner with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Australians. We enter this partnership recognising that Canberra cannot change it all and that we need more then lofty goals and bureaucratic targets.

“Finalising the refresh of the Closing the Gap framework and monitoring its implementation over the next ten years is critical to the future and prosperity of all Australians.

“We are committed to working closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians.”

Patricia Turner on behalf of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations said almost 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Bodies across Australia had come together as partners with governments on Closing the Gap.

“The historic Partnership Agreement means that for the first time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, through their peak bodies, will share decision making with governments on Closing the Gap,” said Patricia Turner.

The refreshed Closing the Gap framework and targets will be finalised through the Joint Council by mid-2019, ahead of endorsement by COAG. The Joint Council will meet for the first time on 27 March 2019 in Brisbane.

“Closing the gap is not just about targets and programs. It is about making sure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can share in the decision making about policies and programs that impact on them and have a real say over their own lives.

“The Partnership Agreement is a significant step forward in this direction and the Coalition of Peaks is looking forward to working closely with the Council of Australian Governments to honour our shared commitment to closing the gap.”