Signing of new National Agreement on Closing the Gap marks historic turning point in relations between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and governments
The National Cabinet, the Australian Local Government Association and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations have agreed the historic National Agreement on Closing the Gap, taking the country in a new direction to substantially improve life outcomes among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The new National Agreement is a pledge from all governments to fundamentally change the way they work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations through four Priority Reforms that were overwhelmingly supported during the community engagements led by the Coalition of Peaks late last year.
The Priority Reforms commit governments to new partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across the country; strengthen community-controlled organisations to deliver closing the gap services; address structural racism within government agencies and organisations; and improve sharing and information with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to support shared decision making.
The National Agreement includes new ‘partnership actions’ – joint actions that all governments will take to give effect to each of the Priority Reforms – and ‘jurisdictional actions’ – additional actions to be undertaken within each jurisdictions taking into account state and territory circumstances. All four Priority Reforms will have a target to measure government action in these areas which will be reported on annually.
New mechanisms are embedded in the National Agreement to ensure continued political ownership and accountability; that progress is publicly monitored; and that Closing the Gap remains a national priority. This includes formal opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have an ongoing and direct say to governments on how the policy is working.
The National Agreement also establishes 16 national socio-economic targets in areas including education, employment, health and wellbeing, justice, safety, housing, land and waters, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. The targets bring focus to new areas important to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and will help to monitor progress in improving their life outcomes.
To read the full National Agreement click here
Quotes Attributed to Pat Turner AM, Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks; CEO of NACCHO and Co-Chair of the Joint Council:
- “Our country has unforgivable gaps in the life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians in all aspects of life including mortality, chronic disease, disability rates, housing security, education, employment and wealth.”
- “These gaps have burdened our people and caused the erosion of health and well-being of generations of First Nations Australians. The National Agreement represents a turning point in our country’s efforts to close these gaps.”
- “The National Agreement has been hard fought between the Coalition of Peaks and governments. It was always going to be tough. This is the first time a National Agreement designed to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been developed and negotiated with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We have also had the voices of the more than 4000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who participated in our engagements on what should be included in the new National Agreement guiding us in our negotiations, and we needed to show that they had been heard.”
- “The Coalition of Peaks have always said that targets alone do not drive change. We have seen this from the past 10 years. It is the full implementation of the Priority Reforms by governments and a commitment to additional resources our communities need that will make the difference.”
- “Whilst the National Agreement does not include everything that the Coalition of Peaks wanted, we are confident that governments have been pushed in their commitments because the Coalition of Peaks have been at the negotiating table.”
- “There is a significant difference from what governments alone were prepared to commit to in December 2018 and where we are now. That change has come about because of the work of the Coalition of Peaks and the support of our communities and organisations.”
- “The Coalition of Peaks are firmly of the view that we needed to do all that we could do to influence the governments’ approach to the refresh of the Closing the Gap policy which it started in 2016 and was heading down a worrying path.”
- “The National Agreement and the work of the Coalition of Peaks compliments the many efforts led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country to improve the life outcomes of our people, including the implementation of the Uluru Statement of the Heart through a constitutionally enshrined Voice to Parliament.”
- “Today we celebrate this historic Agreement and those who fought hard to make it a reality. But tomorrow, the true work begins when we start to implement its commitments within our communities.”
About the Coalition of Peaks
The Coalition of Peaks is a representative body of around fifty Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled peak organisations and members. The Coalition of Peaks came together on their own as an act of self-determination to be formal partners with Australian governments on Closing the Gap. Members are either national, state or territory wide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled peak bodies including certain independent statutory authorities. Their governing boards are elected by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and / or organisations. For more information on the Coalition of Peaks and to sign up for our mailing list, go to: www.coalitionofpeaks.org.au