NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander #RuralHealth : @RuralDoctorsAus President and CEO says quality rural and remote health care essential to #ClosingtheGap

“Both Federal and State governments, right across the country, need to step up and invest in rural health if they are serious about this.

There have been numerous examples of initiatives developed to improve access to health care in rural and remote areas being extended into urban areas to prop up under-funded services in for the socially disadvantaged.

This has resulted in the unintended consequence of further disadvantaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in rural and remote Australia.

We need continued investment in health infrastructure and services aimed at addressing the disparity in health outcomes between those who live in the city and those who live in the bush… and this extends across both our Indigenous and non-Indigenous populations.

Without this, as a nation we are never going to close the gap, and the divide for the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people living in rural and remote Australia will never be addressed.”

Dr John Hall, President of the Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA), said that without access to high quality health services in rural areas, the gap will never close.

Photo above : Here is what GPs said about working in Indigenous health

” I’m particularly concerned with successive government failure to halve Indigenous child mortality rates.

A lot of this is about access, it’s around health literacy.

It’s also about the holistic care, it’s also around education, housing and a whole range of other things”.

Australia needs to boost hospital and birthing facilities in rural and regional areas in order to overcome entrenched Indigenous health disadvantage, according to Rural Doctors Association of Australia CEO Peta Rutherford told SkyNews .

Watch SkyNews interview HERE 

Read over 70 Aboriginal Rural and Remote Health NACCHO Articles HERE

Another disappointing Closing the Gap Report, released this month [12 February 2020], demonstrates why health care in rural and remote Australia is a key driver to Closing the Gap in health.

“The Government’s Closing the Gap Report 2020 showed that the Gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians on key health indicators has not closed,” Dr Hall said.

“Two key health-related benchmarks were chosen by the

Government in 2008, with a target of halving the gap in child mortality by 2018, and to close the gap in life expectancy by 2031.

“Neither of these targets are on track.

“The main cause of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child deaths are perinatal conditions such as complications of pregnancy and birth.

“With 85 per cent of these deaths occurring during the first year of life, maternal health and risk

factors during pregnancy play a crucial role.

“Access to quality, culturally safe, medical care is the most direct way of improving these outcomes,” Dr Hall said.

Similarly, life expectancy in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is strongly influenced by health and health care, with the report attributing 34 per cent of the gap to social determinants (such as education, employment status, housing and income), 19 per cent to behavioural risk factors (such as smoking, obesity, alcohol use and diet), leaving 47 per cent attributed to what is clearly a disparity in health outcomes and associated health care issues.

In rural and remote areas there is a noticeable difference of a more than six year reduction in life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander males and females, when compared to those living in major cities.

This demonstrates a failure across the board in these key areas, all of which are influenced by the provision of quality health care.

“Clearly we can’t close the gap without a functional health system in rural and remote Australia,” Dr Hall said.

“And this cannot just be solved through funding Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS); the other parts of the health system need to be equally funded to service these communities in order to be able to provide the standard of care that will result in a reduction in the gap in health outcomes.

“We can’t have hospital services downgraded and expect to close the gap.

“We can’t have communities with no access to medical birthing services and expect to close the gap.

“We can’t have people needing to travel hundreds of kilometres to access cancer or surgical treatment and close the gap.

“We need quality rural hospitals, staffed by Rural Generalist doctors, with the skills needed to meet the needs of these communities in both the General Practice and hospital settings, if we are serious about improving health outcomes and actually closing the gap.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and the #LearnOurTruth campaign and survey : First Nations’ history must not be silenced if we are to #closethegap @WVAnews @inmyblooditruns

“We’re concerned that the full impact of colonisation is not covered in many classrooms around the country, and we need to dig deeper to find the answers.

We are calling on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people to share their experience of learning history through the Learn Our Truth survey that will be the foundation of a campaign to change this and bring communities together.

We want schools to become more culturally safe for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and that begins with a greater shared understanding of our nation’s history. Teachers need more support.

We want to raise awareness of the lack of First Nations perspectives and content in the national curriculum and understand if successive national, state and territory reviews have made a difference to students.

A key objective of the Learn Our Truth coalition is to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have more say in their education, but if we are to have a community-led approach to education overall, then that starts with building shared understanding of the history of First Nations communities. “

World Vision NSW Young Mob Project Manager Sophia Romano.

A coalition of organisations has launched a new campaign to #LearnOurTruth and together build stronger communities grounded in a clearer understanding of our shared past.

The #LearnOurTruth campaign and survey was created by the National Indigenous Youth Education Coalition (NIYEC) in collaboration with In My Blood It Runs documentary, BE. Collective Culture, and Young Mob – a part of the Australia First Nations Program at World Vision.

Read our NACCHO In my blood it runs article HERE

It was designed to ensure the cultural safety, and emotional and mental wellbeing of First Nations respondents.

World Vision works in partnership with urban and remote Aboriginal communities across NSW, Victoria, Kimberley, Pilbara and Central Australia regions to support place-based, community-led early childhood initiatives, and is concerned that Aboriginal communities don’t have control over the education of their own children.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 2.5 times more likely to be developmentally vulnerable at the age of five when they start school which creates barriers to quality early learning opportunities,” WVA Australia First Nations Program advocate and advisor Paul Newman said.

Article 14 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples says:

Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning”.

Mr Newman said that it was imperative to have community-led early learning opportunities from an early age that integrate both-ways learning, meaning education and play are conducted in both the traditional language and English and also include the involvement of Elders guiding learning about culture and country.

“Quality community-led education is imperative, in the early years before starting school, but also as children reach primary and secondary school age,” Mr Newman concluded.

For more information on the #LearnOurTruth campaign visit https://learnourtruth.com/.

  • Sophia Romano is the Project Manager for Young Mob in NSW and is a proud Meriam woman from Murray Island in the Torres
  • Paul Newman is World Vision’s Australia First Nations Program Business Development Advisor and advocate and a proud Wiradjuri Gadigal

For more information on the impact documentary In My Blood It Runs, visit

www.inmyblooditruns.com

World Vision Australia is an Impact Partner for the documentary and a key objective of the film is to see Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have more say in their education. World Vision Australia is committed to working alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, families, communities and organisations to support them in achieving their aspirations for the improved wellbeing of their children and young people.

Aboriginal Heath News : NACCHO supports #OchreRibbonWeek #saveFVPLS: 12th – 19th February and call for action to end the violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – particularly our women and children.

 

” This week is Ochre Ribbon Week. It’s a week to raise awareness of the devastating impacts of family violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and call for action to end the violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people – particularly our women and children.

Violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women is a national emergency. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are 34 times more likely to be hospitalised because of family violence and 10 times more likely to die from a violent assault than other women.

Every single Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander man, woman and child deserves to live a life free of violence and fear, and thrive in culture and identity. ‘

The National Convenor of the Forum is Antoinette Braybrook (CEO, FVPLS Victoria), and the Deputy Convenor is Phynea Clarke (CEO, CAAFLU).

 

Prevention is the key to ensuring safety for our children and mothers, keeping families connected and strong in culture. The holistic, wrap-around response that FVPLSs provide is essential to ending family violence against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and their children.

The goal of the Forum is to work in collaboration across Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLSs) and increase access to justice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander victim/survivors of family violence. The Forum provides advice and input to Government and ensures a unified FVPLS response to addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family violence.

The Forum has worked with members to develop tools for capacity building, good governance, professional development, training, data collection and evaluation.

The Forum is supported by a Secretariat, and Forum members are represented by their CEO/Co-ordinator (or delegate) at meetings and activities.

Family Violence Prevention Legal Services

FVPLSs are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled organisations – our communities know and trust our staff and services. We are unique, experienced and specialist service providers delivering culturally safe legal and non-legal services within which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is acknowledged and celebrated.

FVPLSs provide legal assistance, casework, counselling and court support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and children who are victim/survivors of family violence. Legal services are provided to victim/survivors in matters related to:

  • Family violence (i.e. VRO, AVO different terminology across jurisdictions);
  • Victims of crime compensation;
  • Family law; and
  • Child protection.

FVPLSs also provide an important community legal education and early intervention and prevention function. FVPLSs have adopted a holistic, wrap-around service delivery model that prioritise legal service delivery while recognising and addressing the multitude of interrelated issues that our clients face. Nationally 90% of our clients are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and children.

FVPLSs are expected to ensure that the services offered are culturally inclusive and accessible to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults and children in the specified service region, regardless of gender, sexual preference, family relationship, location, disability, literacy or language.

Objectives of the National FVPLS Forum

The objectives of the Forum are to:

  1. Support and enhance the capacity of FVPLSs to provide high quality services that deliver results for clients and communities;
  2. Coordinate and facilitate communication, information sharing and relationship building between FVPLS units;
  3. Develop policy positions that identify areas of FVPLS work in need of reform and make recommendations for change;
  4. Provide advice and input to Government on issues relevant to the FVPLS program and its operation;
  5. Engage with key stakeholders including through participation in activities and national meetings that will benefit and promote National Forum positions;
  6. Promote the existence of the National Convenor/Secretariat role and FVPLSs in the appropriate forums and media; and
  7. Facilitate a co-ordinated approach to building a secure and sustainable resource base that meets the needs of FVPLSs and their clients.

Further information on some of our members’ services is available here.

This Ochre Ribbon Week, show your support in the following ways:

  1. Add the Ochre Ribbon Week 2020 frame to your Facebook profile picture here: https://www.facebook.com/profilepicframes
  2. Follow the National Family Violence Prevention and Legal Services Forum on Twitter and Facebook
  3. Donate to our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander controlled FVPLSs across the country
  4. Spread the word! Forward this email to your contacts

To find out more about Ochre Ribbon Week, head to https://www.nationalfvpls.org/

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News : Read / Download Press Release responses to the 2020 #ClosingtheGap Report from #CoalitionofPeaks @closethegapOZ @NATSILS_ @SNAICC @SenatorSiewert @CAACongress @RACGP

“ These Closing the Gap reports tell the same story of failure every year

The danger of this seemingly endless cycle of failure is that it breeds complacency and cynicism, while excusing those in power.

People begin to believe that meaningful progress is impossible and there is nothing governments can do to improve the lives of our people.

The truth is that the existing Closing the Gap framework was doomed to fail when it was designed without the input of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We know what will work best for our communities and the Prime Minister even acknowledges in this report that our voice was the missing ingredient from original framework.

The Coalition of Peaks has signed a formal partnership agreement with every Australian government, where decision-making on design, implementation and evaluation of a new Closing the Gap framework will be shared. Through this partnership, the Coalition of Peaks has put forward structural priority reforms to the way governments work with and deliver services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Governments say they are listening to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. However, the true test in listening is translating the priority reforms into real, tangible and funded actions that make a difference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people right across our country.

This historic partnership could be the circuit-breaker that is needed. However, if they view this process as little more than window dressing for the status quo, the cycle of failure evident in today’s report is doomed to continue.”

Pat Turner, CEO of NACCHO and Co-Chair of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap, said that governments need to learn from these failures, not continue to repeat them.

Read Download the full Coalition of Peaks Press Release HERE

Read previous NACCHO Communiques this week

1.Coalition of Peaks Editorial Pat Turner

2.PM Launches CTG Report ( Download )

3.PM CTG Full Speech

4.Opposition response to CTG Report

“Every year for the last 12 years we have listened to a disappointing litany of failure – it’s not good enough, Indigenous Australians deserve better.

We are heartened by the developments last year with COAG and the Prime Minister agreeing to a formal partnership with the Coalition of Peaks on the Closing the Gap strategy.

Indigenous involvement and participation is vital – when our peoples are included in the design and delivery of services that impact their lives, the outcomes are far better.

However, now that partnership is in place, Australian governments must commit to urgent funding of Indigenous healthcare and systemic reform.

Preventable diseases continue to take young lives while unrelenting deaths in custody and suicide rates twice that of other Australians continue to shame us all.

As governments reshape the Closing the Gap strategy, we cannot afford for the mistakes of the past to be repeated.

Close the Gap Campaign co-Chairs, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO and National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Worker Association (NATSIHWA) CEO Karl Briscoe, have called on the government to invest urgently in health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

Download full Close the Gap campaign press release HERE

Close the Gap Campaign response to CTG Report

” There was one glaring omission from the Prime Minister’s Closing the Gap speech this week. Housing did not rate a mention. Not a word about action on Aboriginal housing or homelessness.

Housing was not even one of the targets, let alone one we were meeting, but it must be if we are to have any chance of finally closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians on all the other targets for life expectancy, child mortality, education and jobs.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 3 per cent of Australia’s population but 20 per cent of the nation’s homeless. Aboriginal people are 2.3 times more likely to experience rental stress and seven times more likely to live in over-crowded conditions than other Australians.”

James Christian is chief executive of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council.

“For the first time ever, there is a commitment from all Australian governments, through COAG, to work with Aboriginal leaders through the peak bodies of Aboriginal organisations to negotiate key strategies and headline indicators that will make a difference.

So long as the negotiations continue in good faith and we stay the course together this should lead to a greater rate of improvement in coming years. Of this I am sure.

There is a commitment to supporting Aboriginal people by giving priority to our own community controlled organisations to deliver the services and programs that will make a difference in our communities while at the same time ensuring mainstream services better meet our needs”

Donna Ah Chee, Chief Executive Officer of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress : Read full Report Part 1 below.

“Today is another day we reflect on the Federal Government’s inability to meet the Closing the Gap targets.

This report clearly shows that the gap will continue to widen if reforms aren’t translated into tangible, fully funded actions that deliver real benefits to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout the country.

The report reveals that progress against the majority of Closing the Gap targets is still not on track. The gap in mortality rates between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous

Australians increased last year and there are very worrying signs on infant mortality.

The Federal Government needs to commit to funding solutions to end over-imprisonment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and they must be implemented alongside other areas of disadvantage in the Closing the Gap strategy – health, education, family violence, employment, housing – in order to create real change for future generations.”

Cheryl Axleby, Co-Chair of NATSILS.

“We are deeply concerned about the Federal Government’s decision to not continue funding for remote Indigenous housing. Access to safe and affordable housing is essential to Closing the Gap,”

Nerita Waight, Co-Chair of NATSILS.

Download the full NATSILS press release HERE

NATSILS response CTG Report

” SARRAH welcomes the bipartisan approach by Parliamentarians who committed to work genuinely and collaboratively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders.

The potential contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is far greater than has been acknowledged or supported to date.

There are many organisations working hard to close the gap, such as Aboriginal community controlled health organisations right across Australia, and Indigenous Allied Health Australia, the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak allied health body.

Governments, through COAG, working with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Coalition of Peaks have the opportunity to reset the trajectory.”

Download SARRAH Press Release

Media Release SARRAH Closing the Gap

“ Many of our communities are affected by a range of adverse experiences from poverty, through to violence, drug and alcohol issues and homelessness.

Without an opportunity to heal from the resultant trauma, its impact can deeply affect children’s brain development causing life-long challenges to the way they function in the world.

It is experienced within our families and communities and from one generation to the next.

We need urgent action to support better outcomes and opportunities for our children.

SNAICC CEO, Richard Weston

Download the full SNAICC press release HERE

SNAICC Response to CTG Report

“Mr Morrison will keep failing First Nations peoples and this country until a genuine commitment to self-determination is at the heart of closing the gap.

The Prime Minister’s same old “welfare” rhetoric indicates that the Government really hasn’t got it.   While they say they are committed to the COAG co-design process the PM ignores the point that it is his Government continuing to drive discriminatory programs such as the Cashless Debit Card, the CDP program, ParentsNext and who are failing to address the important social determinants of health and wellbeing.

There are a few things this Government needs to do before they just “get people into jobs”, like invest in the social determinants of health and wellbeing and a housing first approach.”

Australian Greens spokesperson on First Nations peoples issues Senator Rachel Siewert

Download the full Greens press release HERE

The Greens Response to CTG Report

” Australia’s efforts to close the gap are seemingly stuck in a holding pattern.

Though Prime Minister Scott Morrison has hailed the beginning of a ‘new era’ of improving the health and life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the launch of the 12th Closing the Gap report, the results are all but unchanged.”

Read RACGP editorial

Part 1 : Donna Ah Chee, Chief Executive Officer of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress

Continued

“It’s also important to recognise that there has been progress here in Central Australia both over the longer term and more recently. Since 1973, the number of Aboriginal babies dying in their first year of life has reduced from 250 to 10 per 1000 babies born, and life expectancy has improved on average around 13 years.

As recently as 2019 we have seen significant improvements across multiple areas.

“Alice Springs has experienced a remarkable 40% reduction in alcohol related assaults and a 33% reduction in domestic violence assaults. This is 739 fewer assaults year on year, or 14 fewer assaults per week”.

“There has been a 33% reduction in alcohol related emergency department presentation which is 1617 fewer presentations year on year or a reduction of 31 per week. Corresponding with this, there has been a decline in hospital admissions and, as noted in the MJA recently, ICU admissions. These are dramatic improvements,” she said.

“The proportion of babies born of low birth weight has halved and the rates of childhood anaemia and anaemia in pregnancy have declined markedly.”

“In addition to this the number of young people who reoffend and therefore recycle through youth detention has dropped dramatically.”

“Combining all of these factors, we are closing the gap on early childhood disadvantage and trauma and this will make a big difference in coming years in other health and social outcomes.”

There are however, still many issues to be addressed, especially with the current generation of young people, as too many have already experienced the impacts of domestic violence, trauma and alcohol and other drugs. Unfortunately, this has led to the youth issues experienced now in Alice Springs.

The NT government recently advised Congress that they are implementing strategies that are aimed at making an immediate difference while at the same time we know key strategies that will make a longer-term difference are already in place. New immediate strategies include:

  1. 14 additional police undertaking foot patrols and bike patrols in the CBD
  2. Police now taking young people home where it is safe to do so, rather than telling them to go home themselves
  3. The employment of two senior Aboriginal community police officers from remote communities and the recruitment of three others in town and two at Yuendumu
  4. The flexible deployment of the YOREOs to meet peaks in the numbers of young people out at different hours of the night
  5. The much more active deployment of the truancy officers to ensure all young people are going to school.
  6. Access to emergency accommodation options for young people at night

While progress overall is slower than it should be, it is important to acknowledge the successes we are having because of the good work of many dedicated community organisations and government agencies working together in a supportive environment, where governments are adopting evidence based policies.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #CloseTheGap News Alert : Read / Download the Prime Minister @ScottMorrisonMP speech : ” We are beginning this next chapter in #ClosingtheGap “

Bill Wentworth our first Minister for Aboriginal Affairs ( 1967 ) had a belief that as Australians began to understand and embrace Indigenous culture and our Indigenous people, then we transform the way Indigenous people see themselves – and not only that, it transforms the way we see ourselves as a people who share this continent.

This goes to the heart of who we are.

In partnership with Indigenous Australians; with respect for their wisdom and capabilities; and appreciation for their grace towards their fellow Australians, we are beginning this next chapter in Closing the Gap.

To see the gap, to see the challenges, to see the opportunities, to understand the hope, to see the way, through Indigenous eyes.

A chapter which allows us to believe in a day when the Indigenous children of this land have the same opportunities as every other Australian child

Prime Minister Scott Morrison 30 minutes Closing the Gap speech Parliament House 12 February 2020

Download PDF copy of speech

Prime Minister CTG Report speech

Download a copy of 2020 Closing the Gap Report

PRIME MINISTER: Mr Speaker, when we meet in this place, we are on Ngunnawal country.

I give my thanks and pay my respects to our Ngunnawal elders, past, present and importantly emerging for our future.

I honour all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here in this House, and right across our great continent.

I also acknowledge our service men and women, our veterans, and particularly acknowledge our Indigenous servicemen and women, and our Indigenous veterans – as we did just last week at the Australian War Memorial.

Service that for so long was not acknowledged, but who served not for recognition, but because of their faith in who we could become as a country and as a people. We are still on that journey and I thank them on behalf of a grateful nation for their service.

I also acknowledge and honour our Indigenous leaders who are also the democratically elected representatives of the people:

The Member for Hasluck, the Honourable Ken Wyatt — our very first Aboriginal Minister for Indigenous Australians.

The Member for Barton, the Honourable Linda Burney.

Senator Patrick Dodson, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, and Senator Jacqui Lambie.

I also welcome Convenor Pat Turner, and all members of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations.

I thank you for your partnership, your strength, and your leadership.

 

Mr Speaker, for 12 years, I have sat in this chamber and listened to Closing the Gap speeches.

It’s a tale of hope, frustration and disappointment. A tale of good intentions. Indeed good faith.

But the results are not good enough. This is sadly still true.

Last year, I opened this address with what I believe is a national truth and a national shame: that our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia today do not have the same opportunities as all other children growing up in Australia.

They never have in Australia. Never.

This is the ultimate test of our efforts. That every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boy or girl, can grow up in this country, with the same opportunities and expectations as any other Australian boy and girl.

Over decades, our top down, government knows best approach has not delivered the improvements we all yearn for.

When it comes to the welfare and advancement of our Indigenous peoples, I don’t doubt the good hearts and the goodwill of those in this chamber and those who have served here, including former Prime Minister Rudd who began this process with the National Apology, indeed the day before I gave my first speech in this place 12 years ago.

The National Apology was an important milestone, but it did not pretend to be the solution.

It was important for many reasons Mr Speaker, but for me, it was most important to me, was that it was most important to our First Australians. It mattered to them, and so it mattered to me.

Despite our best intentions, Closing the Gap, as an initiative fell victim to the same type of thinking that has hampered our efforts in the past.

We seemed to think that somehow if our aspirations were high enough, the rest would just take care of itself.

This is not a challenge of aspiration. It is not a contest of earnestness. It is not about who cares more. It is not about symbolism.

There has been no shortage of money or will. The Productivity Commission estimates that in 2015-16, total indigenous specific expenditure of all levels of government was $6 billion. And the share of mainstream programs that all Australians share was a further $27.4 billion.

Over the forward estimates, we are providing $5.2 billion for our Indigenous Advancement Strategy, $4.1 billion for targeted efforts to improve Indigenous Health as well as significant payments to the states and territories for Indigenous specific programs.

Closing the gap is a very practical challenge, and a very difficult one. Getting people into jobs so they can lift up their eyes from seeing hopelessness and see a future that they can direct.

Ensuring young children are healthy, in school and well educated to realise their potential. That is how generational change occurs.

Ensuring that indigenous Australians are safe in their homes and in their communities. Where they can have the same expectations of the rule of law, to go about their own lives unviolated, as any other Australian in any other part of the country.

Having watched and listened, we are now making the change to how we go about this task. It’s not judgement of our past efforts, but an honest and humble learning.

Despite the best of intentions; investments in new programs; and bi-partisan goodwill, Closing the Gap has never really been a partnership with Indigenous people.

We perpetuated an ingrained way of thinking, passed down over two centuries and more, and it was the belief that we knew better than our Indigenous peoples.

We don’t.

We also thought we understood their problems better than they did. We don’t. They live them.

We must see the gap we wish to close, not from our viewpoint, but from the viewpoint of indigenous Australians before we can hope to close it, and make a real difference.

And that is the change we are now making, together with indigenous Australians through this process.

We all have, in our own way, sought to grapple with the consequences of two and a quarter centuries of Indigenous disempowerment.

What I know is that to rob a person of their right to take responsibility for themselves; to strip them of responsibility and capability to direct their own futures; to make them dependent – this is to deny them of their liberty – and slowly that person will wither before your eyes.

That’s what we did to our First Nations people – and mostly, we didn’t even know we were doing it. We thought we were helping when we replaced independence with welfare.

This must change.

We must restore the right to take responsibility. The right to make decisions.

The right to step up.

The opportunity to own and create Australian’s own futures.

It must be accompanied by a willingness to push decisions down to the people who are closest to them.

Where the problems are, and where the consequences of decisions are experienced.

That is what we must do.

On the afternoon before Australia Day, my family and I once again visited a group of Ngunnawal elders, this time down by the lake for a water blessing.

It was hot, there was smoke from the bushfires in the air. I was grateful for the generosity and grace displayed by the Ngunnawal people to host a Prime Minister and his family at a poignant time when they reflect on their own long history since time immemorial.

Yet on that afternoon, my Ngunnawal friends were more concerned about what they called my Sorry Business Time and the recent passing of my father. They were concerned for my girls and their loss.

They had words and space for grief – and we sat together. I want to thank Aunty Agnes Shea for her hospitality and kind words.

Be it grief; the protection of our lands against bushfire; an understanding of our native ecosystems; or the inter-generational responsibilities to the land and to each other; there is so much we learn from Indigenous communities and peoples.

So I ask: what have we been too proud to learn? What must we learn so that we can grow together?

Our new approach to Closing the Gap provides some of the answers to this question. An approach that is built on partnership. On giving back responsibility.

An approach of listening. Of empowering.

Of government providing the capabilities, so that Indigenous Australians can make their best choices. Of all governments accepting their own accountabilities.

And of owning up to a path, that despite the very best of intentions of all Governments, hasn’t worked. Mr Speaker, today I make the final report on an old approach, as well as the first report of a new era. Here, then, are the results against the targets set since 2008.

Two of the seven targets are on track to be met this year, and in 2025.

We are on track to halve the gap in Year 12 attainment and that is a tremendous achievement.

What that means now, and in the future, is more Indigenous doctors, nurses, teachers, tradies, police officers, engineers, scientists, mathematicians, farmers, IT specialists, musicians, artists and CEOs and business leaders.

Excelling in every field of endeavour. Lifting our communities.

Indeed, this is the biggest improvement over the past decade.

The proportion of Indigenous Australians reaching this milestone has jumped more than 20 per cent in 12 years.

The biggest leap forward has been in our major cities, where 85 per cent of Indigenous 20-24 year olds have attained year 12 or equivalent.

We’re already doing more to close that gap.

In last year’s statement, I announced $200 million in extra support for Indigenous students through the Indigenous Youth Education Package.

Already, funding agreements for 30 projects valued at $190 million are in place.

This year, the package will assist over 20,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students stay engaged in secondary school through mentoring, cultural or other supports.

We are also working in partnership with local communities in remote and very remote communities to identify community projects that encourage school attendance. These projects are being developed

This year also, we are on track to have 95 per cent of Indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025.

The preschool years are so important in preparing kids for their school journey and beyond. And we are seeing more Indigenous kids getting that advantage.

In 2018, the figure was 86 per cent — an almost 10 percentage point rise on 2016, and well ahead of

where we needed to be to hit that target in five years’ time.

So at both ends of the school spectrum, we have made great strides in getting more kids into school and through school.

Nothing should diminish how significant these gains are.

However, the four expiring targets that were supposed to be met by 2018 were not met. Halving the gap in child mortality.

Closing the gap in school attendance.

Halving the gap in child literacy and numeracy. Halving the gap in employment.

The final target — closing the gap in life expectancy within a generation — is not on track to be met by 2031.

This is a stark and sobering report that I have tabled.

I welcome the gains, I honour the hard work across every front.

We must be careful not to speak of our First Australians as a broken people. Because they are not.

So many of our first Australians, are out there making their way, despite the disadvantages they have faced and overcome. Setting goals, making choices, living their lives, and showing bravely the way to others.

But I don’t shy away from the failures.

I see the shortcomings.

The targets that were set for Indigenous Australians, not by Indigenous Australians, do not celebrate the strengths, achievements and aspirations of Indigenous people.

They don’t tell you what’s happening on the ground, or stirring under it.

They don’t tell you how realistic or achievable these targets were in the first place. They reinforce the language of failing and falling short.

And they also mask the real progress that has been made. We must be careful not to adopt a negative mindset.

Because on most measures, we have made progress.

I am saddened that we have not met the target for child mortality. But I draw hope and resolve from the fact that we are making progress in tackling the risk factors.

More Indigenous mothers are attending antenatal care in the first trimester and more are going to at least five antenatal sessions.

Fewer Indigenous mothers are smoking during pregnancy.

We know that if we can shift these risk factors, we can keep more Indigenous babies and children alive. We may not be on track to fully close the life expectancy gap in a generation – always an ambitious target

– but mortality rates have improved by almost 10 per cent.

This is mostly because we’ve made progress in tackling the leading cause of death: the big circulatory

diseases like heart disease and stroke. This is progress.

But, as I said, we have not made as much progress as we should have by now.

There remains much to do. And we will do it differently. By working together.

By moving from a fixation with what is going wrong to a focus on strength.

By going from good intentions and sky-high aspirations, to local, practical action that’s driven by local

leaders and local needs.

With clear accountability and responsibility. With a clear line of sight to the community.

And we’re acting on a commitment — by all levels of government — to work together. For federal, state, territory and local governments to work together.

Not just the Indigenous portfolios but whole governments, at every point of contact.

Mr Speaker, every Minister in my Government is a Minister for Indigenous Australians. And the Minister for Indigenous Australians is the first amongst equals in this cause.

More importantly, for governments to work with local communities.

In partnership with the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks – known as the Coalition of Peaks, and with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We’re making that commitment real.

This is what our Closing the Gap refresh is all about.

It’s what all governments agreed to at COAG a little over a year ago.

It’s what we agreed to in March last year, in our unprecedented Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap between the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, the Coalition of Peaks, and the Australian Local Government Association.

It’s what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been saying for a long time.

They want a partnership where we listen, work together and decide together how future policies are developed — especially at a regional and local level.

A partnership that respects their expertise, and acknowledges their place as the First Nations people of this continent.

So we’re bringing more people into the process.

We are finalising a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, a formal agreement between COAG and the Coalition of Peaks. We expect this to be considered in April during Joint Council in Western Australia.

Just last month, the Peaks and I sat around the Cabinet Table and talked about how we’re making this commitment real.

Even meeting together like that, I’m advised – the Ministers and me, along with the heads of 14 community-controlled organisations, representing almost 50 different community-controlled organisations – was unprecedented.

It was historic – but it shouldn’t have been. This partnership is generations overdue.

At that meeting, I listened.

The Indigenous leaders were telling us where the gaps are, where the needs are, where the strengths are. The success stories.

The empowering stories.

The stories of hope.

And our shared priorities are clear:

  • expanding the opportunities for shared decision-making
  • building the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled services sector
  • making sure all mainstream agencies provide high quality services to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander

Mr Speaker, in days that some in this chamber will remember, the Government had absolute control over

Aboriginal people’s lives: where they could live, where they could travel, who they could marry.

Government files held details — often brutal in their brevity — that the people themselves were not allowed to know.

 

Mr Speaker, I have one such file with me.

A file of the Native Welfare Department. File 1690/68. The file is for a boy. A teenager.

In this file are notes about funding for school uniforms.

And there is a memo to the Commissioner of Native Welfare about whether the boy should be provided pocket money of 75 cents a week.

75 cents a week.

Bureaucrats making decisions for what they paternally called ‘a good type of lad’.

Think about a life where even the most basic decision making is stripped away from you – by governments thinking they know better.

Fortunately, that boy was bigger than the times, and I’m honoured that he now sits behind me as the Minister for Indigenous Australians.

He knows that responsibility and empowerment is freedom.

He is one of almost 800,000 Indigenous Australians — in the West, in the East, from Tasmania to the top end.

As I have stated, it is time we defined the gap we want to close from the viewpoint of our Indigenous Australians. They are the Australians who should be setting these goals.

Mr Speaker, a vital part of empowering Indigenous communities, is giving them the data and information to inform their decision making.

That’s why we’ve just committed $1.5 million to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led data project.

It’s about supporting local decision-making, and it’s supporting the Coalition of Peaks in partnership with the Indigenous Data Network at the University of Melbourne, to develop regional profiles for Closing the Gap targets.

It will mean having richer and more localised data to inform programs designed by and for local communities.

And a commitment of states and territories, all governments, to report publicly on Closing the Gap into the future.

These new arrangements underpin the future of Closing the Gap.

One of the things we’ve learned from the last 12 years is that the way we deliver services matters as much as what’s delivered.

That’s why we changed the funding model for the Indigenous Australians Health Program.

The new design is focused on delivering primary health care that’s appropriate to the unique languages and cultures and circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

I’m very hopeful that a new approach that’s more locally-led and more collaborative will take us much further than the top-down, one-size-fits-all, government-led approach ever could.

We know that when Indigenous people have a say in the design of programs, policies and services, the outcomes are better – and lives are changed.

For a young mother, it’s the difference between antenatal care that’s too far away or not culturally competent, and getting the care she needs from a local Indigenous service.

For a young child, it’s the difference between getting a patchy education and getting the right support to stay in school.

For a jobseeker, it’s the difference between giving up on getting a job, and finding a service provider that won’t give up on them.

For an older person with a chronic health problem, it’s the difference between missing treatment, and

turning up to a friendly face and a familiar touch, getting the care they need in the way they need it. That is our goal. Services that make a meaningful difference.

Last year, I said that we must make an impact on one really important area: and that’s in education.

You get the education right – skills, jobs, security, health, prosperity, and longevity all follow.

And it’s the area where, as I already noted, we’ve been seeing the most encouraging signs.

Think about those four-year-olds just starting early childhood education this year. On the very threshold of a whole life of learning.

In 2020, the Government has committed almost half a billion dollars to preschool education, so that every Australian child can have access to a quality early childhood programs in the year before school.

That includes every Indigenous child.

One program in particular is having an impact on helping those kids get that good start. The Connected Beginnings program is in 15 Indigenous communities across Australia.

In Alice Springs, it’s seen more kids actually enrolling in preschool – shifting from around half to three quarters.

In the Jordan River community, more Indigenous kids are participating in childcare and playgroups, and more are getting referrals to the health and specialist services they need.

In Doomadgee, teachers are seeing Year 1 students who are now much better prepared for school.

Together, we need to accelerate our efforts in these early years to make sure every Indigenous child across our country grows up safe, resilient and ready to thrive throughout life.

That is why I’ve asked the Minister for Indigenous Australians to lead the development of a national Indigenous early childhood strategy this year. To design a new way of working together to achieve our shared goal.

To prioritise these actions that matter most to parents and carers – the ones who live the experience. To partner with experts, families, frontline services and communities.

And to have a more coordinated effort across the Commonwealth and with our state and territory colleagues.

Mr Speaker, we are also seeing great connectedness between our universities and young Indigenous students.

For school-leavers in regional areas, it’s sometimes harder to see where the path leads next. It’s harder to go on to further study if that means uprooting everything you know and trust.

That’s why Regional University Centres are so important.

They help Indigenous students in regional places take on certificates and degrees through any Australian tertiary institution they choose.

In the Northern Territory, the Wuyagiba Bush Hub saw nine students successfully complete their university preparation course last year.

Five of them have been offered places at Macquarie Uni, and four at the Territory’s Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education.

In 2020, the Bush Hub is expanding its offerings so more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students can study on-country.

It’s run by the Wuyagiba Bush Hub Aboriginal Corporation, and I apologise if my pronunciation is inaccurate, together with a local elder and an academic from Macquarie. It’s a real success story.

Then there’s the Indigenous Student Success Program, giving nearly 20,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students access to scholarships, tutoring, mentoring and other cultural support to help them succeed at university.

With the support of this program, Griffith University in Queensland has helped more than 300 students get degrees in the last couple of years, and also supports about 160 regional and remote students to succeed.

We know that whatever we can do to get more kids in school, finishing school, and going on to further study – it all helps to set them on the path to a better life.

That path must lead to a job.

One of the success stories of recent years has been the Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy. This policy is about encouraging Indigenous entrepreneurship, and job producing businesses.

In 2018-19, Commonwealth portfolios and their major suppliers awarded contracts to 775 Indigenous businesses with a total value of $754 million dollars.

Since July 2015, the Indigenous Procurement Policy has seen $2.69 billion in contracts awarded to 1,842 Indigenous businesses.

This means more jobs, rising incomes and greater economic security for Indigenous communities.

From 1 July this year, we will introduce a target of three per cent of the value of Commonwealth contracts to be awarded to Indigenous businesses. This will add to the existing target of three per cent of the number of Commonwealth contracts that go to Indigenous businesses.

This is consistent with our belief that strong local economies always underpin local healthy communities.

It is economic opportunity and a culture of responsibility and empowerment that provide the foundation for the transformation of local communities.

Mr Speaker, sadly, in recent years, Indigenous youth suicide has taken so many young lives.

Indigenous young people are almost four times more likely than their non-Indigenous peers to take their own lives.

Tackling suicide – all suicides – is a national priority.

In tackling this national priority, we are using targeted strategies.

We have unveiled Australia’s largest ever Youth Mental Health and Suicide Prevention package.

Two of the 12 trials being funded are for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people specifically.

In the last Budget, we committed $4.5 million for Indigenous leaders to work on an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Suicide Prevention Plan.

A plan that recognises the value of community and provides services that are culturally safe and accessible, and are well connected to each other and the broader community.

Out of that came a body called Gayaa Dhuwi – “Proud of Spirit” – that will support Indigenous leadership in suicide prevention.

We are also working alongside community members in front-line services, who serve their communities selflessly, with strong and open hearts.

Rangers and Community Night Patrols. Indigenous liaison officers.

Indigenous doctors and nurses.

In the last three years, nearly 5,000 people in more than 180 regional and remote communities have completed Mental Health First Aid training, a program we expanded in the last Budget.

As well, 89 local people were supported to become accredited instructors so they can deliver that training.

We are making progress with solutions that empower, that are local and developed in partnership with Indigenous communities.

Finally, Mr Speaker, I want to be clear, as Prime Minister I respect their honest yearn for Constitutional Recognition.

In 2018, the Joint Select Committee into Constitutional Recognition relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples delivered a bipartisan report.

Our Government adopted the four bi-partisan recommendations in this report. In particular, JSCCR Recommendation 1.

In order to design a voice that best meets the needs and aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the Committee recommends a process of co-design between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and government be initiated in communities across Australia to design a voice that can help deliver practical outcomes for that community.

This is our Government’s policy.

It is clear from the Committee’s report that more work needs to be done on a voice proposal. The Government has always supported giving Indigenous people more of a say at the local level.

We support the process of co-design of the voice because if we are going to change the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples on the ground, we need their buy-in to the matters and policies that affect them.

The Committee did not make recommendations as to the legal form of the Voice, constitutional or legislation.

It recommended considering this matter after the process of co-design is complete and that’s what we are doing. We support finalising co-design first.

We also support recommendations about truth telling.

Australians are interested in having a fuller understanding of their history. Both the history, traditions and also the culture of course of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and also contact between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people.

Mr Speaker, well over half a century ago, Bill Wentworth, a man called by some an ‘incorrigible backbencher’ began to build the case for a national institute to capture Indigenous languages, art and culture, which he feared would be lost for all time. Ultimately that vision would become AIATSIS.

His belief was that a loss of Indigenous culture was a loss to us all, because Indigenous culture embodied our shared humanity.

In time, Bill Wentworth would become our first Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.

He had a belief that as Australians began to understand and embrace Indigenous culture and our Indigenous people, then we transform the way Indigenous people see themselves – and not only that, it transforms the way we see ourselves as a people who share this continent.

This goes to the heart of who we are.

In partnership with Indigenous Australians; with respect for their wisdom and capabilities; and appreciation for their grace towards their fellow Australians, we are beginning this next chapter in Closing the Gap.

To see the gap, to see the challenges, to see the opportunities, to understand the hope, to see the way, through Indigenous eyes.

A chapter which allows us to believe in a day when the Indigenous children of this land have the same opportunities as every other Australian child.

 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Alert :  Download the PM @ScottMorrisonMP 2020 #ClosingTheGap report that commits to a partnership where Indigenous Australians are genuinely positioned to make informed choices, to forge their own pathways and reach their goals.

” In March 2019, I entered into the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap, a landmark agreement to work together to develop the new Closing the Gap framework

For the first time, we have constructed something that sits at the very centre of government and demonstrates a strong commitment to Indigenous Australians having a real say.

That’s what was missing from the original Closing the Gap framework.

As we turn the last page on that framework, we take the evidence of the last twelve years and provide the final results. These results are not what we had hoped for, and it’s important to acknowledge them.

But it’s also important to celebrate the stories and successes that lie beyond the targets. On almost every measure, there has been progress.

I look forward to honouring our commitment to partnership. I want to make sure Indigenous Australians are genuinely positioned to make informed choices, forge their own pathways and reach their goals.

I want to make sure all governments renew our efforts to help close the gap.

We can all play a part.

Together we can all improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this generation and the next. “

Selected extracts from Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s forword to the Closing the Gap report

Download the 2020 Closing the Gap Report HERE

closing-the-gap-report-2020

View the NIAA Closing the Gap Website HERE

“Never have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies from across the country come together in this way, to bring their collective expertise, experiences, and deep understanding of the needs of our people to the task of closing the gap.

 We have an unprecedented opportunity to change the lived experience of too many of our people who are doing it tough.

It is hard not to get overwhelmed by the lack of progress ( 2020 CTG Report ) , a widening gap in life expectancy, soaring rates of incarceration, with our people dying in custody

I’m hopeful the renewed policy will be a “circuit breaker”.

There is “goodwill” and “desire for change”, and the new Closing the Gap targets could be signed off by June.

We’re aiming for a maximum of 15 targets [and] all the targets should be national.

[There will be] new ones like justice, for example … and for the first time there will be actual Aboriginal involvement in designing this process.”

Ms Pat Turner AM, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and co-chairing a project to refresh the Closing the Gap framework.

Read all 500 plus Aboriginal Health and Closing the Gap articles published by NACCHO over past 8 years HERE

Read all Coalition of Peaks articles HERE

“This demonstrates the need to adopt a new approach to Closing the Gap.

Key to this is shared accountability and shared responsibility – governments, Indigenous Australians and their communities and organisations.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt welcomed the gains in early childhood and school education, but acknowledged progress has been slow in other areas . See Part 3 below for the Ministers CTG Editorial 

Part 1 :This year, the Closing the Gap report marks a new era. An era of partnership based on an historic agreement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Last year, I hoped this report would be on a new Closing the Gap framework.

But, this is not a process we should rush. Getting it right is worth the time it takes. So while we don’t yet have a new framework in place, a new process has begun. A process that is truthful, strengths-based, community-led, and that puts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the centre.

In March 2019, I entered into the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap, a landmark agreement to work together to develop the new Closing the Gap framework.

It’s a commitment by the Commonwealth, all states and territories, the Australian Local Government Association and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations to work together in genuine partnership.

This is no small achievement.  For the first time, we have constructed something that sits at the very centre of government and demonstrates a strong commitment to Indigenous Australians having a real say.

That’s what was missing from the original Closing the Gap framework.

As we turn the last page on that framework, we take the evidence of the last twelve years and provide the final results. These results are not what we had hoped for, and it’s important to acknowledge them. But it’s also important to celebrate the stories and successes that lie beyond the targets.

On almost every measure, there has been progress.

There have been heartening improvements in key areas of health and education. These are the things that create pathways to better futures.

It’s clear we have more to do, but we must do things differently. Without a true partnership

with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we will hamper our own progress.

The new framework is based on true partnership, and on a commitment by all governments

to work together, and to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The new Joint Council on Closing the Gap is developing priorities, realistic targets and metrics that all governments and the Coalition of Peaks can commit to achieving. At the core of this new process is the expertise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, guiding local action and local change.

Our refreshed Closing the Gap will focus on how we deliver services, as well as what is being delivered, and on solutions, not problems.

This means changing the way we work. It means expanding the opportunities for shared decision-making and making sure all mainstream agencies provide high quality programs and services. It means making sure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have better access to

high-quality services, including building community-controlled sectors, and ensuring we have the data needed for ongoing improvement. It means making sure we have the systems in place to share responsibility, and to measure our progress. Without this, we can have no meaningful action and no real progress.

For example, we are investing in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led data to support

decision-making at a local level. This will mean richer data to build programs that work for people in the place they live. It will also help to develop regional profiles to better understand how we are tracking towards Closing the Gap targets and other community priorities.

In making this commitment, together we have made a new path. Together we are setting out towards a goal we all share: that is, for every Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child to grow up with at least the same opportunities in life as every other Australian.

I look forward to honouring our commitment to partnership. I want to make sure Indigenous Australians are genuinely positioned to make informed choices, forge their own pathways and reach their goals. I want to make sure all governments renew our efforts to help close the gap.

We can all play a part. Together we can all improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in this generation and the next.

Part 2 : Key findings from the 12th Closing the Gap report 

Child Mortality

Target: Halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade by 2018 – Not met.

In 2018, the Indigenous child mortality rate was 141 per 100,000 – twice the rate for non-Indigenous children (67 per 100,000). While the Indigenous child mortality rate has improved slightly, the rate for non-Indigenous children has improved at a faster rate.

Early Childhood Education

Target: 95 per cent of all Indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025 – On track.

In 2018, 86.4 per cent of Indigenous four-year-olds were enrolled in early childhood education compared with 91.3 per cent of non-Indigenous children.

School Attendance

Target: Close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous school attendance within five years by 2018 – Not met.

Most Indigenous students attended school for an average of just over four days a week in 2019. Gaps in attendance start from the first year of schooling and widen into high school.

Literacy and Numeracy

Target: Halve the gap for Indigenous children in reading, writing and numeracy within a decade by 2018 – Not met but some improvements.

In 2018, about one in four Indigenous students in Years 5, 7 and 9, and one in five in Year 3 remained below national minimum standards in reading. Year 3 literacy rates are improving.

Year 12 Attainment

Target: Halve the gap for Indigenous Australians aged 20-24 in Year 12 attainment or equivalent attainment rates by 2020 – On track.

In 2018/19, 66 per cent of Indigenous Australians aged 20-24 years had attained Year 12 or equivalent. Over the decade, the proportion of Indigenous Australians aged 20-24 years attaining Year 12 or equivalent increased by 21 percentage points.

Employment

Target: Halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade by 2018 – Not met (stable).

In 2018, the Indigenous employment rate was 49 per cent compared with 75 per cent for non-Indigenous Australians.

Life Expectancy

Target: Close the life expectancy gap within a generation by 2031 – Not on track.

Life expectancy is 71.6 years for Indigenous males (8.6 years less than non-Indigenous males) and 75.6 years for Indigenous females (7.8 years less than non-Indigenous females). While there have been improvements in Indigenous mortality rates from heart disease, stroke and hypertension, cancer rates are increasing.

Part 3 : A good education can lay solid foundation blocks for a successful life.

Through these foundations we have the ability to close the gap for indigenous Australians across a range of areas – getting it right at an early age can mean getting it right for life.

I am heartened by gains, including in early childhood and education and its long-term impact.

As a government, we do however, acknowledge that progress has been slow in other areas.

The past ten years have not delivered the results they should have – and there’s no shying away from the responsibility we share to get the next ten right, and the ten after that.

This demonstrates the need to adopt a new approach to Closing the Gap.

So, how do we take our successes in the education field and replicate them across other markers and indicators?

It’s not a simple answer but key to this is shared accountability and shared responsibility – between all governments and indigenous Australian communities and organisations.

We are committed working in partnership with indigenous Australians to optimise outcomes over the life course

And we have issued a call to all governments to continue to work together on national priorities for collective action and supporting local communities to set their own priorities and tailor services to their unique context.

For the first time in the Closing the Gap process, indigenous expertise is at the centre of decision making – this represents an opportunity to set, implement and monitor closing the Gap along with indigenous Australians.

2020 marks the next stage in an unprecedented partnership between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations, the Australian government, states and territories.

The Morrison government, through the leadership of the Prime Minister, is bringing together COAG and the Coalition of Peaks to deliver the new Closing the Gap National Agreement.

Our Closing the Gap Refresh will deliver shared responsibility and accountability.

Indigenous Australians at local, regional and national engagements are embedding knowledge and leadership, co-designing systems, policy and operational frameworks, and working with government to action change.

We are taking the time to ensure indigenous Australians and traditional owners are empowered and in a genuine position to make informed decisions.

In this new way of working, we share priorities – with indigenous Australians and with state and territory governments – in the fields of early childhood, education, employment and business opportunity, community safety, suicide prevention and health, as well as supporting local people to drive local solutions.

We must also continue to encourage conversations across the nation – so we become more comfortable with each other, our shared past, present and future. This has often led to local action to realise positive change.

This is why as the Minister for indigenous Australians, I have been tasked by the Prime Minister to develop a new whole of government indigenous early childhood strategy.

This will be a new way of working together to achieve our shared goal – working with experts, families, frontline service providers and communities.

Longer term we know that education has a direct impact on the ability for indigenous Australians to obtain employment.

The employment gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians narrows as education levels increase.

Since 2014 through the indigenous Advancement Strategy we have provided significant investments to indigenous youth and education initiatives throughout Australia.

Currently some 30,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth are being supported on their education journey through mentoring, scholarships and leadership programs like AIME, Yalari, Clontarf and the GO Foundation.

With this support, we will see this cohort of youth come through completing year 12 and progressing through further education, training and employment.

There was effectively no gap in the 2016 employment gap between indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians with a Bachelor degree or above (around 83 per cent employed for both)

Completion of Year 12 also considerably boosts employment outcomes for younger indigenous Australians compared with early school leavers.

The employment rate in 2016 for young indigenous Australians aged 18-29 who had completed Year 12 was between 1.5 and 3 times the rate for those without Year 12 qualification, depending on gender and remoteness locations.

Young, employed indigenous Australians with Year 12 qualifications were more likely than early school leavers to be employed full time, and be in a skilled occupation.

In the last 10 years, the number of indigenous Australians accessing higher education as more than doubled and currently almost 20,000 indigenous Australians are attending university.

This is worth celebrating. Every improved outcome and achievement needs to be celebrated and used to build momentum for greater improvements.

Governments, indigenous Australians and communities have a shared commitment to closing the gap; change will happen and we must not be afraid to learn from each other.

Indigenous Australians are the key agents of change. Governments need to draw on their insights, knowledge and lived experiences to deliver on Closing the Gap, for current and future generations.

We owe it to future Australians, both indigenous and non-Indigenous to build a better future.

We owe it to all Australians that they feel as though they have a future ahead of them that will deliver worth and value for work.

We will continue to work every day, to get more children to school, to support pathways into long-term employment, to address and reduce suicides right across the nation and to empower and give a voice to those who need it most.

For the first time government is walking this journey hand-in-hand with indigenous Australians.

I am optimistic that we can Close the Gap, not overnight, but overtime, in partnership and through genuine engagement with all indigenous Australians.

Ken Wyatt is the Minister for indigenous Australians

 

 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and the #ClosingtheGap debate : Professor Ian Ring  “  For actual progress to occur  I suggest 7 steps fundamental shifts in policy and practice  to turn around the efforts to #closethegap “

The good news is that the lack of progress in Closing the Gaps can be turned around, but this requires capitalising on the opportunities presented by the COAG partnership and a fundamental shift in the way programs are run.

I am encouraged that First Peoples and government are finally in the one forum where funding and policy can be aligned and jurisdictional and Indigenous responsibilities assigned and monitored – through the Partnership Agreement with the Coalition of Peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Organisations and the Council of Australian Governments(COAG).

This is a historic development, but one which enables but does not necessarily, of itself, guarantee progress.

For actual progress to occur, there needs to be some fundamental shifts in policy and practice.

I suggest the following 7 steps to turn around the efforts to close of the gap “

Professor Ian Ring AO, Hon DSc see full CV part 2 below : Original published ANTAR 

Read over 600 Aboriginal and Close the Gap articles published by NACCHO over past 8 years

Read all the Coalition of Peaks Closing the Gap articles published by NACCHO 

Noting the Prime Minister Scott Morrison will deliver his governments Closing the Gap report Wednesday 12 February

Close the Gap, Coalition of Peaks and Closing the Gap what is the difference ?

Close the Gap is a public awareness campaign focused on closing the health gap. It’s run by numerous NGOs, Indigenous health bodies and human rights organisations.

The campaign was formally launched in 2007, after the release of the social justice report by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander social justice commissioner, Dr Tom Calma.

Close the Gap gained support from state and federal governments when the Council of Australian Governments (Coag) set two health aims among their six targets in 2008: achieving health equality within a generation and halving the gap in mortality rates for children under five within a decade.

In 2008 then prime minister Kevin Rudd and then opposition leader Brendan Nelson also signed the Close the Gap statement of intent.

The Coalition of Peaks is a representative body comprised of around fifty Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled peak organisations that have come together to be partners with Australian governments on closing the gap, a policy aimed at improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

In 2016, Australian governments wanted to refresh the closing the gap policy which had been in place for ten years.  During this refresh process, many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations told governments that we needed to have a formal say on the design, implementation and evaluation of programs, services and policies that affect us.

In March 2019, the Coalition of Peaks entered an historic formal Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) which sets out shared decision making on Closing the Gap.

View the Coalition of Peaks Website HERE 

Closing the Gap

Closing the Gap is the name given to Coag’s 2008 national strategy to tackle Indigenous inequality, which includes the Indigenous Reform Agreement, a commitment to closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a specific timeframe, with six key targets

View the latest Closing the Gap Website HERE

” Everyone deserves the right to a healthy future and the opportunities this affords.

However, many of Australia’s First Peoples are denied the same access to healthcare that non-Indigenous Australians take for granted.

Despite a decade of Government promises the gap in health and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians is widening.

The Close the Gap Coalition — a grouping of Indigenous and non-Indigenous health and community organisations — together with nearly 200,000 Australians are calling on governments to take real, measurable action to achieve Indigenous health equality by 2030.” 

National Close the Gap Day March 17 Campaign website

Ian Ring suggests the following 7 steps to turn around the efforts to close of the gap 

1.Target Setting

Firstly, target setting is not simply a process of setting out what results would be desirable but needs to take into account what actual services and resources would be required to achieve the targets – and how long it would take to both measure and achieve them. Targeting and budgeting must go hand in hand, and targeting without budgeting is simply a recipe for failure and disappointment.

2.Needs-Based Funding

Secondly, it is a cardinal principle behind government social policy that service provision should be related to need. For example, no one questions the fact that far more is spent on health care for the elderly than on the young who enjoy much better health.

However, while in broad terms the level of need for health care in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, based on the Burden of Disease studies is approximately 2.3 times higher than for the rest of the population, though the jurisdictions spend $2 approximately pc (87% of needs based requirements) on health for every $1 spent on the rest of the population, the Commonwealth only spends $1.21pc on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for every $1 spent on the rest of the population (barely half [53%] of the needs based requirements).

This is particularly important as the Commonwealth is largely responsible for the out-of-hospital services required to bring down preventable admissions and deaths. It is utopian and unrealistic to believe that gaps can be closed by spending relatively less on people with worse health.

This is not a plea for some kind of special deal for First Peoples but rather for a level of expenditure that anyone else of the population with equivalent need would receive.

Funds are required to address market failure, particularly with the underuse of Commonwealth funding schemes (MBS/PBS) and to fill current service gaps with services that work and particularly, services designed by and for Aboriginal people (ACCHS). Similar principles apply to other areas of government policy and service provision eg housing, education, welfare etc.

3.Focus on Services

Thirdly, there seems to be a widespread belief that targets are somehow self-fulfilling, that all that is required is to set targets, measure them and that somehow or other the targets can be achieved.

This is of course nonsense, but indicative of the need for skills training in health planning and related fields (see below). Having set targets, it is absolutely necessary to consider what services are required to achieve the targets, what services are available and what services are missing, and the investment required to fill the service gaps. For services that are available, it is fundamentally important to have evaluation as a mandatory routine to see if the services are accessible, and effective – and if not, why not, and then take the necessary management decisions to improve service delivery (see management below).

4.Training

There is clear evidence across a range of fields (health, education, housing, justice etc) that significant progress is possible using methods that are tried and tested.

But Aboriginal health and related issues are not so simple that anyone can tackle them effectively. They are complex and require considerable skills and service delivery experience for effectiveness.

Throwing staff in at the deep end is inefficient, and not fair either to the staff or to Indigenous people. Health planning, for example, is a defined skill and requires specific training and a manifest lack of planning skills lies at the heart of suboptimal service delivery A fundamental understanding of culture is an absolute necessity as is a very solid grounding in service delivery experience. The need for training extends right across the board and applies to clinicians, health service administrators  and public servants.

For each individual the question needs to be asked – what training does this person require in order to fulfil their role with maximum effectiveness? It is time for amateur hour to come to an end and for the development and implementation of a National Training Plan to ensure all involved are adequately equipped  for their individual roles – and it will not be possible to adequately realise on the investments involved in Indigenous service provision without appropriate staff training.

5.Management

For many, the concept of management is little better than sitting around and hoping that somehow, miraculously, next year’s results will be better. That is not how Gaps are Closed.

A formal, integrated, multilayered management system is required – supported by appropriate information and evaluation systems.

At the service delivery level there needs to be formal review processes, at least mid-year and annually, to consider both process and outcome measures in relation to the specified targets – with a timeframe that is based on trajectories which set out what results can and should be expected at different points of time.These measures need to be replicated at regional and jurisdictional levels in the context of a wider consideration of staffing, training and resourcing issues. At the national level the focus needs to be on both resourcing and policy issues. At every level, the question needs to be how well are we doing, and what needs to be done to achieve better results – and then to take the appropriate management decisions required to achieve the targets.

6.Continuous Quality Improvement

There is incontrovertible evidence that sizeable and rapid gains are possible in both chronic disease  and in the health of mothers and babies. But those gains require high quality services and are not achieved without proper systems for measuring, monitoring and improving the quality of services.

Such approaches are standard throughout industry and need to be a formal component of health service delivery and other areas of social policy. CQI processes have been used for some services but need to be mandated and funded as a national requirement so that everyone involved in Indigenous service provision lives and breathes service quality enhancement and participates in the formal processes involved.

7.Learning from national and international experience

There are many fine examples of Indigenous Health service delivery – and some of the best health services in the country are provided by the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.

The Institute of Urban Indigenous Health in South-East QLD (IUIH) is an outstanding example of how to integrate Primary Health Care services, both Indigenous and mainstream, under Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership. in achieving the desired results in term of Closing the Gap.

It is just one of a number of examples around the country, but such examples need to become systematic, comprehensive and national throughout Australia. There are similar examples of services for mothers and babies which reduce low birth weight rates and lower perinatal mortality. In the important field of chronic disease, it has been demonstrated that systematic application of current knowledge can achieve dramatic reductions in mortality in short time periods.  We know what to do, have shown that impressive results can be achieved but nationally, progress in both child health and chronic disease falls a long way short of what is required. There needs to be formal support programs, to replicate successful models of these services, adapted as needed to meet local needs, right throughout Australia.

Similarly, successful programs like Housing for Health, developed for the Commonwealth (and subsequently dropped [!] but picked up by the NSW government) have improved housing and consequently health, and doing so by training and employing local Aboriginal people. It beggars belief that programs of such obvious worth are not universally delivered across Australia, and that needs to be rectified as a matter of urgency.

In other fields, child development and justice reinvestment programs have been shown to be effective and cost effective, both in Australia and overseas, but implemented on a piecemeal and patchy basis in Australia. That cannot continue.

Government budgets tend to focus on outlays rather than investment – and more importantly, return on investment. This is inefficient and, in the end, wasteful. The recent NZ Wellbeing budget shows a different approach and needs careful consideration.

Conclusion

None of the measures above are radical or untested or impossible to implement. Indeed, they are standard throughout much of the world. Not implementing them has proved costly in terms of poor results and suboptimal returns on investment.

The time for amateurism is over and Australia needs to lift its game. and these standard measures, under First Peoples leadership, and in the context of the COAG partnership, we can make a significant contribution to the achievement of Australia’s national Goals to Close the Gap.

The Gaps can and should be closed – but not by fine words and good intentions.

Much progress is possible in relatively short periods of time and Australia could and should be the world leader in Indigenous affairs.

Part 2 Professor Ian Ring AO, Hon DSc

Professor Ian Ring AO, Hon DSc is a Professorial Visiting Fellow, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Adjunct Professor in the School of Indigenous Australian Studies, James Cook University and Honorary Professorial Fellow in the Research and Innovation Division at Wollongong University.

He was previously Head of the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at James Cook University, Principal Medical Epidemiologist and Executive Director, Health Information Branch, at Queensland Health, and Foundation Director of the Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute at the Australian National University.

He has been a Member of the Board of the Australian Institute of Health, Member of the Council of the Public Health Association and the Australian Epidemiological Association.

He is an Expert Advisor to the Close the Gap Steering Committee and a member of the International Indigenous Health Measurement Group, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Demographic Statistics Expert Advisory Group, Scientific Reference Group Indigenous Clearinghouse, Australian Indigenous HealthInfoNet Advisory Board, and AMA Taskforce on Indigenous Health.

NACCHO Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Children’s Health : Download @AusHumanRights Children’s Rights Report 2019 — In Their Own Right : Our kids continue to face significant disadvantage across a range of domains

“ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia continue to face significant disadvantage across a range of domains relevant to their rights and wellbeing, including in relation to health and education outcomes, discrimination, exposure to family violence, and overrepresentation in child protection and youth justice systems.

Most recommendations made throughout this report apply to all children living in Australia, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

However, given the significant disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, this chapter (12 ) contains recommendations which are specific to their circumstances.”

Extract from Australia’s first Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell who today launched her final report – one of the most comprehensive assessments of children’s rights ever produced in Australia.

See Pages 256 to 271 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children or read Health extract below

Download full report 300 + Pages 

childrensrightsreport_2019_ahrc

Read over 380 Aboriginal Children’s Health articles published by NACCHO over the past 8 years

AHRC Press Release 

The report makes clear that the mental health of Australian children is not being cared for sufficiently and that Governments must do more to ensure children’s wellbeing.

Commissioner Mitchell said: “Not only do children require better access to mental health services, but they also need earlier intervention and higher quality care.”

The report calls on the Federal Government to develop a National Plan for Child Wellbeing and to appoint a Cabinet level Minister with responsibility for children’s issues at the national level.

National data shows one in seven children aged four to 17 were diagnosed with mental health disorders in a 12-month period, and rates of suicide and self-harm are increasing.

Suicide was the leading cause of death for children aged five to 17 in 2017, and Indigenous children accounted for almost 20% of all child suicides. There were 35,997 hospital admissions for self-harm in the ten years to 2017.

Other urgent concerns highlighted in the report include that, from 2013 to 2017 there was a 27% increase in reported substantiations of child abuse and neglect. The number of children in out-of- home care has increased by 18% over the last five years. Also, approximately 17% of children under the age of 15 live in poverty.

Commissioner Mitchell said: “The increase in neglect and abuse of children is a particularly worrying trend, as is the increase in children living in out of home care. We must do better.”

The report shows children in vulnerable situations suffer most through a lack of government focus. This includes Indigenous children, children with a disability, those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and LGBTI children.

Commissioner Mitchell said: “There is a gap between the rights we have promised vulnerable children and how those rights are implemented. It is vital that we address the gap in order to better protect children’s rights.”

Attorney General Christian Porter tabled the report in Parliament on Thursday, 6 February.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are the oldest civilisation on earth, extending back over 65,000 years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are vastly diverse in culture, language and in spiritual beliefs.[i] At the time of colonisation, there were over 500 separate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations, over 250 languages spoken, and 800 dialectical varieties.[ii]

In its Concluding Observations (2019), the Committee on the Rights of the Child urged the Australian Government to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their communities are meaningfully involved in the planning, implementation and evaluation of policies concerning them.[iii]

Health Inequality 

The disparity in health status between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and their non-Indigenous counterparts remains a crucial human rights issue within Australia.[iv] This is despite the investment in Closing the Gapa national strategy to reduce health and related inequalities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, which has been in place since 2008.

In its Concluding Observations (2019), the Committee on the Rights of the Child urged the Australian Government to promptly address the disparities in the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.[v]

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reported in 2018 that there are major gaps in data on important health issues affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.[vi] This includes culturally-appropriate data that measures wellbeing, treatment of mental health conditions, sexual health (including use of contraception and sexual health services), and use of primary health care services.[vii]

It pointed out that data for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 10–14 years is limited, compared to those aged 15–19 and 20–24, as both the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People Health Survey 2012–13 and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey 2014–15 were more focused on adults.[viii] 

In 2018–19, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (NATSIHS) has, for the first time, included up to two child members of each selected household aged 0 to 17.[ix] The results from NATSIHS 2018–19 will be available in late 2019.[x] The inclusion of those aged 0 to 17 is a welcome addition.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (the Commission) also welcomes Mayi Kuwayu: The National Study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing and hopes that it will collect data on children aged 0–17.[xi]

Child mortality

Since the Closing the Gap target baseline was set in 2008, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child mortality rates have declined by 10%.[xii]

However, the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and non-Indigenous children has not narrowed, because the non-Indigenous rate has declined at a faster rate.[xiii] It is for this reason that measuring the gap is not always helpful.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants are three times as likely as non-Indigenous infants to die between one and six months of age, and twice as likely to die for all other age categories except for one day to one week old, where the risks are equivalent.[xiv]

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 2.1 times more likely to die before their fifth birthday compared to their non-Indigenous peers.[xv]

Ear disease

Ear disease is a significant health issue facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 0–14 are 2.9 times more likely to have long-term ear or hearing problems compared with non-Indigenous children.[xvi]

Limited access to primary health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children can result in delayed diagnosis, treatment and management of health conditions.

Long-term ear or hearing problems are linked to delays in speech and language development.[xvii] These can have lasting impacts on educational and workforce outcomes.

The AIHW pointed out in its report on Australia’s Health 2018 that there is no national statistical profile of ear disease and associated hearing loss for Aboriginal and Torres Strait children based on diagnostic assessment. It argued that, without good-quality surveillance, it is difficult to understand the size and key determinants associated with the hearing problem.[xviii]

Obesity

The most recent data available from the AIHW shows that in 2012–13, 30% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 2–14 were overweight or obese, compared with 25% of their non-Indigenous counterparts.[xix]

One in five (20%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 2–14 were overweight and one in ten (10%) were obese. At age 15–17, 35% were overweight or obese. About one in five (21%) were overweight, while about one in seven (14%) were obese.[xx]

Of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander boys aged 2–14, 18% were overweight and 10% were obese. At age 15–17, 21% were overweight and 17% were obese. Among girls aged 2–14 and those aged 15–17, 21% were overweight and 11% were obese.[xxi]

Children with obesity are more likely to be obese as adults and have an ‘increased risk of developing both short and long-term health conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease’.[xxii]

Mental health

The likelihood of probable serious mental illness has been found to be consistently higher among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children compared to their non-Indigenous peers.[xxiii]

National Coronial Information System data show that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged 4–17 accounted for 19.2% of all child deaths due to suicide between 2007–15. [xxiv] Specifically, there were:

  • one to three deaths in the 4–9 year age range
  • one to three deaths in the 10–11 year age range
  • 12 deaths in the 12–13 year age range
  • 45 deaths in the 14–15 year age range
  • 62 deaths in the 16–17 year age range. [xxv]

The AIHW collects hospital data on intentional self-harm. Children who engage in intentional self-harm, with or without suicidal intent, often only experience hospitalisation because they cannot manage their injury without medical intervention. Approximately 8% of hospitalisations for intentional self-harm between 2007–08 and 2016–17 involved Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.[xxvi] Of the 2,928 hospitalisations for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, 17 (<1%) were for children aged 3–9, 859 (29%) were for children aged 3–14 and 2,052 (70%) were for children aged 15–17.[xxvii]

In its Concluding Observations (2019), the Committee on the Rights of the Child called on the Australian Government to prioritise mental health service delivery to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, including addressing the underlying causes of children’s suicide and poor mental health.[xxviii]

Sexual health

The fertility rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander teenagers are approximately 5.8 times the rate for non-Indigenous teenagers (52 per 1,000 females compared to nine per 1,000 females).[xxix]

The Committee on the Rights of the Child in its Concluding Observations (2019) specifically called for the Australian Government to strengthen its measures to prevent teenage pregnancies among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls, including by providing culturally sensitive and confidential medical advice and services. [xxx]

The levels of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in children, especially those from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, are particularly concerning. The rates of infection within these communities are recognised as being the highest of any identifiable population in Australia.[xxxi]

For example, 2016 data from the Northern Territory, shows there were 161 notified cases of chlamydia in Aboriginal children under 16 years compared to three cases in non-Indigenous children; 186 notified cases of gonorrhoea in Aboriginal children under 16 years compared to one case in a non-Indigenous child; 26 notified cases of syphilis in Aboriginal children under 16 years with no notified cases for non-Indigenous children; and 240 notified cases of trichomoniasis in Aboriginal children under 16 years with no notified cases for non-Indigenous children.[xxxii]

Aboriginal Medical Services play a crucial role in providing health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Research has suggested that ‘one of the most productive ways forward with regards to improving knowledge and increasing safe sex practice among young Aboriginal people is through community-controlled organisations’.[xxxiii]

[i] Reconciliation Australia, Share Our Pride, Our shared history (2019) <http://shareourpride.reconciliation.org.au/sections/our-shared-history/&gt;.

[ii] Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Indigenous Australian Languages, 2019 (14 March 2019) <https://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/articles/indigenous-australian-languages&gt;.

[iii] United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations on the Combined Fifth and Sixth Periodic Reports of Australia, 82nd Sess, UN Doc CRC/C/AUS/CO/5-6 (30 September 2019) para 46(a).

[iv] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Trends in Indigenous Mortality and Life Expectancy 2001–2015 (Report, 1 December 2017) vii.

[v] United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations on the Combined Fifth and Sixth Periodic Reports of Australia, 82nd Sess, UN Doc CRC/C/AUS/CO/5-6 (30 September 2019) para 36(a).

[vi] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescent and youth health and wellbeing 2018 (Report, 2018) xii.

[vii] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescent and youth health and wellbeing 2018 (Report, 2018) xii.

[viii] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adolescent and youth health and wellbeing 2018 (Report, 2018) 6.

[ix] Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (2018) <www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/D3310114.nsf/Home/Survey+Participant+Information+-+National+Aboriginal+and+Torres+Strait+Islander+Health+Survey>.

[x] Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (2018) <www.abs.gov.au/websitedbs/D3310114.nsf/Home/Survey+Participant+Information+-+National+Aboriginal+and+Torres+Strait+Islander+Health+Survey>.

[xi] Mayi Kuwayu: The National Study of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing (2019) <https://mkstudy.com.au/&gt;.

[xii] Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Closing the Gap Report: Prime Minister’s Report 2019 (Report, 2019) 10 <https://ctgreport.niaa.gov.au/&gt;.

[xiii] Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Closing the Gap Report: Prime Minister’s Report 2019 (2019) 10 <https://ctgreport.niaa.gov.au/&gt;.

[xiv] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia’s health 2018 (Report, 2018) 317 <www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/7c42913d-295f-4bc9-9c24-4e44eff4a04a/aihw-aus-221.pdf.aspx?inline=true>.

[xv] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia’s health 2018 (Report, 2018) 31 <www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/australias-health-2018/contents/table-of-contents>.

[xvi] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia’s health 2018 (Report, 2018) 322 <www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/australias-health-2018/contents/table-of-contents>.

[xvii] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia’s health 2018 (Report, 2018) 321 <www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/australias-health-2018/contents/table-of-contents>.

[xviii] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia’s health 2018 (Report, 2018) 329 <www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/australias-health-2018/contents/table-of-contents>.

[xix] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, A Picture of Overweight and Obesity in Australia 2017 (Report, 2017) 14 <https://www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/172fba28-785e-4a08-ab37-2da3bbae40b8/aihw-phe-216.pdf.aspx?inline=true&gt;.

[xx] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Overweight and obesity: an interactive insight: A web report (19 July 2019) <www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/behaviours-risk-factors/overweight-obesity/overview>.

[xxi] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Overweight and obesity: an interactive insight: A web report (19 July 2019) <www.aihw.gov.au/reports-data/behaviours-risk-factors/overweight-obesity/overview>.

[xxii] Australian Bureau of Statistics, Children Who are Overweight or Obese (2009) 1 <www.ausstats.abs.gov.au/ausstats/subscriber.nsf/LookupAttach/4102.0Publication24.09.093/$File/41020_Childhoodobesity.pdf>.

[xxiii] Mission Australia, Youth Survey Report 2017 (2017) 4 <www.missionaustralia.com.au/publications/research/young-people>.

[xxiv] National Coronial Information System. Report prepared for the National Children’s Commissioner on Intentional Self-Harm Fatalities of Persons under 18 in Australia 2007–2015. Report prepared on 07/02/2018.

[xxv] National Coronial Information System. Report prepared for the National Children’s Commissioner on Intentional Self-Harm Fatalities of Persons under 18 in Australia 2007–2015. Report prepared on 07/02/2018.

[xxvi] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Data request Specification on self-harm prepared for the Australian Human Rights Commission 2007-2008 to 2016-17 (2018).

[xxvii] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Data request Specification on self-harm prepared for the Australian Human Rights Commission 2007-2008 to 2016-17 (2018).

[xxviii] United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations on the Combined Fifth and Sixth Periodic Reports of Australia, 82nd Sess, UN Doc CRC/C/AUS/CO/5-6 (30 September 2019) para 38(a), (b).

[xxix] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Children’s Headline Indicators: Teenage Births (2018) <www.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/childrens-headline-indicators/contents/indicator-14>.

[xxx] United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, Concluding Observations on the Combined Fifth and Sixth Periodic Reports of Australia, 82nd Sess, UN Doc CRC/C/AUS/CO/5-6 (30 September 2019) para 39(a).

[xxxi] Royal Commission and Board of Inquiry into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory (Final Report, 2017) vol 3b, 82.

[xxxii] Royal Commission and Board of Inquiry into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory (Final Report, 2017) vol 3b, 82.

[xxxiii] The Kirby Institute, Sexual Health and Relationships in Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People: Results from the first national study assessing knowledge, risk practices and health service use in relation to sexually transmitted infections and blood borne viruses (Report, 2014) 54.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #ClosingtheGap : ” Its time governments front up to their failure to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people ” Pat Turner Coalition of Peaks.

“A core tenet of Australia’s modern national identity is belief in a fair go. Yet the promise of a fair go is not a reality for everyone in this country.

The difference in the life outcomes of First Nations people compared with the rest of Australia is stark.

There is more than just a gap; it is a chasm, a gaping wound on the soul of our nation. Collectively, we need to call this out, be truthful about the failure of governments to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so that we can chart a new and honest way forward.” 

Patricia Turner is lead convener of the Coalition of Peaks.( and CEO NACCHO )

Published in The Australian 10 February

Read all the Coalition of Peaks Closing the Gap articles published by NACCHO 

Noting the Prime Minister Scott Morrison will deliver his governments Closing the Gap report Wednesday 12 February

A decade ago, governments committed themselves to closing this gap but year after year the serving prime minister has stood up in parliament seemingly contented with the reported failures.

Governments have misled the public by painting the lack of progress on the targets as something outside their control, instead of something that is a direct result of their policy failings. Busy talking up the steps they were taking to close the gap, at the same time governments have been ripping funding from dedicated Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs and services and silencing our voices.

Isolated case studies of “success” are used to project a sense of change across the nation, when the majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders continues to experience poor life outcomes and hardship in their daily lives.

It’s no wonder then that many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have lost faith in the Closing the Gap framework — it has failed to deliver meaningful change and was designed without their formal involvement.

This cycle of failure is toxic. It breeds cynicism and complacency, with nobody wanting to take ownership. Enough is enough. It is time to end the cycle with a serious circuit-breaker.

That’s why a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations came together late in 2018 and wrote to the then prime minister, premiers and chief ministers rejecting the “Refresh” and calling for a genuinely new approach.

The Council of Australian Governments had already started work on a new Closing the Gap framework for the next decade, using the same doomed processes they have always used.

A lot of ground has been broken over the past year that could help put this cycle of failure to bed. We have more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australian parliaments than ever before, an Aboriginal Treasurer in Western Australia, Aboriginal ministers in the Northern Territory, a federal Aboriginal Minister for Indigenous Australians who is a member of cabinet, and an Aboriginal Labor spokeswoman for indigenous Australians.

And we finally have a formal structure that puts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders of community-controlled organisations at the negotiating table with governments on Closing the Gap.

With the leadership of Scott Morrison, a formal partnership agreement was signed in March last year by COAG and our group of community-controlled peak organisations, collectively called the Coalition of Peaks. This historic partnership gives Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people shared decision-making power with governments to develop, implement, monitor and review Closing the Gap policies for the next 10 years.

Never have leaders of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled peak bodies from across the country come together in this way: to bring their collective expertise, experiences and deep understanding of the needs of our people to the task of closing the gap; and never has there been this level of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation in parliaments and government decision-making positions. However, today is not a day for celebration. Having a position in cabinet or a seat at the negotiating table is not the end game. We should not be judged on the accumulation of power but what we achieve with that power.

The members of the Coalition of Peaks are living up to their side of the agreement, fiercely representing the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on what is needed to close the gap, and proposing policies we call the Priority Reforms that, if fully implemented, will lead to improvements in our people’s lives.

What we heard overwhelmingly through our comprehensive community engagement process is that structural reform based on the Priority Reforms is far more critical than targets. We must ensure the full involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in shared decision-making at national, state, local and regional levels.

We must also support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to control and deliver the programs and services our communities need. And finally, we need Australian governments to contribute through structural changes to mainstream and government-funded services, such as universities, hospitals and policing and courts.

Governments say they are listening and support the Priority Reforms. But listening is more than a nod of the head; it requires the Priority Reforms to be translated into tangible, properly funded actions that deliver real benefit to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people no matter where they live. The current cycle of failure is doomed to continue if this process of engagement and partnership is nothing more than window dressing for the status quo.

The only way outcomes for my people will change is when governments are willing to challenge the structures and assumptions that got us here and embedded the disadvantage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Change is never easy but with the right leadership it is possible. So if our leaders step up and deliver, we may finally begin a new cycle of success and a fair go for First Nations people.

Patricia Turner is lead convener of the Coalition of Peaks.

Aboriginal Health #UluruStatement , #Referendum and #ClosingTheGap : Our mob should seek a constitutionally guaranteed #voice in Indigenous affairs, because this will make for better, fairer policies and help close the gap.

” In the Indigenous recognition debate, constitutional symbolism would become the common enemy of indigenous advocates, who have consistently pushed for substantive and empowering constitutional reform over symbolism, and constitutional conservatives, who seek to uphold the Constitution and protect it from legal uncertainty.

Ken Wyatt should understand, however, that with the right proposal, these two groups can become proponents of sensible constitutional reform that empowers indigenous voices and upholds the Constitution.

Indigenous people would oppose a merely symbolic amendment because, as the Uluru Statement makes clear, they seek empowering structural reform to improve practical outcomes.

They seek a constitutionally guaranteed voice in Indigenous affairs, because this will make for better, fairer policies and help close the gap. “

Dr Shireen Morris is a constitutional lawyer, McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow at Melbourne Law School and senior adviser to the Cape York Institute. Her book, A First Nations Voice in the Australian Constitution (Hart), is out in July.

Originally published in the Australian 7 February

Read all Aboriginal Health , Referendum and Uluru Statement articles published by NACCHO

Read all the Coalition of Peaks Closing the Gap articles published by NACCHO 

The Minister for Indigenous Australians should recall the lessons of the failed republic referendum of 1999, lest he inadvertently steer indigenous recognition towards similar doom. Australians vote ‘‘yes’’ for practical reform, not token symbolism.

The lessons of 1999 are twofold. The republic debate showed how habitual opponents can become unexpected allies to defeat a referendum proposal. During that campaign, the direct electionists joined forces with the monarchists to successfully oppose a republic. People who might ordinarily disagree can unite against a common enemy in a referendum campaign.

The Prime Minister has said he wants to address indigenous suicide, indicating a preference for the practical. On this he will find common ground with indigenous Australians. As the Uluru Statement indicates, indigenous people want better outcomes in incarceration, child removal and the economic and cultural futures of their children. They seek a constitutionally guaranteed voice because they want to work in permanent partnership with government to improve practical outcomes in indigenous affairs.

If Wyatt hopes that indigenous people may be appeased by a legislated voice and will therefore accept a symbolic amendment of no operational effect — this is unlikely. Indigenous people have had legislated bodies in the past. ATSIC was short-lived and many remember the lessons of this history. Legislation alone cannot create a permanent partnership.

Constitutional conservatives will also oppose the insertion of symbolic words because they view the Constitution as a rule book — a practical and pragmatic charter of government and an inappropriate place for poetic statements, which may be interpreted in unexpected ways by the High Court. Constitutional conservatives have run many well organised ‘‘no’’ campaigns in the past and would do so again to uphold the Constitution and prevent uncertainty.

Australians, too, will likely reject a merely symbolic insertion. They have before. History demonstrates that voters favour practical reform over symbolic words. Of the eight (out of 44) referendums that have succeeded, none has been merely symbolic. All have fixed practical problems.

Why would Australians support a recognition proposal that indigenous people have rejected, which constitutional conservatives warn against, and which does nothing to practically improve indigenous policy?

Government should heed the second lesson on 1999: the failed preamble, which incorporated some lines of indigenous recognition. A purely symbolic proposal. Many indigenous people opposed it and only 39.34 per cent of Australians voted ‘‘yes’’.

It was an abysmal failure. By steering the nation towards a merely symbolic change, government is veering towards a repeat of 1999. The proposal would be pincered by indigenous opposition on the one hand and constitutionally conservative opposition on the other.

Both parties would be right: the Constitution is not the place for symbolic words. It is the place for practical reform and enduring guarantees. It is the place for a modest constitutional guarantee that indigenous people will always be heard in decisions made about them.

Properly executed, it would turn united opposition of indigenous people and constitutional conservatives into united support. Let us not forget, the concept of an indigenous constitutional voice was devised by indigenous leaders in collaboration with constitutional conservatives.

The conservative organisation Uphold & Recognise was born from the collaboration.

Indigenous people have clearly stated they want a constitutional voice in their affairs. Constitutional conservatives like former Chief Justice Murray Gleeson, federal MP Julian Leeser, senator Andrew Bragg, and professors Greg Craven and Anne Twomey have shown how this could be achieved in a way that upholds the Constitution.

Right-leaning commentators like Jeff Kennett, Chris Kenny and Alan Jones have backed the concept. Former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd declared a ‘‘unity ticket’’ with Jones.

The continued pursuit of the balanced, radical centre is the way to win a referendum, not the pursuit of symbolism. Success will come through careful listening and negotiation between black and white, across left and right.

There is a need to heed government’s concerns, but government must equally heed indigenous aspirations for substantive constitutional change.