The Coalition of Peaks (CoP) today welcomed the PM’s announcement of more than $1 billion over five years of new funding measures to close the gap in life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia.
“Today is another step forward under the historic partnership between the CoP and Australian governments. It shows what can be achieved when the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled leaders from across the country come together to partner with governments,” said Ms Pat Turner AM, Lead Convener of the CoP and NACCHO CEO.
“The investment includes some very significant initiatives important to our peoples and to our wellbeing like the breakthrough in providing reparations to survivors of the Stolen Generations in territories which the Commonwealth was historically responsible for – long called for but long denied until now.”
There is also a major injection of funds for long-overdue upgrades to health services infrastructure for Aboriginal Medical Services and for early childhood support and schooling.
You can read the media release by the CoP on the funding here.
Ms Pat Turner AM will speak more on this topic on ABC The Drumtonight at 6:00 pm (AEDT).
Image source: PHN NT.
ACCHO rising to the challenge
Mirroring COVID-19 success stories in community control seen across Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander nations, member organisations of South East Queensland’s Institute for Urban Indigenous Health (IUIH) have been instrumental in keeping their communities safe.
They have been promoting the importance of COVID vaccination, with a host of Deadly Choices Ambassadors such as Rugby League legends Steve Renouf and Petero Civoniceva and community members such as Uncle Les Collins and Aunty Mary Graham sharing why they ‘Stepped Up’ for the COVID 19 vaccine.
They also established four respiratory clinics for COVID testing specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people last year, providing a safe place for people to be properly assessed if they are unwell, not just tested. “We have no doubt that making the vaccines available via community controlled health services will play a key role in achieving maximum vaccine take up among our population,” said IUIH CEO Adrian Carson.
“With 79% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders living in urban areas the availability and accessibility of community controlled health services at a time like this is even more critical: services that are run by mob for mob. With our mob making up 4% of the population we have no doubt community controlled organisations getting information and services out to our community has played a significant role in the current statistics,” said Carson.
You can read the article in Croakey Health Mediahere.
IUIH’s community controlled health organisations have stepped up to support South East Queensland’s Aboriginal communities through the pandemic. Image credit: Croakey Health Media.
Improving wellbeing of First Nations children
The Healing Foundation and Emerging Minds have developed a series of new resources to improve social and emotional wellbeing outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The resources will help families and children reconnect to cultures, while weaving back in the knowledge and protective factors that have kept First Nations peoples healthy and strong for more than 60,000 years. An e-learning module, factsheets, and an animation are part of the package.
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth said the culturally appropriate training materials will give service providers resources for understanding the impacts of intergenerational trauma and reframing the narrative towards intergenerational healing. “Connections for our children and young people are important throughout their developmental stages and play a vital role in their social and emotional wellbeing,” Ms Cornforth said.
The e-learning training package can be viewed here.
The factsheets can be viewed on the Healing Foundation website here.
For more information on Emerging Minds, visit the website here.
First Nations driving future by partnering with governments
The Coalition of Peaks (CoP) has today also announced the public release of their first Implementation Plan under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.
“This Implementation Plan sets out the actions the CoP are and will be taking to fulfil our partnership responsibilities under the National Agreement, driving deep change in how governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people so that Closing the Gap outcomes are dramatically improved,” said Ms Pat Turner AM, Lead Convener of the CoP and NACCHO CEO.
“Our plan prioritises building understanding of the National Agreement and promoting the advantages and opportunities it offers to our people, communities, and organisations, provided we participate fully, and governments are held to account for its implementation.”
You can read the media release on the CoP first Implementation Plan here.
Journeys into Medicine
Have you ever wondered who the first Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctor was? The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) has published two volumes of Journeys into Medicine – a collection of personal stories from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students and doctors. Get to know some of the mob who are making a difference in the medical space. These inspiring stories provide great insight into their struggles, dreams and aspirations. The publications also highlight our history and celebrates the success of the growing numbers of Indigenous doctors.
You can access Journeys into Medicine Volume 1here and Volume 2 here.
Image source: AIDA Journeys into Medicine Volume 2.
Clinical trial for mob with type 2 diabetes
Seeking expressions of interest for the FlashGM Study – Australia’s first clinical trial for Indigenous Australians living with type 2 diabetes using flash glucose monitoring technology!
The FlashGM Study is Australia’s first randomised clinical trial for Indigenous Australians with type 2 diabetes using a new diabetes technology called Flash Glucose Monitors. Check out the Study video below!
The FlashGM team are a group of Indigenous and non-Indigenous clinicians, researchers, community members and healthcare workers based across the University of Melbourne, Apunipima Cape York Health Council, Maari Ma Aboriginal Cooperative, St. Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, Austin Health Melbourne, Rumbalara Aboriginal Cooperative, Goulburn Valley Health, Wuchopperen Health Service and Goolum Goolum Aboriginal Cooperative. The FlashGM Study is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council, Clinical Trials and Cohorts Grant 2020-2025.
If your team is interested, or you would like further information, please click here. You can also email the team or visit the study website.
You can also scan this QR code.
ACCHO to implement Aboriginal suicide prevention plan
Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service has been awarded a contract to hire a community liaison officer who will work with the community to implement a Mid West-specific Aboriginal suicide prevention plan.
WA had the highest age-standardised rate of suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia between 2016 and 2019, with the $9.8 million community liaison officer program commitment aiming to bring suicide numbers down to zero. “It is initiatives such as the appointment of these community liaison officers that will have a real and sustained impact on closing the gap, especially in our regional and remote communities,” said Mental Health Minister Stephen Dawson.
You can read the story in The West Australianhere.
This comes as Lifeline recorded its highest number of daily calls on record earlier this week with 3,345 calls.
“We’re seeing a concerning increase in people experiencing distress in our communities,” said Suicide Prevention Australia CEO, Nieves Murray. “The recent lockdowns have significantly shifted the social and economic landscape in Australia and will exacerbate the risk factors that are clearly linked to distress such as economic hardship, employment, relationship breakdown and loneliness, particularly for young people.”
You can read more about this story in ABC Newshere.
Lifeline is available 24-hours on 13 11 14.
Image source: ABC News website.
New process for job advertising
NACCHO have introduced a new system for the advertising of job adverts via the NACCHO website and you can find the sector job listings here.
Click here to go to the NACCHO website where you can complete a form with job vacancy details – it will then be approved for posting and go live on the NACCHO website.
Aboriginal Cancer Health Centre community consultation
Nunyara Aboriginal Health Service Inc is running a community consultation session on the Aboriginal Cancer Healing Centre from: 10:00am –1 2:00pm, Tuesday 17 August 2021 at the: Central Whyalla Football Club, 25 McDouall Stuart Avenue, Central Whyalla.
Your voice is important and they want to hear from you.
For more information contact: Douglas Clinch here or call 0423 280 775 or Deslyn Dodd here or call 08 8649 9900.
The Morrison government is providing $16.6 million in grants to support the mental health and wellbeing of expectant and new parents through nine new projects.
It is estimated that up to 10% of women experience depression while pregnant, and one in seven women in the year after birth. Men can also experience perinatal mental illness, with approximately one in 10 expectant and new fathers experiencing depression, anxiety or other forms of emotional distress in the perinatal period.
Some of the grants under the mental health initiative include:
$2.59 million for the University of Newcastle to deliver the SMS4dads digital prevention and early intervention service for fathers, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander fathers, living in rural and remote regions.
$750,000 for Possums for Mothers and Babies to deliver training and professional peer support for health professionals and new parents in rural communities.
$250,000 for the Murdoch University Ngangk Yira Research Centre for Aboriginal Health and Social Equity to produce health practitioner training materials and develop a mobile phone-based app version of the Baby Coming You Ready assessment and screening program for Aboriginal women.
You can read the full story and find out more about the other grants here.
Image source: AAP.
Yolngu Elders kick off COVID-19 vaccinations across Arnhem Land
Miwatj Health are gearing up for a COVID-19 vaccination blitz across the remote northern region of Arnhem Land.
Terry Yumbulul, Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation’s Chief Culture Advisor and Head of Regionalisation, and CEO Eddie Mulholland, had their Pfizer vaccine in Gove last week.
They were joined by 10 Board Members of Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation and other local leaders who received their vaccine in an effort to encourage others in the community.
ABC Radio Darwin’s Jo Laverty spoke with Terry Yumbulul about his experience and whether other Yolngu people would follow suit.
You can listen to the ABC Radio Darwin On Breakfast broadcast with Jolene Laverty here.
Yolngu Elder receives vaccine at Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation. Image source: ABC News.
Healing the past project seeking participants
Becoming a parent is exciting but it can be hard. Particularly for parents who have experienced difficulties in their own childhood, which can have long lasting effects on physical, social and emotional wellbeing. This can make the transition to parenthood difficult, causing distress and challenges to creating a nurturing environment for a new baby. On the flip side, growing research shows that becoming a parent offers a unique life-time opportunity to heal from this childhood hurt.
‘Healing the past by nurturing the future’(video)is a community-based participatory research project which is working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Aboriginal) parents to develop awareness and support strategies that could be offered during the perinatal period to support Aboriginal parents experiencing complex trauma.
The team are looking for participants for this important research project who are:
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people
living in the NT, SA or Victoria, and
are pregnant, have a partner who is pregnant or have a child (under 5 years in SA; or any age in NT or Vic).
An article published in the Medical Journal of Australia ‘Suicide rates for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: the influence of community level cultural connectedness’ examines associations between community cultural connectedness indicators and suicide mortality rates for young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
This retrospective mortality study looks at suicide deaths of people aged 10‒19 years recorded by the Queensland Suicide Register between 2001‒2015.
The age‐specific suicide rate was 21.1 deaths per 100,000 persons/year for First Nations young people and 5.0 deaths per 100,000 persons/year for non‐Indigenous young people. The rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people was higher in areas with low levels of cultural social capital (greater participation of community members in cultural events, ceremonies, organisations, and community activities) than in areas classified as having high levels, and also in communities with high levels of reported discrimination. Associations with proportions of Indigenous language speakers and area level socio‐economic resource levels were not statistically significant.
The study found that suicide mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in Queensland were influenced by community level culturally specific risk and protective factors. The findings suggest that strategies for increasing community cultural connectedness at the community level and reducing institutional and personal discrimination could reduce suicide rates.
The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIS) has released new papers on Personalised Budgets to give more information on the way they propose to build participant budgets in the future.
In 2020 they released a paper on proposed changes to the planning policy for Personalised Budgets and plan flexibility, and encouraged participants, families, carers and the wider sector to respond. The feedback was that people want fairer decisions. People also wanted the NDIS to be more transparent about how they worked out the funds in participants’ plans.
The Personalised Budgets papers give you more information on how the NDIS are developing the new budget model and how they propose budgets will be built.
There are three versions of the Personalised Budgets paper available for increased accessibility. They include:
Personalised Budgets – technical information paper
Personalised Budgets – information paper for participants, their families and carers
Easy Read Guide – A new way to work out how much funding you receive in your NDIS plan
You can read more about the Personalised Budget paper on the NDIS website here.
Health Check 2020
‘Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap – Health Check 2020’
In 2018, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) committed to a genuine, formal partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives to develop the Closing the Gap strategy for the next decade. Governments acknowledged the need for a respectful, collaborative approach with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities to achieve productive and sustainable outcomes.
To give effect to that commitment, the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap 2019-2029 (Partnership Agreement) was negotiated and agreed to by the Coalition of Peaks and the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in March 2019. The Partnership Agreement provides an historic opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives to be heard and incorporated into policy and program dimensions across all levels of government. The Partnership Parties committed to an annual Health Check of the Partnership Agreement and agreed to the development and subsequent annual review of a Partnership Risk Register. The objective of the Health Check is to review the state of the Partnership Agreement against success indicators agreed by the Parties. This report gives an account of the first Health Check and includes a draft Risk Register.
This Health Check has found that the Partnership Agreement has been successful in achieving the coming together of the Coalition of Peaks and Governments in partnership to support the Parties’ decision to negotiate a new National Agreement.
Partnership Health Check to inform the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap.
Digital mental health resources
In honour of National Reconciliation Week, the eMHPrac E-Mental Health in Practice website has decided to explore the Digital Mental Health Resources developed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in mind. These resources include culturally relevant and evidence-based information, advice, stories, support, and counselling.
There are a range of digital mental health resources available to support individuals, families, friends, and communities including:
107 ACCHOs have signed up to deliver COVID-19 vaccines: Pat Turner on ABC The Drum
Pat Turner AM, CEO NACCHO and Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks was on the panel of speakers for the ABC The Drum last evening and spoke on a couple of topics including the First Nation’s success with COVID-19 and the vaccines rollout, COVID-19’s northern exposure to PNG outbreak, the Federal Government launching a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign in Canberra today encouraging people to move to regional Australia and the Closing the Gap update amongst others.
The Deputy PM is promoting a migration to regional Australia – but are the towns prepared to handle more people? What happens if not?
Pat said, “Experience from other First Nations in US and Canada shows high vaccine uptake occurs when the rollout is led by First Nations peoples and there is community control. Due to our success in controlling the outbreak we’re in a position which allows our services to have a flexible approach to the vaccine rollout.
“Just as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities were on the front foot with controlling COVID-19, we are on the front foot with the vaccine. We have advocated to ensure our communities are among the first to be offered the vaccine. We know the devastation COVID-19 can cause due to the high number of people with chronic conditions like diabetes and the potential rapid spread in crowded housing.
“We have 107 ACCHOs who will participate in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout from 1b in late March. This includes many rural and remote ACCHOs, ensuring all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have access to the vaccine if they choose to, regardless of location.
“We need flexibility in the way the vaccine is delivered in communities, especially in remote and very remote setting. NACCHO has been working with the Australian Government to ensure that, where appropriate, this flexibility exists. While the focus remains on those at highest risk – people over 55 or with chronic medical conditions – ACCHOs can also vaccinate family members and household members of those at high risk. A remote vaccine working group is considering a whole of community strategy – including all non-Indigenous and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in the community.
“ACCHOs are highly experienced at vaccine roll-out. Five year old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have the highest coverage of vaccine uptake in the country and in 2020, almost 80% of people over 65 had the Fluvax.
“We have ensured there is targeted monitoring of safety of the vaccine among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people through the AusVaxSafety program.
“The Australian Government has announced over $14 million in funding to support the roll-out of the vaccine in ACCHO. However, services are yet to receive this funding.
“We know that the best information comes from locally developed communication materials from the ACCHO sector. This was key to the success of the COVID-19 response.
“The communication materials developed by the Government are a good source of factual and up to date information, but we need to support our services to adapt these to local communities needs.
“NACCHO has worked closely with the Government, including the TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) to ensure that restrictions on medicine advertising do not stop our sector from doing what they do best – developing and distributing effective health promotion and engagement campaigns for their communities.”
Nyikina Nyul Nyul nurse Emily Hunter was the first Kimberley person to receive the COVID-19 vaccination. Photo: Erin Parke. Image source: ABC News website.
National Close the Gap Day 2021
“It will be two years since the historic Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap came into effect and we are seeing a radical change across the country.
“The new formal partnership agreements between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled representatives are being strengthened or set up in every state and territory to share decision making on Closing the Gap.
“The Priority Reforms in the National Agreement need to be embedded into the way governments work – in their policy development, program and funding guidelines and decision making. Our purpose together is to share decisions on how to improve the life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
General Practices join the Phase 1B COVID-19 vaccine rollout
More than 1,000 general practices will join the COVID-19 vaccination program from next week further strengthening the Commonwealths capacity, and ensuring an efficient and equitable distribution of vaccines across the country.
Services will come online from 22 March and progressively increase in number to more than 4,000 by the end of April – as part of Phase 1B of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccine program. This staged scale up will align with the supply of the locally produced AstraZeneca vaccine, and as more vaccine becomes available more services will come online.
Over 100 Aboriginal Health Services and 130 Commonwealth operated GP-led Respiratory Clinics, who have been instrumental partners in the COVID-19 response to date will also be progressively added as additional vaccine providers.
This rollout for Phase 1B complements the significant vaccination program underway to protect our most vulnerable citizens in Phase 1A, with approximately 200,000 vaccinated by the end of Tuesday.
Australians eligible for Phase 1B will be able to find a vaccination provider through the new national vaccination information and location service, at the Department of Health website.
This will enable people to locate their nearest general practice providing General Practice Respiratory Clinic vaccinations and link through to their online booking system or phone number to make the appointment.
To read the full media release by the Hon Greg Hunt MP Minister for Health and Aged Care click here.
ATAGI statement in response to European decisions about the Astra Zeneca vaccine
Australia’s regulatory body for vaccines Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) issued a statement to not suspend Astra Zeneca vaccine yesterday.
Could we mix and match different COVID-19 vaccines?
The COVID vaccine rollout is now underway in Australia and around the world. It’s incredible we’ve been able to develop and produce safe and effective vaccines so quickly — but the current crop of vaccines might not protect us forever. Fortunately, researchers are already developing and testing booster shots. So what are booster shots, and when might we need them?
The first time you give someone a dose of vaccine against a particular infection, it’s called a prime. You’re getting your immune response ready to roll.
Each time you give another dose against that same infection, it’s called a boost. You’re building on immunity you already have from the first dose.
To read the full article in the Conversation click here.
Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities
Interesting research paper released in the Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin: Facebook-based social marketing to reduce smoking in Australia’s First Nations communities: an analysis of reach, shares, and likes. By Hefler M, Kerrigan V, Grunseit A, Freeman B, Kite J, Thomas DP (2020).
Therapeutic Goods adverse events following immunisation
This instrument specifies certain therapeutic goods information relating to adverse events following immunisation that may be released to specified bodies and persons for the purpose of ensuring meaningful and effective participation in meetings on vaccine safety to support the safety, quality and safe use of vaccines in Australia.
Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner Chin Tan has launched a plan to establish a National Anti-Racism Framework and has called on the Federal Government to support and implement it. Commissioner Tan released a concept paper detailing key components that need to be included in the Framework and will soon commence a series of roundtables with peak anti-racism organisations to progress the plan.
The plan was launched ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, also known in Australia as Harmony Day, which occurs this Sunday. Commissioner Tan said: “Racism is an economic, social and national security threat to Australia, and we need to treat it as such. Too many Australians are regularly the targets of racism. “It is time we dealt with the scourge of racism in the same way we deal with the scourge of domestic violence, or the scourge of child abuse. On those issues we have longstanding national frameworks, signed onto by all governments with three-year action plans.
To read the media release by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Concept Paper for a National Anti-Racism Framework clickhere.
Close the Gap Campaign Report 2021: Policy Brief
Since 2010, the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee has developed an annual report on action that needs to be taken to achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We often repeat our recommendations, and we remain steadfast and persistent in the expectation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing will be respected and understood. The time for governments to deliver has long passed.
The Leadership and Legacy Through Crises: Keeping our Mob safe report presents solutions and showcases the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities, youth and organisations throughout critical health crises in 2020.
The report features strengths-based examples in addressing the most complex of challenges. These include climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increasing need for social and emotional wellbeing services in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities as a result of these events, and pre-existing effects of colonisation and inter-generational trauma.
Effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for FASD
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) is an entirely preventable permanent disability. FASD includes a range of physical and neurological impairments, occurring due to brain damage caused by exposing a fetus to alcohol during pregnancy. As a spectrum disorder, FASD manifests in a range of ways, and conditions can range from very mild to severe.
Senate Community Affairs References Committee report on effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and support for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Tabled 17 March 2021.
The committee received a wealth of information and evidence throughout the inquiry and thanks all those who participated, especially those with lived experience who had the courage to share their experiences and knowledge with the committee. As a result, the committee has made 32 recommendations, which aim at significantly improving the prevention, diagnosis, and management of FASD.
Effective approaches to prevention and diagnosis of FASD, strategies for optimising life outcomes for people with FASD and supporting carers, and the prevalence and management of FASD, including in vulnerable populations, in the education system, and in the criminal justice system.
To read the full report released by the Senate Community Affairs References Committee, click here.
Image source: UNSW Sydney National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre.
Hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
Identifying hearing loss and treating middle-ear infections in Indigenous children in their first four years would change lives forever, says Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong.
Describing himself as a proud Worimi man, Dr Kong said early intervention – such as checking children’s ears at every opportunity – would contribute to closing the gap in education, employment and health between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.
Australia’s first Indigenous surgeon, Dr Kelvin Kong
COVID-19 crisis in PNG amid vaccine rollout concerns in Australia
Australia has announced emergency COVID-19 support for Papua New Guinea (PNG) in response to fears of a “looming catastrophe” that could devastate the nation and its healthcare system and that also threatens communities in the Torres Strait and Far North Queensland.
Amid dire warnings from PNG and Australian health experts, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced today that Australia would urgently supply 8,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from Australia’s stock to start vaccinating PNG’s essential health workforce.
Torres Strait Regional Council Mayor Philemon Mosbytold ABC radio today that it could be “catastrophic” for local communities if the emergency wasn’t handled properly; however, others are hopeful the crisis can be averted, including National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) CEO Pat Turner.
“Our people are very much aware in the Torres Strait about the dangers of COVID and they’ll be taking every precaution,” Turner told ABC TV’s The Drum, saying she had “every confidence that Queensland Health will be able to manage this and control the movement of people, with the cooperation of the Torres Strait Island leadership”.
Image source: Australian Government Department of Health.
Do you work with or employ AHWs or AHPs?
Diabetes is a significant health issue facing Indigenous Australians. The delivery of culturally safe health services, including by appropriately skilled Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners, is vital to efforts to reduce the present and future burden of diabetes.
Marathon Health are currently looking at diabetes-specific educational opportunities for Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Practitioners. We want to know where they get the information they need to enable them to provide diabetes care.
Your participation in this brief survey is entirely voluntary and your time is greatly appreciated. The results will be used to inform current availability of diabetes-related education and to identify opportunities in this area.
Please click the link to the survey to get started here.
Community-led action – the key to Close the Gap – AHHA
The 2021 Close the Gap Campaign report, released today, highlights the importance of strength- based, community-led approaches to improving health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
‘While Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continue to show resilience in the face of poorer health outcomes, the effectiveness of strength-based, community-led action could not be clearer,’ says Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association spokesperson, Dr Chris Bourke.
‘The case studies in this year’s report showcase the leadership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations throughout some of the biggest challenges of 2020, from bushfires to pandemics.
‘Community Controlled Organisations and Health Services successfully kept Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and the rate of COVID-19 cases in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples was six times lower than the rest of the population. These community-led organisations will have a significant role to play in rolling out the COVID vaccine this year.
‘In July 2020, the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, signed by all Australian governments and the Coalition of Peaks, signified a new way forward with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in control at the decision-making table for the first time.
‘The recommendations in this year’s report call for structural reform, self-determination and ongoing investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-led initiatives.
‘This year’s report solidifies the importance of the power of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, communities and organisations, to deliver culturally safe care and localised solutions,’ says Dr Bourke.
AHHA is a member of the Close the Gap campaign, an Indigenous-led movement calling for action on health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Close the Gap Campaign report is available online.
Close the Gap campaign poster by Adam Hill. Image source: ResearchGate.
First Nations women left behind in cervical cancer elimination
Australia is tracking to become one of the first countries to eliminate cervical cancer, but Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women will miss out unless we act urgently to change this, according to a new study from The Australian National University (ANU) and Cancer Council New South Wales (CCNSW). Lead researchers, Associate Professor Lisa Whop (ANU) and Dr Megan Smith (CCNSW) and colleagues are calling for inequities to be addressed.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is a common sexually transmitted infection and is responsible for almost all cases of cervical cancer and 90 per cent of anal cancers and genital warts. To reach elimination, the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a strategy with three targets to be met by every country by 2030.
Read the full media release by Australian National University here.
Image source: MedPage Today website.
Closing the Gap vital to ensure health equity – AMA
The disparities between the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians continue to fall by the wayside and closing the gap is vital to
ensure health equity in this country, AMA President Dr Omar Khorshid said today.
On National Close the Gap Day, the AMA encourages all Australians to take meaningful action in support of achieving health equity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
The AMA has actively called on the Government to address health inequities experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, that stem from the social and cultural
determinants of health.
“Closing the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous people is everyone’s business: it is a national issue in which every individual,
organisation and group in Australia can play a role,” Dr Khorshid said.
“Every person’s health is shaped by the social, economic, cultural, and environmental conditions in which they live.
“Addressing the social and cultural determinants of health is vital if we want to see vast improvements in the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“This is a national priority.
” I’m joined today by the Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt and the convener, leader, chair of the Coalition of Indigenous Peak Groups, Pat Turner.
And I want to come to the important reason that we’re gathered together today, to speak about the finalisation of the Closing the Gap Agreements that have been historically reached between the group of Coalition Peaks, the Commonwealth and the states and territories.
This is a very significant day, and I know one that both Ken and Pat have been working together on now for some time and I’m so pleased that we’ve come to this day. I think it’s going to have a very meaningful impact on how we progress to ensure that young Indigenous boys and girls can grow up in this country with the same expectations as non-Indigenous boys and girls in this country. That’s what we want to see. That’s what it’s all about.
That, as Australians right across the country, we can have the same hopes, the same aspirations, the same goals, ultimately. It’s not an easy road and there’s still a long road ahead of us to achieve that. But what we’re announcing today, I think, will make a very meaningful impact on achieving that journey together.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison 30 July 2020
Download full transcript including questions and answers
So, with that let me turn, with your agreement, to the important reason that we’ve gathered today, as serious as the pandemic is. The issue of achieving those aspirations for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians together are of great significance to our country, not just now but into the future. It is a national aspiration, a national goal, a national task.
The process that we began around about two years ago, when we came together, began with listening as to why we were being unsuccessful in closing the gap. Any good process starts with listening and that’s what we did as a Government. We listened carefully.
And there were many discussions and there were many very unprecedented discussions, including here, in this very Cabinet room, as I sat early this year in January together with Indigenous leaders from peak groups, with Ken, and that was quite an extraordinary discussion. And it charged us up to keep going with the work that was being done to form the Agreement which we’ve reached today.
As we have been dealing with the pandemic, there have been two phrases, two concepts, that have come up in almost all the briefings that I’ve had. They talk about lines of effort and they talk about unity of effort. And as I was reflecting on this Agreement last night, I believe that’s what this does. It sets out very clear lines of effort, which has been important. But, more importantly, it sets out the process of having a unity of effort. And when we do those two things together, that’s where we make progress.
Whether it’s attacking a pandemic or attacking the very serious issues of Indigenous disadvantage for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in this country. And the other thing we did as we listened and we identified these things, and we looked at how we had not been making the progress all of us wanted on closing the gap, we reflected on the fact that Closing the Gap and the initiative taken by Kevin Rudd was an entirely worthy initiative and an initiative deserving of credit. But, innocently, there were elements of how that was done which was misguided.
That’s not a criticism, that is a learning. A learning of these many years that have passed since then, as we’ve sought to live up to those worthy aspirations at that time. And one of the mistakes that have been made is, as we’ve looked at this as a Federal Government, we’ve decided what the gap is. We didn’t look at the gap through the eyes of Indigenous Australians.
We told Indigenous Australians what the gap was that we were going to close and somehow thought they should be thankful for that. That was wrong-headed. That wasn’t the way to do it.
We needed to understand what the gap was, looking through the lens and the eyes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They needed to tell us what the gap was that needed to be closed and that’s what this task has been about. It has also been about understanding that this is not the task or role or responsibility of any one organisation, level of government, or nation of peoples across the country. This is the task of us all. And for that to be successful, we need a partnership between all of these groups. Understanding what these lines of effort are to achieve this unity of effort.
And so we set about achieving a partnership and setting out these 16, as I understand, particular areas of activity. Underpinned by four key things we’re seeking to do to make them possible. And the first of those is partnership – a partnership of states and territories who have significant roles to play in achieving the outcomes that are set out here in this Agreement.
This is not something the Commonwealth can even pretend to think it can do alone. It must be done together with the service delivery and policy arms of state and territory governments. But also with the delivery agencies of Indigenous organisations, which are on the ground, making a difference.
Secondly, it’s about building the capabilities of those on-the- ground, community-based organisations in Indigenous communities to deliver those services as best as they possibly can. It is about transforming mainstream government agencies and institutions and how they conceive these challenges and how they go about engaging and delivering their services and broader policies that impact on Indigenous Australians, whether they’re directed to them specifically or not.
And it’s about getting the right data, the right evidence, and the right reporting that creates the transparency to drive the actions we’re seeking to get progress from.
The data then, as it’s set out in each of these 16 areas, is incredibly well-presented in terms of what we need. It sets out the goal and those goals haven’t changed drastically.
But what it has done is identified the things that make that goal achievable and the signs you need to look for along the way to know you’re going to meet that goal and how we’re progressing against those key data points. And it gets granular. It says, “We’re not just going to look up here, we’re going to go down the community level, we’re going to go and break this up by different groupings to understand where the real challenges are and where our progress is doing well.”
As Ken has often said, this process has to acknowledge the gains to drive the confidence that other areas can see achievement. But it’s also about separating out where the accountabilities lie to get the action. And then there is the further data that is needed to drive the whole process and there are some serious weaknesses when it comes to the intelligence and information that we need to inform plans to eliminate Indigenous disadvantage in this country as much as we possibly can.
And so I find it a very practical document, Pat and Ken. I commend you on the work that it’s done. It’s realistic, it’s shared, it’s evidence-based and led, it’s transparent, it’s practical, it’s ambitious. And from this point, the real work starts. And the plans that are needed from the Federal Government, from the state governments, the plans that need to find their way into budgets.
But I tell you where we start – we start with what we have to do, and then we apply the resources to achieve that. This isn’t about buckets of money, this is about changing the way we do things and ensuring that we apply the resources most effectively to achieve that. And with that I’ll pass you on to Ken, and then to Pat.
THE HON. KEN WYATT MP, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS:
Prime Minister, thank you very much. I want to acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, on whose land we are today, their elders past and present.
The concept of Closing the Gap was an idea that arose from the Human Rights Commissioner of the day, Tom Calma. Tom put forward a series of propositions and the first signing of a Closing the Gap Agreement was done by a former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.
The intentions were honourable. The outcomes were never achieved in the way that we had aspired to reach in the way of improving the lives of Indigenous Australians. And this particular Agreement is historic.
Because it goes to the very thing that I said right at the beginning when I first came into this role – that we need to develop approaches to address the issues of inequality and inequity by having Indigenous Australians sitting and jointly designing, planning and developing a direction that is based on how we wrap around people, their life expectancy, their life expectations, and their aspirations from the community level through to the peak organisations.
It’s been an incredible privilege working with Pat and the 51 peak organisations.
When we first started, it was 21. And then it grew. But the more people that were involved, the greater the depth of discussion around what do these targets mean?
How will they change the lives of people? And how will we bring governments with us? And that was a critical part of the conversation, as to how do we then take it to the next stage? Because, primarily, it was the Prime Minister who tabled the Closing the Gap Report. There was no requirement for states and territories to do that.
This Agreement through the state and territory cabinet processes has endorsed a new approach. An approach that will involve Aboriginal people as partners in the design of the work of government agencies.
It will involve transforming the way in which government agencies at every level, including local government, work with Indigenous Australians. It also commits, through the cabinet process, ministers in all portfolios to work towards achieving closure in the targets and the gap that is associated with the targets.
But I think more importantly is the way in which the spirit of intent for the outcome we’ve achieved today in this Agreement was reached through the passion and commitment of so many people.
I want to acknowledge Pat’s leadership. If you work with Indigenous organisations, as she has done, she has certainly brought 51 significant leaders to the table, to agree on the targets that we have within the Agreement, including incarceration rates, including family safety and the safety of women, and expanding those targets to focus in key and critical areas.
But I also want to acknowledge every state and territory Aboriginal Affairs Minister, because their officials and the officers from the National Indigenous Agency and the officers who worked with Pat in the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation worked paragraph by paragraph through the Agreement until all parties were satisfied. But the thing that is different this time is the enthusiasm of all to address these targets.
Prime Minister,I want to acknowledge you, because you’ve done something that no other Prime Minister has done,andthatistoputfaithintheIndigenouscommunitytodeveloptargetsforusalltoachieve.But for all of us to take responsibility for, and for all of us to be accountable for. And by all of us focusing on those three tranches,Iamextremelyoptimisticthatwewillseeclosuresinareastoagreaterextentthan what we’ve seen historically in the past.
And the amount of goodwill means that the reforms that we seek to achieve will now be done in a way that is very different. It means a person living in Ampilatwatja or living in Balgo WA, or in Arrente country will have avenues in which to influence government policy and direction, and to have a say on those things that impact on them through our peaks, and through the other structures that exist within states and territories.
So, I compliment all who are involved. And whilst I have been Minister, I’ve enjoyed the immense journey of the very meaty debates, but the way in which we have come together to produce a blueprint for improving the lives of our people across this nation, with flow-on effects for all Australians.
It is part of the Morrison Government’s commitment to having a change of direction that is going to make a difference on the ground with state and territory Premiers and Chief Ministers who, through National Cabinet, have signed up to this Agreement, along with the President of the Australian Local Government Association, so it means that local government equally will be involved in achieving the outcomes.
I’d now like to ask Pat to come forward and make her comments.
PAT TURNER AM:
Thank you very much, Minister, and thank you, Prime Minister. Today truly is an historic occasion. This is the first time a National Agreement designed to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been developed and negotiated between Australian governments, local government, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives.
We have come a long way as partners since the partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap came into effect in March last year and I want to thank each government for the spirit in which they have approached the partnership.
I particularly want to thank you, Prime Minister, for your leadership in taking the first step in agreeing to establish a formal partnership between the Coalition of Peaks and governments on Closing the Gap.
The Prime Minister probably didn’t fully realise what he was committing to, and possibly no government did, but maybe that was a good thing at the time.
Today we now have a comprehensive set of commitments from governments that places Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations at the centre of Closing the Gap. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know what is best for our communities, not governments, and this National Agreement means that decisions of Government on Closing the Gap need to be negotiated and agreed with us.
But I have to say, the Prime Minister and Ken will know it hasn’t always been easy, and some of our negotiations have been very hard-fought.
For the Coalition of Peaks, the National Agreement is not just words. They represent actions that can make a real difference to the lives of our people, our families, and our communities. We have also had the voices of more than 4,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who participated in our engagements on what should be included in the new National Agreement, guiding us in our negotiations.
The Coalition of Peaks is confident that the National Agreement, if fully implemented, has the potential to establish a strong policy foundation to give effect to what our people have been saying for a long time is needed to make a difference.
The National Agreement may not include everything our people want or need to make lasting change to our lives, but this is a huge step forward. I also want to thank all the members of the Coalition of Peaks. This is the first time our community- controlled leadership have come together in this way to bring our collective experiences and expertise to the task of Closing the Gap, and it has been a real privilege to work with my colleagues in the Peaks.
It is important that we celebrate today’s achievements. We are marking a turning point in Indigenous Affairs and the relationship between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives and we have all played our parts.
But the real hard work starts tomorrow, as we begin the implementation of the National Agreement in full partnership between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, organisations and representatives. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Pat. Let’s take questions on this matter and then we can return to the pandemic issues afterwards.
JOURNALIST: We’ve heard many moving and passionate speeches by Prime Ministers and Ministers over the last 12 years about this subject and every year moving speeches by Prime Ministers and Ministers lamenting the fact that governments have fallen woefully short of meeting the targets. What commitment can you give that these new targets will actually be met?
PRIME MINISTER: Well, it has the full backing of our entire Government. I said when Ken was appointed as the first Minister for Indigenous Australians, as an Indigenous Australian, that every Minister in my Cabinet is a Minister for Indigenous Australians. Because that’s the change, that’s the shift that needs to have effect to actually make more progress. I think you’re right, Mark, there’s never been any lack of passion or commitment or dedication from this podium, no matter who stood behind it. Every Prime Minister that I know has shared this passion and this dedication but also the frustration that goes along with the lack of progress in this area.
What I think is different about this process is there has been some humble learnings that has led to its development and its execution. There has been a recognition that in sometimes we have been too ambitious without understanding the detail of what you actually have to do to get there. And what I particularly like about this Agreement is how, as I explained before, it gets very granular about how you get there, and how you know when you’re not getting there, and that’s very important. This evidence-led process which has an accountability to it, which I think is very important.
Now, I’d love to give you a guarantee, like every one of my predecessors would have and endeavoured, tried to, as I am today. But I am tempered by that bitter experience of my predecessors and my own. And so I take comfort in the fact that we’ve got a partnership now that we haven’t had before. It’s not because others didn’t want it. I think the partnership is the product of the learnings, the humble learnings that have been necessary. So, I do hope, Mark, that we can live up to this. We owe it to everybody Indigenous boy and girl in the country today, and every Indigenous person in the country today.
JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, and Minister Wyatt, there’s been some criticism of the fact that the domestic violence target is not being announced today and it’s going to continue to be worked on. Can you explain why, given what we know about the over-representation of First Nations women as victims of domestic violence, why that is still being worked on and is not being announced today?
PRIME MINISTER: Sure, I’m happy to, and I’ll let Ken and Pat speak to that because they’ve been directly involved in those decisions.
THE HON. KEN WYATT MP, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: In dealing with this issue we want zero tolerance of any domestic violence, of violence against women. I know that when the working group was going through this, the focus on just physical violence against women was seen as not sufficient. That hasn’t lowered our bar for absolute extinction of domestic violence against any woman, and this fits within the Fourth National Plan that our Government has in place as well. But our senior women have asked that we do more work on that and I respect the request that they have made, and we will come back with further work. But the target is still zero tolerance of domestic violence against our women.
PAT TURNER AM: Yes, thank you. So we do have some more work to do in our negotiations with all of the governments. It is a national priority and one that we take very seriously, and we hope to have that nutted out as we go through in the next few months and we start our work on the implementation plans to get some real nutty figures in there.
Let me say on the National Agreement, it’s very important that you read it in detail and you understand it because there are funding provisions that are already committed to in the National Agreement and they will come on board as we progress the important work now on the implementation plans and the important work that we have to do to make sure that we have the right people at the right table, at the right time, in the right place.
“The National Agreement commits governments and the Coalition of Peaks to building strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled sectors and organisations to deliver Closing the Gap services and programs.
The first four sector strengthening plans will be developed for early childhood care and development, housing, health, and disability within 12 months.
We are pleased that governments are putting in funding to support Priority Reform Two. This funding will help build and strengthen the community-controlled sectors to deliver services and programs to our people.
NACCHO has been working on this new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, as a member of the Coalition of Peaks.
“Today finally marks a new chapter in our efforts to close the gap – one built on mutual trust, shared responsibility, dignity and respect.
The gaps we are now seeking to close are the gaps that have now been defined by the representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This is as it should be. This creates a shared commitment and a shared responsibility.
This is the first time a National Agreement designed to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been negotiated directly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives.
By focusing our efforts on these more specific, practical and shared objectives we can expect to make much greater progress.”
Scott Morrison Prime Minister
“The way all levels of government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives have come together to negotiate this National Agreement and collectively determine how we strive to close the gap demonstrates our commitment to working together through meaningful partnerships.
We know that the best out comes are achieved when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are equal partners with governments, and when they have a direct say in how we are going to be successful in driving the desired outcomes.”
Ken Wyatt Minister for Indigenous Australians
“For the first time, First Nations people will share decision-making with governments on Closing the Gap. The National Agreement makes this a reality, not just for the Coalition of Peaks, but for all First Nations people that want to have a say on how things should be working in their communities,”
If the Priority Reforms are implemented in full by governments and through shared decision making with First Nations people, we should see changes over time to the lives and experiences of our people.”
Ms Pat Turner AM, Lead convenor, Coalition of Peaks will be appearing on the ABCTV The Drum tonight 30 July at 6.00 PM
The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) which has a membership of 143 community-controlled health services in every jurisdiction of Australia has strongly welcomed the launch of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.
The Agreement has now been signed by the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled peak organisations, all Australian Governments, and the Australian Local Government Association.
The National Agreement signals a turning point in the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and governments – one that is based on shared decision making on policies and programs that impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s lives.
The partnership that the Peaks sought was agreed to by Australian Governments and subsequently the Coalition of Peaks, including NACCHO, signed an historic National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap.
That provided a platform to develop a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap which replaces the former National Indigenous Reform Agreement, agreed to only by Australian Governments in 2008. The new Agreement breaks with the past because it was negotiated and agreed to by representatives of our people too.
We have also had the voices of the more than 4000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who participated in our engagements on what should be included in the new National Agreement guiding us in our negotiations.
We needed to collectively show Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that they have been heard.
NACCHO is pleased to see the National Agreement includes a new commitment to increase the amount of government funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs and services going through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations.
NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills said, “The National Agreement is such a momentous time for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is the first time a National Agreement designed to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been developed and negotiated between Australian governments, local government, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives.
This will be a game-changer as we will be at the table discussing the issues and policies that matter to us.
“The National Agreement is built on four priority reforms to address ongoing critical issues around the social determinants of health such as housing, environment, access to health services, education and others with justice being a new target in there.
“We have worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for decades on matters that are important to our people and are best placed to represent areas like health, early childhood, education, land and legal services.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Organisations deliver healthcare services that are holistic, comprehensive, and culturally competent and better for our people. They get better outcomes and they employ more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The new National Agreement is a commitment from all governments to fundamentally change the way they work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations through four Priority Reforms that were overwhelmingly supported during the community engagements led by the Coalition of Peaks late last year.
The Priority Reforms commit governments to new partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across the country; strengthen community-controlled organisations to deliver closing the gap services; address structural racism within government agencies and organisations; and improve sharing of data and information with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations to support shared decision making.
The new National Agreement on Closing the Gap has today come into effect, upon signature by the First Ministers of all Australian Governments, the Lead convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, and the President of the Australian Local Government
The National Agreement demonstrates the Government’s commitment to work in genuinepartnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The new National Agreement on Closing the Gap is a marked shift in the Closing the Gap framework.
This historic Agreement is the culmination of a significant amount of work undertaken by the Joint Council on Closing the Gap and developed in genuine partnership between all Australian governments and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak
It is the first time an Agreement designed to improve life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been developed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
The Agreement is centred on four priority reforms that will change how governments work with Indigenous Australians. These are
Strengthening and establishing formal partnerships and shared decision-making.
Building the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled
Transforming government organisations so they work better for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander
Improving and sharing access to data and information to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities make informed
There are 16 national socio-economic targets that will track progress in improving life
All governments and the Coalition of Peaks are accountable under this Agreement for implementing the reforms and achieving the
There will be a significant increase in the level of reporting against the new targets to increase transparency and
There will be more independent reporting on progress than before, with the Productivity Commission delivering a report on progress every three years and an Indigenous-led review of change on the
Annual reports on actions taken by all parties will be published and, for governments, tabled in respective parliaments.
And the Joint Council will have an ongoing role in monitoring performance and implementation of all Parties’ actions under the jointly agreed National Agreement.
Each party will now develop implementation plans in the next 12 months that will set out what they will do to deliver on the priority reforms and achieve the
The Joint Council will consider the draft National Agreement on Closing the Gap today when it meets by teleconference this afternoon. This is the third meeting of the Joint Council.
The draft National Agreement has been negotiated between the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (Coalition of Peaks), all Australian governments and the Australian Local Government Association.
The Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks, Ms Pat Turner AM, and Commonwealth Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt MP, met this morning as Co-Chairs of the Joint Council ahead of the meeting.
The draft National Agreement has been built around what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people say is needed to help close the gap. These insights were gathered during community engagements led by the Coalition of Peaks late last year.
“The Coalition of Peaks are expecting that the Joint Council will be focused on getting the best National Agreement possible, one that will have the greatest impact for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” said Pat Turner AM, Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks; CEO of NACCHO and Co-Chair of the Joint Council.
Following the Joint Council’s consideration, the draft National Agreement is expected to be referred to the National Cabinet, the President of the Local Government Association and the Coalition of Peaks for approval before the end of July.
A communique from the Joint Council will be released once the meeting concludes this afternoon.
About the Joint Council
The Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap establishes a Joint Ministerial and Coalition of Peaks Council on Closing the Gap (Joint Council) with members from the Coalition of Peaks, a Minister from each state and territory government and the Commonwealth government, and a representative from the Australian Local Government Association.
Its role is to support national leadership, coordination and cooperation on Closing the Gap and provide advice to First Ministers, the President of Local of Government Association, and the Coalition of Peaks.
About the Coalition of Peaks The Coalition of Peaks is a representative body of around fifty Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled peak organisations and members. The Coalition of Peaks came together on their own as an act of self-determination to be formal partners with Australian governments on Closing the Gap.
Members are either national, state or territory wide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled peak bodies including certain independent statutory authorities. Their governing boards are elected by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and / or organisations.
“ In 2020 after a decade of a comprehensive closing the gap framework through COAG, the evidence is incontrovertible, the bureaucracy cannot close the gap in disadvantage.
Thirty years ago, the royal commission predicted this.
The resolution of the “Aboriginal problem” was beyond the capacity of non-Aboriginal policy makers and bureaucrats.
The report was very blunt: “It is about time they left the stage to those who collectively know the problems at national and local levels; they know the solutions because they live with the problems.”
This is something Prime Minister Scott Morrison knows already. This is precisely what he did during the pandemic, he left it to the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector to shut down their own communities and they had already mobilised late January. And it worked.
That so many Australians who “turned up” in solidarity in cities and towns across Australia this weekend accords with the research commissioned by the From the Heart project from CT Group that found Australians want Indigenous Australians to get a fair go.
Seventy one per cent agree that Indigenous Australians are best placed to decide matters that affect them.
Saturday was no mere protest, my friends, in the words of the Uluru Statement, it was a movement of the Australian people for a better future. And the Australian people are ready for real change. ”
There is no denying the nationwide protests on Saturday, leveraging off Black Lives Matter and the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in the US, reflect a growing sentiment in Australia about Indigenous affairs.
There is something in the zeitgeist when tens of thousands of Australians descend on the streets to march for Aboriginal justice while the nation is transitioning out of lockdown.
One of the perennial challenges of protest is how to translate it into substantive and durable change. I remember marching as a young person through the streets of Brisbane protesting against Aboriginal deaths in custody and calling for the implementation of the royal commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody’s recommendations.
It has been almost 30 years since the royal commission and my nieces and nephews were marching on Saturday through the same streets of Brisbane. Yet we know what needs to be done.
The royal commission was set up in October 1987 following national outrage about the number of Aboriginal deaths in custody. It investigated 99 deaths that occurred between January 1, 1980 and May 31, 1989, in prisons, police stations or juvenile detention institutions.
A key finding was that the deaths in custody investigated were not the product of deliberate violence or brutality of police or prison officers but that there was a lack of regard for the duty of care that is owed to people in custody by police officers and prison officers.
The commission made many recommendations but one of its primary reforms centred on the structural powerlessness that renders Indigenous voices silent in a liberal democracy.
The commission singled out the importance of Indigenous participation in decision-making to transform Aboriginal affairs and the right to self-determination. It found that the government had the power to transform the picture of Aboriginal affairs, “not so much by ‘doing’ things – more by letting go of the controls; letting Aboriginal people make the decisions which government now pretends they do make”. At the heart of the findings was that Indigenous peoples should have a say in the decisions that are made about them.
Sound familiar? It should. The Uluru Statement from the Heart in 2017 said the same thing. In 2017, the Uluru Statement from the Heart was issued to the Australian people as an invitation to walk with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in a movement of the Australian people for a better future.
The statement was the culmination of regional constitutional dialogues conducted over 2016 and 2017 under the supervision of the Referendum Council established by Malcolm Turnbull.
The Uluru Statement decided upon a consensus reform agenda aimed at fixing the same structural problems the royal commission highlighted 30 years ago.
Thirty years on the Uluru Statement singles out the same crisis in public policy, incarceration, youth detention and child removals. The systemic injustice operates along a continuum:
“Proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are alienated from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.”
Of over-representation and child removals, the Uluru Statement says, “These dimensions of our crisis tell plainly the structural nature of our problem.” Crime may be a state government matter, but the structural solution is constitutional.
The royal commission said at the time of its work that “it is difficult for non-Aboriginal people to comprehend just how absolute the domination of Aboriginal people has been”.
This is precisely what the Referendum Council heard in the dialogues in 2017 about the Commonwealth Indigenous Advancement Strategy, that the bureaucracy dominates in communities and the control is stifling.
“ Aboriginal leaders are pushing for more ambition across all categories in the Closing the Gap refresh, including health, education, economic development and housing.
The 2018 draft agreement was “totally inadequate”and governments should be prepared to spend more money to meet ambitious targets rather than propose modest goals.
The Rudd government’s Closing the Gap initiative failed because of a lack of funding.
We have now got a national agreement very close to finalisation except the ambition of governments is very slack at the moment
We want to achieve parity across the board but unless governments invest correctly in the achievement of the targets, then it is going to be extremely difficult to (meet) them. There will be some movement (on the draft 2018 targets) but I don’t think it will be enough.
It would be the wrong lesson to adopt less-ambitious targets because of the failure to hit the ambitions set by Kevin Rudd in 2008.
There needed to be more control given to peak Aboriginal bodies to roll out the programs and control the funding.
We should be running our own affairs in this day and age.We don’t need bureaucrats to tell us what to do.
We want realistic targets. We don’t want what suits the bureaucracy. The money that has been spent to date has largely been eaten up by overly bureaucratic processes and very little of it hits the ground where it is most needed.”
Pat Turner NACCHO CEO and the Lead ConvenerCoalition of Peaks for the Closing the Gap “refresh”
More ambitious targets to reduce the number of Aboriginal Australians in jail will be put to state and territory governments as part of an overhaul of the Closing the Gap program to reduce Indigenous disadvantage.
Morrison government sources confirmed the commonwealth would scrap a draft agreement to reduce the rate of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in prisons by up to 19 per cent by 2028.
It will instead take a higher target to the states next month after thousands of protesters took to the streets to express their anger over indigenous incarceration rates and deaths in custody.
Officials from state and federal departments will meet Aboriginal representatives including Pat Turner, the chief indigenous negotiator for the Closing the Gap “refresh”, on Tuesday before a meeting of state and territory leaders to decide on the stricter targets on July 2.
Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991, the rate at which indigenous people have died in jail as a percentage of the Aboriginal prison population has fallen and is now lower than for the non-indigenous prison population, according to data from both the Australian Institute of Criminology and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
But the number of indigenous people in the prison system has increased from 19 per cent in 2000 to nearly 30 per cent in March this year, according to ABS figures. There are now 12,900 indigenous people in prisons, out of a total prison population of 44,159.
Indigenous people made up almost 3 per cent of the population at the 2016 census
Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt is pushing for each state and territory to adopt specific incarceration targets, according to sources close to negotiations. The new targets will be more ambitious than the draft Closing the Gap target, released in December 2018, for a 5 per cent decline in the incarceration rate among adults and an 11 to 19 per cent reduction among youths.
The high rate of indigenous incarceration and associated frequency of deaths in custody were seized on by Australian Black Lives Matter protesters at the weekend marches, which fuelled a backlash over the breaching of coronavirus social-distancing restrictions.
Mr Wyatt declined to comment on the new targets but told The Australian he was “working to address the factors that contribute to high incarceration rates (including) health, education and employment”.
“If we want to reduce the number of deaths in custody, we need to look very closely at what’s happening here in Australia — the factors contributing to incarceration rates and the way in which our systems are handling these incidents,” Mr Wyatt said.
“This requires a co-operative approach between government and with communities, particularly when states and territories hold the policies and levers relating to policing and justice matters.
“It takes more than money; it takes an iron-stead commitment; it takes listening and understanding; and it takes us working together. The Morrison government is progressing with the Closing the Gap refresh in partnership with the Coalition of Peaks, and while we’re still in final negotiations, there will be a justice target contained within that agreement.”
The 2018 draft targets included: 65 per cent of indigenous youth (15-24 years) to be in employment, training or eduction by 2028; 60 per cent of Aboriginal Australians aged 25-64 to be in work; and 82 per cent to live in appropriate-sized housing by 2028.
Just two of the seven Closing the Gap targets set in 2008 — early childhood education and Year 12 attainment — were achieved. Ambitions failed in targets for school attendance, child mortality, employment, life expectancy and literacy and numeracy targets.
A report by the Productivity Commission estimated state and federal governments spent $33.4bn on services for indigenous Australians in the 2016 financial year, up from $27bn (in 2016 dollars) in 2009.
The direct government expenditure per Aboriginal Australian was $44,886 in 2016, compared with $22,356 on non-indigenous Australians.
” 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
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 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 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.
” 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
“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.
“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
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.
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.
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.
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