NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News Alert No 3054 : Transcript of launch the historic #Closingthegap #NationalAgreement Prime Minister @ScottMorrisonMP , Minister @KenWyattMP and Pat Turner convener, leader, chair of the @coalition_peaks

 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

Launch CTG NPA Prime Minister 30 July Transcript

Read download NACCHO Press Release and links to all documents 

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.

 

NACCHO Press Release @NACCHOChair Donnella Mills “ New #NationalAgreement on #ClosingtheGap marks historic shift to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ life outcomes” @coalition_peaks

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.

This agreement belongs to all of us!”

Donnella Mills NACCHO Chair

Read / Download the full NACCHO Press Release HERE

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 

To read download the full new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, 

Read all NACCHO Coalition of Peaks articles HERE

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.

Summary

  • 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

 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News Alert : The Joint Council to consider draft National Agreement on Closing the Gap

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.

For more information on the Coalition of Peaks and to sign up for our mailing list, go to: www.coalitionofpeaks.org.au

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #ClosingTheGap : After the #BlackLivesMatter protest, what comes next? “ In the words of the #UluruStatement, it was a movement of the Australian people for a better future “ says Professor Megan Davis

 

“ 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. ”

Professor Megan Davis is the Balnaves Chair of Constitutional Law, Indigenous Law Centre, UNSW Law.

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.

Read all NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #UluruStatement articles HERE

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.

 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #BlackLivesMatter : Pat Turner Lead Convener @coalition_peaks calls for more ambitious targets to reduce Indigenous incarceration

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 Convener  Coalition of Peaks  for the Closing the Gap “refresh

Full story front page of the Australian 9 June

Read previous NACCHO posts for Coalition of Peaks

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.

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

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

This goes to the heart of who we are.

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

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

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

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

Download PDF copy of speech

Prime Minister CTG Report speech

Download a copy of 2020 Closing the Gap Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Member for Barton, the Honourable Linda Burney.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

They never have in Australia. Never.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We don’t.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This must change.

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

The right to step up.

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

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

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

That is what we must do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An approach of listening. Of empowering.

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

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

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

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

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

Excelling in every field of endeavour. Lifting our communities.

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

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

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

We’re already doing more to close that gap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing should diminish how significant these gains are.

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

Closing the gap in school attendance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I don’t shy away from the failures.

I see the shortcomings.

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

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

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

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

Because on most measures, we have made progress.

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

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

Fewer Indigenous mothers are smoking during pregnancy.

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

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

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

diseases like heart disease and stroke. This is progress.

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

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

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

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

leaders and local needs.

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

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

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

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

More importantly, for governments to work with local communities.

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

We’re making that commitment real.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So we’re bringing more people into the process.

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

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

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

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

At that meeting, I listened.

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

The empowering stories.

The stories of hope.

And our shared priorities are clear:

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

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

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

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

 

Mr Speaker, I have one such file with me.

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

In this file are notes about funding for school uniforms.

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

75 cents a week.

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

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

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

He knows that responsibility and empowerment is freedom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These new arrangements underpin the future of Closing the Gap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That includes every Indigenous child.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s why Regional University Centres are so important.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That path must lead to a job.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tackling suicide – all suicides – is a national priority.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rangers and Community Night Patrols. Indigenous liaison officers.

Indigenous doctors and nurses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is our Government’s policy.

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

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

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

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

We also support recommendations about truth telling.

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

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

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

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

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

This goes to the heart of who we are.

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We can all play a part.

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

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

Download the 2020 Closing the Gap Report HERE

closing-the-gap-report-2020

View the NIAA Closing the Gap Website HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read all Coalition of Peaks articles HERE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On almost every measure, there has been progress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Child Mortality

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

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

Early Childhood Education

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

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

School Attendance

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

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

Literacy and Numeracy

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

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

Year 12 Attainment

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

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

Employment

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

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

Life Expectancy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ken Wyatt is the Minister for indigenous Australians

 

 

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Media Alerts : 1.Today 18 Nov watch @HealthJusticeAu Webinar features our @NACCHOChair Donnella Mills 2. Listen to our CEO Pat Turner 2019 review interview @abcspeakingout 3.Watch Rachel Perkins deliver the first 2019 Boyer Lecture

 

1.Health Justice Partnerships webinar today 18 November features our NACCHO Chair Donnella Mills 

Monday 18 November – 2:30pm – 4:00pm AEDT 

A quiet revolution is taking place across Australia and it’s transforming the way some of the most vulnerable in our community access legal services. In a practitioner-led movement, community lawyers have been moving out of their offices and into the most unlikely of places – hospitals and community health settings – to collaborate with health services and their patients to address unmet, health-harming legal need.

Known as health justice partnerships (HJPs), these collaborations work by embedding legal help into healthcare services and teams.

Health Justice Partnerships will explore the growing body of evidence that shows there are groups of people who are vulnerable to intersecting legal and health problems, but who are unlikely to turn to legal services for solutions.

Facilitated by Jason Rostant, a panel examines what takes a HJP partnership beyond ‘status quo’ services in terms of purpose, structure, activity and resourcing.

Panellists include:

  • Donnella Mills, Lawyer, Lawright and Chair, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (NACCHO
  • Tessa Boyd Caine, CEO, Health Justice Australia
  • Jane Cipants, Director Client Service, Legal Aid
  • Sandra Gates, Director Allied Health and Clinical Support, The Royal Women’s Hospital

*Panelists subject to change

Get to know

  • Legal problems that affect health
  • The definition of a health justice partnership
  • Evidence supporting the HJP model
  • Create partnerships with existing local social resource providers and expand capacity to address social needs
  • The development and sustainability of the community service sector

Register here to watch the Webinar 

2.Our CEO Pat Turner interviewed by  Larissa Behrendt on Speaking Out 16 Nov

 

Pat Turners 2019 Year in Review Features include

1.Closing the gap / Have Your Say consultations

2. Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt has urged the senior advisory group co-designing an Indigenous Voice to Government to take hold of the “moment in time” before them to change the lives of Indigenous Australians.

3. Yuendumu police shooting: Indigenous groups demand action

4.New $90 Million funding for our ACCHO’s

Listen here to Interview

3. Leading filmmaker Rachel Perkins echoes the Uluru Statement from the Heart in the first of her ABC Boyer Lectures:

Watch on IView

I am reminded of the distinguished poet and stateswoman, Oodgeroo Noonuccal, when she wrote:

“Let no-one say the past is dead.

“The past is all about us and within.”

Warning: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander readers are advised that this article contains images of people who have died.

Watch the full speech see link below

Watch Rachel Perkins deliver the first 2019 Boyer Lecture on ABC iview

For Indigenous people have not lost from our minds the history of our nation, not only its deep past of thousands of years, but also the events on April 29, 250 years ago, when James Cook ordered his men to fire upon the two men on the shore.

It is likely they were Gweagal warriors, who stood before him in defence of their family behind them on the beach. Cook’s action signalled the Crown’s intentions; the transfer of a continent, from one people to another, by force if necessary, a phenomenon we politely call colonisation.

Our generation wasn’t standing on the deck of the Endeavour or on the shores of Kamay Botany Bay in 1770, just as we weren’t present during the massacres as the colonial frontier progressed from south to north.

However, as my father Charles Perkins, the Indigenous leader who came to prominence in the 1960s for leading the Freedom Ride, said:

“We cannot live in the past, but the past lives in us.”

The past has made us. We are its inheritors, for better or worse, and this is now our time.

How we move forward from this moment will set the course of relationships between Indigenous people and their fellow Australians into the future.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-11-16/boyer-lecture-rachel-perkins-echoes-uluru-statement/11696504

NACCHO Aboriginal #Environmental Health ClosingtheGap #HaveYourSay : Our CEO Pat Turner’s speech to the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health Conference in Perth this week

” In mainstream settings, there is no battle for recognition or resources for environmental health from finance departments. There is nothing more to prove and a fully resourced framework is in place. 

But Aboriginal environmental health is something else again.

Aboriginal environmental health combines deep cultural knowledge of how things work in Aboriginal communities with these hard scientific facts about disease.

Aboriginal environmental health must forge high-trust partnerships with community. 

Aboriginal environmental health is a community asset.

And Aboriginal environmental health is needed now more than ever.   Why is this so?

Public housing and public utilities have largely been taken out of Aboriginal control. In some locations, funding for the Aboriginal Environmental Health workforce has evaporated.\

Sometimes, the power to make the simplest decision on the ground has been ripped away from local communities. 

Instead, this power is with someone far away who doesn’t even know us.

This is nowhere more manifest than in Aboriginal housing. 

Effective Aboriginal environmental health programs must be in Aboriginal hands. 

Community controlled organisations must drive the necessary knowledge exchange between those who hold technical expertise and those who have been denied it.

The very nature of this work means that Aboriginal communities must retain the reins – and retain the knowledge

Selected extracts NACCHO CEO Pat Turner addressing the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Environmental Health Conference in Perth this week

As an Aboriginal woman of Gudanji-Arrernte heritage, I wish to acknowledge the Whadjuk people of the Noongar nation as traditional owners of the land where we meet today.

I also acknowledge our continuing and vibrant First Nations cultures.  I am grateful for the contributions of our past, present and emerging leaders.

Our cultures, our leaders and our country give us collective strength and resilience as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Just a note for about language conventions in Western Australia. I tend to use the term Aboriginal in recognition that Aboriginal people are the original inhabitants here. This is not out of any disrespect to Torres Strait Islander colleagues and communities.

I have discovered that the first NATSIEH conference was held in 1998. Every second year or so since, the aim of these national conferences is to increase the understanding and awareness of environmental health issues in our communities.

This year, your theme is ONE GOAL: MANY PATHS.  There must be a huge diversity of backgrounds, professions and experiences in the room.   I am delighted to be here.  I hope I have something for everyone in my address to you today.

I will begin with recent CHANGES in the way governments must now work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Then I’ll cover some CHALLENGES that we can no longer ignore.

And finally, I’ll explain how Aboriginal LEADERSHIP will show the right path that we must take together.

How has our political landscape changed?

Please cast your minds back to 2008 when the original Closing the Gap policy was agreed by the Council of Australian Governments – known as COAG.

There was never full ownership of Closing the Gap from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. CLOSING the Gap was always considered to be an initiative of Governments.  Frankly, it was governments talking to other governments ABOUT us.  WITHOUT us.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak bodies supported Closing the Gap in good faith, particularly with new funding given to specific issues including housing, health and education.

But was Closing the Gap ever going to work with its genesis in the bureaucratic backrooms of Canberra?

Our people were always going to be configured as ‘the problem’.  Not as allies, not as experts, not as partners, not as equals.  It was not surprising to Aboriginal people to see that progress was patchy.

As Prof Marcia Langton, a leading Aboriginal academic of Yiman and Bidjara heritage, said in February this year at the Australian and New Zealand School of Government Indigenous conference:

“You can’t have administration of very complex matters from the Canberra bubble. It’s not working and lives are being lost. 

… We must push for policies that give formal powers to the Indigenous sector and remove incompetent, bureaucratic bungling.”

Marcia made a specific request of those who were listening:

“Please do not feel personally offended by what I have to say to you” she said.

I also ask this of you today.  And as Marcia continued to say:

‘… we must all take responsibility and be courageous enough to take action, to put an end to the policies and programs that disempower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, not just causing a decline in their living standards, but accelerating them into permanent poverty.

Especially the vulnerable. The children and youth are victims of a failed view of the Indigenous world and Indigenous people. This is a dystopian nightmare. We must imagine a future in which Indigenous people thrive and we must do whatever it takes to reach that future. This is urgent.”

It is not surprising then, that after 10 years, not much progress against the Closing the Gap targets had been made.

As the Closing the Gap targets were expiring, COAG announced a “Refresh” of Closing the Gap.  This “refresh” kicked in during 2017.  As various conversations took place however, it became clear that governments were still not listening properly or engaging in a genuine way, and they only wanted to talk about new targets.

Many Aboriginal Peak bodies wanted more time to test the options being put before us in these conversations. Most importantly, Peak bodies needed to be sure that THEIR voices were truly being heard. There was a real concern – AGAIN – that governments had already decided what they wanted to do. That governments were now negotiating behind closed doors to decide new priorities and targets without our input.

As Aboriginal peak bodies, we had to call this out before the country made another momentous mistake. We were very insistent.  We formed a Coalition.  The Prime Minister and his COAG colleagues had to adopt a better way of working.  Without a radical change in approach, the next ten years would be more of the same lack luster approach.

To his credit, Prime Minister Morrison listened.

He opened the door to a new way of working, giving his personal authority to change.

An historic Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap was signed this year in March between COAG and the Coalition of Peaks.  This means that now, for the first time, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, through their peak body representatives, will share decision making with governments on Closing the Gap.

How is this to be done?

This Partnership Agreement has created a high-level COAG Joint Council.  This Joint Council is made up of 22 members.  That means a Minister from the Commonwealth Government, a Minister from each State and Territory Governments, and a representative for local government. This makes up ten members.

But significant success was realized when the Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Bodies ensured TWELVE Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander representatives were on the Joint Council.  Chosen by us, in the majority, working for our mobs.

The Joint Council is co-chaired by the current Commonwealth Minister for Indigenous Australians and a representative of the Coalition of Peaks chosen by the Peaks. Currently, that representative is me.

The Partnership Agreement embodies the belief of all signatories that:

  • When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are included and have a real say in the design and delivery of services that impact on them, the outcomes are far better;
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples need to be at the centre of Closing the Gap policy: the gap won’t close without our full involvement; and
  • COAG cannot expect us to take responsibility and work constructively with them to improve outcomes if we are excluded from the decision making.

So to those public servants in the audience, whether you work in Commonwealth, state, territory or local government institutions, I say this.

If the Director-General, Secretary or CEO of your department or agency is not enabling you to do your work differently and act in accordance with the Partnership Agreement, Principles, then you need to join the movement and shake the tree.

I encourage you to:

  • Initiate co-design that looks entirely different to the way your department worked two years ago.
  • Give power of veto to communities on priorities. Listen to what THEY say.
  • Double the number of Indigenous people on your committees.
  • Forget ‘one size fits all’ … because it doesn’t.
  • Immerse yourself in this unprecedented opportunity for true equity in our country.

Trust me, your change of practice will be noticed, commended and supported.

Within the Joint Council, we will continue to lead the structural reform that will make your change of practice easier.  At our recent meeting in Adelaide, the Joint Council significantly agreed to develop a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap centred on three reform priorities.

The reform priorities seek to change the way Australian Governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations, and accelerate life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, these are:

  1. Establishing shared formal decision making between Australian governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the State/Territory, regional and local level to embed ownership, responsibility and expertise on Closing the Gap.
  2. Building and strengthening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations to deliver services and programs in priority areas.
  3. Ensuring all mainstream government agencies and institutions undertake systemic and structural transformation to contribute to Closing the Gap.

The Joint Council also agreed to the Coalition of Peaks leading engagements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the next two months to ensure others can have a say on the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

The Coalition of Peaks want to hear views from across the country on what is needed to make the reform priorities a success.

 

I encourage you all to contribute and have your say.

You can find out more on the NACCHO website. Step up and join in!

I know these priorities, especially the first two, are critical to our success as Aboriginal  people. And I know this from a lifetime of advocacy and service for my people, including my current role as CEO of NACCHO.

NACCHO is the living embodiment of the aspirations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and our struggle for self-determination.  NACCHO is the national peak body representing 143 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services or “ACCHOs” across the country.   NACCHO has a history stretching back to a meeting in Albury in 1974 in country New South Wales.

For those who don’t know, an “ACCHO” is a primary health care service initiated and operated by the local Aboriginal community to deliver holistic, comprehensive, and culturally appropriate health care to the community which controls it, through a locally elected Board of Management.

As a sector, we are especially proud that ACCHOs are the largest employer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the country.  Not even the mining sector compares. We also have evidence that ACCHOs are demonstrably better than mainstream in providing culturally responsive, clinically effective primary health care.

At this year’s AMSANT conference, Donna Ah Chee, a Bundgalung woman from NSW and CEO of Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, said precisely what community control means in this context.

Read full speech HERE

It means:

  • The right to set the agenda and determine what the issues are
  • The right to determine which programs or approaches are best suited to tackle the problems in the community
  • The right to determine how a program is run, its size and resources
  • The right to determine when a program operates, its pace and timing
  • The right to say where a program will operate, its geographic coverage and its target groups
  • The right to determine who will deliver the program its staff and advisers.

This commitment to equal partnership through COAG has brought us to the table.  There’s no going back.

I’d now like to cover some CHALLENGES in environmental health. 

Environmental health is a science-based, technical practice.  Environmental health takes scientific knowledge to people. It focuses on disease risk and finds the way to limit disease in modern society. Environmental Health Practitioners draw the connection between environmental factors and health outcomes.

Environmental health practitioners take this science and fix environmental hazards to prevent risk. They nip outbreaks in the bud.

They influence and draft legislation, and monitor compliance with public health laws and the regulations to protect people’s health.

Of course, in mainstream Australia, hardly anyone recognizes the role that environmental health plays.  For the majority of the population, environmental health is silently present. Water, sanitation, rubbish, housing standards, food safety, everything … it is all taken for granted.

In mainstream settings, there is no battle for recognition or resources for environmental health from finance departments. There is nothing more to prove and a fully resourced framework is in place.

But ABORIGINAL environmental health is something else again.

Aboriginal environmental health combines deep cultural knowledge of how things work in Aboriginal communities with these hard scientific facts about disease. Aboriginal environmental health must forge high-trust partnerships with community.

Aboriginal environmental health is a community asset.

And Aboriginal environmental health is needed now more than ever.   Why is this so?

Public housing and public utilities have largely been taken out of Aboriginal control. In some locations, funding for the Aboriginal Environmental Health workforce has evaporated. Sometimes, the power to make the simplest decision on the ground has been ripped away from local communities.  Instead, this power is with someone far away who doesn’t even know us.

This is nowhere more manifest than in Aboriginal housing.

First, the evidence.  A recent systematic review of the scientific literature has summarized the known causal links between the home environment and health.  Here are some examples:

  • Skin-related diseases are associated with crowding
  • Viral conditions such as influenza are also associated with crowding.
  • Ear infections are associated with crowding, lack of functioning facilities for washing people, bedding and sewerage outflow.
  • Gastro infections are associated with poorly maintained housing and the state of food preparation and storage.

These are not hypothetical claims yet to be proved.  These have academic weight and the verdict is in.

In mainstream Australia, these causal links between the housing and health have been actioned.  In mainstream Australia, sustained progress in the social and environmental determinants of health has permanently reduced the rates of preventable infectious diseases.  One look at the disease burden tells us that.

BUT … because of the state of OUR environmental conditions, Aboriginal people are denied the health outcomes that non-Indigenous people now enjoy.

The challenge is huge.

  • Let’s consider clinic presentations for Aboriginal children for their first year of life. Did you know that research has found that the median number of clinic presentations per child in the first year of life was 21.  Twenty-one! Per child!   Children in this NT study would typically have six clinic presentations for diarrhea in any one year!  SIX! An infectious ear disease known as Otitis Media and skin infections were also high on the list of most frequent reasons for Aboriginal children coming to the clinic in their first year of life. These infectious diseases are NOT caused by bad parents.  They are caused by poor living conditions, overcrowding and poverty imposed on our people.
  • In the Fitzroy Valley in the Kimberley here in Western Australia, 70% of Aboriginal children have been admitted to hospital at least once before they turn seven years of age. A closer look at the reasons why is shocking.  The researchers concluded that most of these admissions would not have happened at all if household disadvantage, poor quality housing and access to primary health care had been addressed.
  • Another example comes from the Western Desert region here in Western Australia. This looked at clinic presentations of all children aged 0 to 5 years of age.  These children had on average more than 30 clinic visits each per year to their clinic. ………  Think about what that means to the morale of the parents, the attitudes of the clinicians, the health budget bottom line. Infectious diseases explained half of these presentations:
    • Ear infections were 15%
    • Upper respiratory tract infections, 13%
    • Skin sores were 12% of the total.
    • And 25% needed treatment for scabies.
  • These statistics aren’t just confined to remote communities. Aboriginal children in Western Sydney in homes with 3 or more housing problems were two and a half times more likely than others to have recurrent gastro-enteritis. For every additional housing problem, the odds of infectious disease significantly increased.

But is this all NEWS?  What about the year of your first NATSIEH conference in 1998?

1998 was the year a study was published showing that admissions to hospital for skin disease of Aboriginal children under five years of age was ten times higher than that of their non-Indigenous counterparts.

It was also the year that deaths among Aboriginal men from infectious diseases were calculated to be some 15 times higher than deaths among non-Indigenous men.

1998 was also the year a study measured the precise “wear and tear” on washing machines installed in seven remote communities.

1998 was a year AFTER a study had already been published showing that over one-third of Aboriginal remote communities had water supply or sanitation problems. Seventy percent had housing problems.  In the words of the researchers, overcrowding and substandard housing were “commonplace”.

So there we have it.   Even this brief snapshot shows we have a disconnect between data and decisions.

From your first conference in 1998 to this one in 2019 …

….  Aboriginal people, their children and now their children’s children have NOT been afforded their DUE HUMAN RIGHTS in response to these “repeat plays” of research data.

Should we have mobilised a more strategic response at the time these research studies were published?

Perhaps data sovereignty is another challenge we need to face.

I regret thinking of the number of children growing up since 1998 who should have been safe from preventable infections IF THERE HAD BEEN ACTION.  I think of how many children need not have gone to hospital.  Who should NOT have ended up with permanent damage for life from rheumatic heart disease or deafness …

… and would NOT have ended up with these conditions if their houses had been safe, healthy and affordable.

I have been told even mental health problems – including suicide – get worse in overcrowded houses not fit for social purpose.

And please don’t tell me we can’t find the money.  My colleagues in the Kimberley estimate that one third of the entire cost of hospital admissions of Aboriginal children is DIRECTLY due to the environmental conditions in which these children live.  Let me repeat that. One third of the entire cost.

In one year alone, $16.9 million is the estimated cost for hospitalisations of Aboriginal people directly due to the environment. And that was just the Kimberley.

Maybe all those departments of housing really don’t have the money BUT their colleagues in health departments are spending it hand over fist.

The Australian Indigenous Governance Institute affirms that Aboriginal people have the right to:

  • Exercise control of the data “ecosystem” including creation, development, stewardship, analysis, dissemination and infrastructure.

We also have the right to:

  • Data structures that are accountable to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their governance structures.

And the right to

  • Data that is protective and respects our individual and collective interests.

AND

  • Data that is relevant and empowers sustainable self-determination and effective self-governance.

In my view, Aboriginal people must more clearly set the agenda for the health data story.

As Aboriginal people, WE are vested in the outcomes.  WE are accountable to each other, our families and communities.  These research studies represent OUR families, OUR loved ones, OUR LOST ones.

I believe the character and foresight of Aboriginal leadership will show the right path. 

Should you need convincing, I can think of no better example in environmental health than Yami Lester and the Nganampa Health Council in the APY lands.

Decades ago, these leaders knew that health improvement required medical services AND a healthy living environment.  In 1986, they initiated a collaborative project between local Anangu people and technical experts to ‘stop people getting sick’. Some of you may recognise this as the UKP project.

These Aboriginal leaders engaged Paul Pholeros and Dr Paul Torzillo to work together to develop a codified schedule for home assessments and repairs.  When assessments were finished, simple repairs to health hardware that could be fixed, WERE fixed.  Immediately, over 75% of these assessment and repair teams were local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people trained and assisted by skilled managers and team leaders.

Any requirements for major repairs that were the responsibility of the landlord were submitted, logged and monitored. As this program expanded, data from different locations showed that the reasons for poor housing conditions were shoddy building materials in the first place (22%); inadequate maintenance schedules by the landlord (70%) and less than 8% was due to damage by occupants.

As relevant today, Yami Lester and his Council knew the importance of sharing with their people knowledge about disease transmission and supporting households to adopt new habits to sustain health in circumstances none of us would find easy.

And they succeeded.

Their legacy is the framework of nine Healthy Living Practices about washing, clothes, wastewater, nutrition, crowding, animals, dust, temperature and safety against injury.

Today, housing audits and home hardware assessments conceived by Aboriginal leaders in this UKP project MUST be permanently funded everywhere and combined with culturally responsive support directed by communities to re-build THEIR knowledge about disease transmission.

Every home is different.  Every environmental risk assessment is unique.  In one, there might be an issue with food-borne diseases. In another, passive smoking that affects the children’s ears, lungs and eyes.  In another, it could be …

– a blocked toilet,

– a shower dislodged from a poorly laid wet floor, or

– a washing machine that has collapsed under the pressure from multiple loads and hard water every single day.

Resources enable Aboriginal environmental health workers and families to work together over time to build the household’s confidence and knowledge.  The shared goal is self-management in healthy habits ….. AND an assertiveness as tenants to report poor quality building materials, housing problems and urgent repairs to the respective housing landlord.

Effective Aboriginal environmental health programs must be in Aboriginal hands.  Community controlled organisations must drive the necessary knowledge exchange between those who hold technical expertise and those who have been denied it. The very nature of this work means that Aboriginal communities must retain the reins – and retain the knowledge.

What Yami Lester envisaged is our unrealized obligation.

Housing programmes will have limited impact UNLESS they are controlled in their design and delivery by Aboriginal organisations with sustained visibility, authority and relationships in the community.  Communities have ideas on how to manage overcrowding, maintain housing stock and build new housing through local entrepreneurship. It is time once again for Aboriginal leaders to be heard.

You may know about extensive consultations conducted across the country in 2017 known as “My Life My Lead”.

The purpose of these consultations was to provide an opportunity to shape the next update of the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan released originally in 2013.

At these consultations, Aboriginal people spoke up about the fundamental significance of social, economic and environmental determinants affecting their health and wellbeing.

Environmental health was identified as one of seven top priorities for the next Implementation Plan.

I quote:

Addressing the underlying environmental health conditions that contribute to poor health outcomes in many Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander communities will lead to long-term improved health, education and employment outcomes. 

This is why I hope my message to you today is clear. We will get better health by improving housing and environmental health programs. Regaining control over decisions about housing will also lead to better health.  Returning authority for decision-making to communities about resources and program design reinvigorates empowerment, autonomy and more equitable power arrangements.  Self-determination promotes health.

With a decent investment in Aboriginal housing alongside genuine shifts in who makes decisions about resource allocation, I am prepared to guarantee to you today that the impact on Aboriginal health outcomes will be large, positive and permanent.

If those estimates of the costs from hospital admissions hold true nationally, I am also prepared to guarantee a significant reduction in healthcare budgets.

Our Prime Minister is inclined to miracles … so I think this would be the next miracle he’d very much like to see!

If we believe in public health and preventing the preventable …

If we believe in equity and social justice …

If we believe in community control …

… then we have everything we need to turn this around.

To governments I say let Aboriginal leaders sit down with you and – together in partnership – analyse the current state of environmental health and housing in your jurisdictions.

Let’s establish the level of investment that will reduce the cost of hospitalisations of Aboriginal children, adults and elders due to poor housing and living conditions.

Let’s develop national standards for a safe house. Let’s agree to strict criteria for urgent and priority housing repairs.  Let’s audit repair performance.  Let’s publish the data.

Let’s get more accountability from public housing for proactive home maintenance schedules and repairs.

Let’s invest in environmental and building programs that will cut the demand in primary health care clinics by a quarter and let these busy staff focus on other priorities.

Let’s grow knowledge in our communities as experts in healthy living.

Let’s train, credential and employ young Aboriginal people as environmental health workers, plumbers, electricians and carpenters to keep houses safe, healthy and ready for climate change ahead.

Let’s ensure a sustainable on-the-ground workforce for effective environmental health employed by Aboriginal organisations.

Here at this conference, let’s create the cross-sectoral approach involving communities, environmental health, primary health care and governments IN PARTNERSHIP to get this moving.

In closing, I’d like to quote Senator Patrick Dodson, a Yawuru man from Broome who, in February this year, asked a very important question:

“Who actually closes the gap?”

He answered this by saying:

“It’s the people working at the grassroots, led by First Nations peoples, with a deep understanding and lived experience of the needs of their communities.”

It is in that spirit that I thank each and every Aboriginal Environmental Health Practitioner at this conference whether it is your 1st or your 12th.

I know you work hard. I know you care deeply about your communities.  I know you lead by example.

I respect your hard-earned skills and your expertise to provide a huge scope of professional services ranging from dog control to vector management.

I admire your precise and up-to-date knowledge of disease transmission routes, hazardous chemicals, sanitation and practical engineering.

I am sincerely impressed by the care you take to work with families whose circumstances are complex … and that you find THEIR strengths and work with their capacities.

You respect cultural protocols.  You deliver with few resources, a lot of ingenuity and teamwork.

It is enabling YOU to do an even better job for YOUR communities that motivates me to do mine.  And I will keep on working just as hard as you do.

It’s been a pleasure sharing my reflections with you all.

Thank you for this opportunity to kick off the second day of your 12th NATSIEH conference here in Perth.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #ClosingtheGap #UNDRIP : Minister @KenWyattMP announces he will represent Australia at the #UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this week to promote his Government’s priorities that partner with, invest in and empower our mob

Australia’s support of the Declaration reflects our intent to promote and protect the economic, social, cultural and political rights of indigenous people

The Declaration was drafted in partnership with the world’s Indigenous peoples, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the Morrison Government remains committed to observing these rights through our policies and programs

We are changing the way we work in partnership with Indigenous Australians and this is a message we can take to the world.

Our national framework for action to improve outcomes for Indigenous Australians, the Closing the Gap strategy, is a priority for the Australian Government and demonstrates our commitment to working in partnership with Indigenous communities.

 I will be discussing our experiences with UN experts and other countries to harness global thinking and research to improve our framework.

Through our advocacy with the United Nations and our recognition of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we can improve the lives of all Indigenous peoples.”

Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, said since Australia supported the Declaration in 2009, our nation’s human rights obligations to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have been clear.

Friday marked the 12th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which established a universal set of rights for the dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples around the world.

Minister Wyatt  announced he will represent Australia at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, from 16 to 20 September, to promote the Australian Government’s priorities that partner with, invest in and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

“This year is our second as a member of the UN Human Rights Council, following the Coalition Government’s successful campaign to secure Australia a seat for the first time. It is in Australia’s national interest to shape the work of the Human Rights Council and uphold the international rules-based order.

“I will be pleased to promote Australia’s pragmatic and constructive approach to protecting and promoting fundamental human rights and freedoms both at home and abroad. Advancing Indigenous rights globally is a pillar of our membership of the Human Rights Council and an objective we pursue through a range of other UN mechanisms.

“I intend to build stronger relationships with like-minded countries by meeting with experts and leaders from around the world to discuss good practices in Indigenous policy, to share Australia’s experiences and learn from other countries’ strategies.

“As one of the largest donors to the UN Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples, Australia will continue to play a constructive role in ensuring Indigenous voices are heard in UN meetings and bodies.