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.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #ClosingtheGap : Pat Turner Convener #CoalitionofPeaks Speech at the National #PHN Conference : Challenging the way Governments and Primary Health Networks work with us

The reform priorities, and that they are being discussed in a COAG forum with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the table, as well as the upcoming engagements is a demonstration of how the conversation and approach is changing as a result of the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap.  

But this changed approach is not to be just contained to the Partnership Agreement and governments work with the Coalition of Peaks. It is to be applied to all your policy practice and service delivery.

It is a challenge for you (PHN’s) to reconsider how you develop policies and programs with and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities.

The Partnership Agreement means that:

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are no longer government ‘stakeholders’ but are full partners in the development of policies and programs that impact on us.
  • Primary Health Networks need to develop formal arrangements with us, through our community controlled health organisations, to agree policy and programs, based on our own structures and not your own appointed advisory bodies.
  • The knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to determine their own solutions must be given primacy in policy and program design and delivery.

I ask that you all consider what the Partnership Agreement will mean to your own Primary Health Network, to the area and team that you work with, to start a conversation with your team members about it, to read further about the work we are doing and set up a time to speak to one of our Coalition of Peaks members to learn more.

The Partnership Agreement presents a significant opportunity for you all to think creatively and with innovation, to not just think about what is possible in the relationship between government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, but to be at the forefront of the change.”

Pat Turner NACCHO CEO speaking at the PHN NATIONAL FORUM, 11TH September 2019 HYATT HOTEL, Canberra

Hello everyone, thank you for inviting me here today to speak to at the seventh Primary Health Network National Forum.

It is testament to the changing times that you now have delegates from national health peak bodies like mine, the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), attending your forums and being invited to share our own stories.

My name is Pat Turner. I am the CEO of NACCHO, and the Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks. Foremost, I am an Aboriginal woman, the daughter of an Arrente man and a Gurdanji woman.

Before we start, I want to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands where we are meeting today.

Canberra is Ngunnawal country. The Ngunnawal are the Aboriginal people of this region and its first inhabitants.

The neighbouring people are the Gundungurra to the North, the Ngarigo to the South, the Yuin on the coast, and the Wiradjuri inland.

It is a harsh climate and difficult country for hunter-gatherer people. To live here required great knowledge of the environment, skillful custodianship of it and close cooperation.

It is this knowledge and ways of working that continue to guide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the in today’s Indigenous policy landscape.

As we navigate the changing policy environment, Aboriginal people draw strength from our lands and our customs. And we continue the cooperation amongst our many nations for the betterment of all of us. This is the approach that we take to the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks Bodies and our work on Closing the Gap.

The Coalition of Peaks are made up of some forty national and state/territory community controlled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations. We have come together to be formal partners with Australian Governments on Closing the Gap.

Today I want to share with you how a group of Aboriginal community controlled organisations, led by NACCHO, have exercised political agency by leading the way, challenging the possibilities and imagining a future of shared decision-making with governments on policies and programs that impact on our people and our communities.

Together, we are changing the way governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on policies and programs that impact on us: we are setting a new benchmark for how our voices are heard in the design and implementation of policies and programs that impact on us.

I come before you to not only share the story of the Coalition of Peaks and their work with governments. Importantly, I also want to talk to you about what these new arrangements mean for Primary Health Networks and for your own daily work practices.

The new approach to Closing the Gap is a challenge you to change the way you work with and engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the development of policies and delivery of health and wellbeing programs.

BACKSTORY

I will start by going back, to tell you how the Coalition of Peaks got to where we are today.

You might recall the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in 2007 committed to ‘closing the gap’ in life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other Australians, and a range of targets to end the disparity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians in areas like infant mortality, employment and education.

  1. It was the first time that Australian Governments had come together in a unified way to address the disadvantage experienced by too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  2. An unprecedented investment of around 4.6 billion dollars in programs and services to ‘close the gap’ as also made.
  3. Governments also agreed to new oversight, monitoring and reporting arrangements, including an annual report to the Commonwealth Parliament by the Prime Minister.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders at the time welcomed this new approach from governments and some of us were consulted in the early stages of the Commonwealth’s thinking.

However, despite this unprecedented coming together of Australian Governments and investment and initial engagement with our peoples, we were not formally involved in Closing the Gap, it was not agreed by us and it was a policy of governments and not for our people.

Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people felt that Closing the Gap presented the issue of our disadvantage as a technical problem built around non-Indigenous markers of poverty. This only served to hide the extent to which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ disadvantage is a political problem requiring deep structural reforms about the way governments work with us.

Closing the Gap did not address the biggest gap that we face: the gulf between the political autonomy and economic resources of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous people.

The policies and programs that then followed whilst making some difference to our peoples lives did not achieve their potential.

Over time government commitment to work together fell away. Funding to our programs and services were cut or not continued.

It is not surprising then, that, now ten years later, we have not made the progress against the closing the gap targets that had been hoped.

“REFRESH”

As you know, in 2017 the Commonwealth Government embarked on a ‘refresh’ of the Closing the Gap framework and undertook a series of consultations. In the view of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, the consultations were inadequate and superficial. There was no public report prepared on their outcomes.

The lack of transparency and accountability surrounding these consultations were very disappointing, but also not surprising. Many of our organisations made submissions to government on Closing the Gap but we felt like our voices were ignored.

We were worried that governments commitment to work differently with us going forward was not backed by meaningful demonstrations. And we were concerned that governments wanted to walk away from the intergovernmental arrangements that brought a national integrated policy strategy needed to close the gap.

No new funding was announced to accompany the ‘refresh’ and there were no specific actions being discussed that we could see or feel confident would make a positive change to our lives.

As the ‘refreshed’ Closing the Gap strategy was being prepared for sign off by the Australian Governments, our dismay and disappointment galvanised a small group of community controlled organisations to come together to write to the Prime Minister, Premiers and Chief Ministers asking that it not be agreed.

We weren’t going away, and there were three important messages that we wanted governments to hear. These were:

  • 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
  • the Council of Australian Governments cannot expect us to take responsibility and work constructively with them to improve outcomes if we are excluded from the decision making.

Eventually, we were invited to meet with the Prime Minister, who acknowledged that the current targets were ‘government targets’ not ‘shared targets’, and that for Closing the Gap to be realised Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had to be able to take formal responsibility for the outcomes through shared decision making.

On 12 December 2018, COAG publicly committed to developing a genuine, formal partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, through their representatives, on Closing the Gap; and that through this partnership a new Closing the Gap policy would be agreed.

THE PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT ON CLOSING THE GAP

The initial fourteen organisations then became almost forty, as we brought together Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks bodies across the country to form a formal Coalition to negotiate a new Closing the Gap framework with Australian Governments. We include both national and state and territory based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks representing a diverse range of services and matter that are important to us as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and to Closing the Gap.

As a first step and through our initiative, we negotiated and agreed a formal Partnership Agreement between the Council of Australian Governments and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations which came into effect in March 2019.

The Partnership Agreement sets out that the Coalition of Peaks will have shared decision making on developing, implementing and monitoring and reviewing Closing the Gap for the next ten years.

This is an historic achievement. It is the first time that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks have come together in this way, to work collectively and as full partners with Australian Governments. It’s is also the first time that there has been formal decision making with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and Australian Governments in this way.

WHERE ARE AT NOW

Progress is being made under the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap:

  • All Council of Australian Government members, including the local government association, have signed the Partnership Agreement.
  • The National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA) has been reviewed by the Coalition of Peaks and officials from Australian Governments.
  • It has been agreed that the NIRA will be replaced with a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap covering the next ten years, to be signed off by the Council of Australian Governments and the Coalition of Peaks. It will continue the NIRA’s successful elements, strengthen others and address foundational areas that were previously excluded from consideration.
  • New accountability, monitoring and reporting arrangements are being developed for the new National Agreement that will strengthen public transparency and accountability.

Most importantly, the Coalition of Peaks have also proposed reform priorities to underpin the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

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.

These reforms have been agreed in principle by the COAG established Joint Council on Closing the Gap, made up of Ministers from each jurisdiction and Coalition of Peak representatives on 23 August 2019. And they have direct relevance to the Primary Health Networks and our work together.

The Joint Council also agreed to the Coalition of Peaks leading engagements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives of communities and organisations on new National Agreement.

These engagements are happening over the next two months and include open meetings across Australia agreed to and supported by governments. The Coalition of Peaks are also consulting with their own memberships and there is an online public opportunity for people to have their say.

The primary focus of the engagements is to build understanding and support for the reform priorities and to have a detailed discussion on what is needed to make those reform priorities a success. The discussions and input from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities will help inform the finalisation of the negotiations on the New National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

This is also a significant shift in the approach to policy development. It is the first time that governments have agreed to leaders of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations engaging with representatives from our communities and organisations about important government policy.

Pat Turner Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks invites community to share their voice on #ClosingtheGap

This week a survey will be sent to hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations and their networks, inviting responses from both individuals and organisations.

There is a discussion booklet that has background information on Closing the Gap and sets out what will be talked about in the survey.

The survey will take a little bit of time to complete. It would be great if you can answer all the questions, but you can also just focus on the issues that you care about most.

To help you prepare your answers, you can look at a full copy here

The survey is open to everyone and can be accessed here:

https://www.naccho.org.au/programmes/coalition-of-peaks/have-your-say/

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #ClosingtheGap Download @AIHW Australia’s Welfare Report 2019 : Our mobs welfare is closely linked to health and is influenced by #socialdeterminants such as education, employment, housing, access to services, and community safety.

Indigenous wellbeing is shaped by the wellbeing of the community. In recent years there have been improvements in a range of areas of wellbeing for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Indigenous home ownership has risen over the past decade, from 34% in 2006 to 38% in 2016, household overcrowding has decreased, and fewer Indigenous Australians rely on government payments.

Education remains important in helping to overcome Indigenous disadvantage.

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

There is no gap in the employment rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians with a university degree.

Despite these improvements, some Indigenous Australians experience widespread social and economic disadvantage.

One in 5 Indigenous Australians live in remote areas and fare worse than those in non-remote areas. They had lower rates of school attendance and employment, and were more likely to live in overcrowded conditions and in social housing.

Members of the Stolen Generations are another particularly disadvantaged group.

They were more likely than other Indigenous Australians to have been incarcerated, receive government payments as their main source of income, experience actual or threatened physical violence or experience homelessness.”

AIHW spokesperson Mr. Dinesh Indraharan.

” Many factors contribute to the welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.

Welfare is closely linked to health and is influenced by social determinants such as education, employment, housing, access to services, and community safety. Contextual and historical factors are particularly important for understanding the welfare of Indigenous Australians.”

” Home ownership has an opportunity to formulate the next wave of transformative success for indigenous people.

Home ownership is a key pillar on the journey to economic independence for indigenous Australians, providing not only stable housing but also an anchor from which to build an asset base for current and future generations and equity for other investment and business opportunities.”

Dagoman-Wardaman man and chairman of Indigenous Business Australia Eddie Fry oversees a home loan program that is helping increasing numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into home ownership. See Part 2 Below

The latest two-yearly snapshot of national wellbeing uses high-quality data to show how Australians are faring in key areas, including housing, education and skills, employment, social support and justice and safety.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report Australia’s welfare 2019 was launched today in Canberra by Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston, Minister for Families and Social Services.

The report shows that record employment and an increase in education levels are contributing to Australia’s wellbeing but challenges facing the nation include housing stress among low-income earners.

Download the Report and Snapshot

aihw-aus-227

Australias-welfare-snapshots-2019

‘Australia’s welfare 2019 demonstrates the value in continuing to build an evidence base that supports the community, policy makers and services providers to better understand the varying and diverse needs of Australians,’ said AIHW spokesperson Mr. Dinesh Indraharan.

‘Australia is in the top third of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries for a range of measures, including life satisfaction and social connectedness.

‘In 2018, 74% of people aged 15–64 were employed—the highest annual employment rate recorded in Australia. In July 2019 the female and total employment rates remain at record levels.’

The proportion of Australians working very long hours (50 or more per week) declined from 16% to 14% and more Australians are using part-time work to balance work with other activities including caring responsibilities.

However, in December 2018, about 9% of workers were underemployed, or unable to find as many hours of work as they would like. One in 9 families with children had no one in the family who was employed.

Generally, the higher a person’s level of education, the more opportunities they have in their working life.

‘Between 2008 and 2018 the proportion of students staying in school until Year 12 rose from 69% to 81% for males and from 80% to 89% for females,’ Mr Indraharan said.

‘In 2018, 65% of Australians aged 25–64 had a non-school qualification at Certificate III level or above. This is up from 55% in 2009.’

Australia has high levels of civic engagement with 97% of eligible people enrolled to vote in 2019—up from 90% in 2010 and strong rates of volunteering (contributing 743 million hours a year). But an estimated 1 in 4 Australians are currently experiencing an episode of loneliness – with people who live alone, young adults, males and people with children more likely to feel lonely.

Finding affordable housing remains a challenge for many Australians, with more people spending a higher proportion of their incomes on housing than in the past and fewer younger people owning their own homes.

‘More than 1 million low-income households were in housing stress in 2017-18, where they spent more than 30% of their income on rent or mortgage repayments,’ Mr Indraharan said.

There has been little change in income inequality since the mid-2000s—though it is higher now than it was in the 1980s—and wealth is more unequally distributed than income.

Most crime rates have fallen in recent years but Australia ranked in the bottom third of countries for people feeling safe walking alone at night.

‘Survey data shows rates of partner and sexual violence have remained relatively stable since 2005, while rates of total violence have fallen. However, the number and rate of sexual assault victims recorded by police has risen each year since 2011,’ Mr. Indraharan said.

Welfare services and support for people in need

Australian governments spent nearly $161 billion on welfare services and support in 2017-18, including $102 billion on cash payments to specific populations, $48 billion on welfare services and $10 billion on unemployment benefits. Per person spending on welfare increased an average of 1.3% a year—from $5,287 per person in 2001–02 to $6,482 in 2017–18.

Over the past 2 decades, there has been a notable fall in the number of people aged 18–64 receiving income support—down from 2.6 million in 1999 to 2.3 million in 2018. Put another way, in 1999, 22% of Australians aged 18–64 received income support, but this fell to 15% in 2018.

In 2017-18:

  • 1.2 million people (or 3 in 10 older people) received aged care services
  • 803,900 people were in social housing
  • 288,800 people were supported by Specialist Homeless Services
  • 280,000 people used specialist disability support services under the National Disability Agreement
  • 172,000 people were active participants in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (at June 2018)
  • 159,000 (or 1 in 35) children aged 0–17 received child protection services.

incarcerated, receive government payments as their main source of income, experience actual or threatened physical violence or experience homelessness.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey #HaveYourSay :

Pat Turner Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks invites community to share their voice on #ClosingtheGap

Part 2 From today’s Australian

More indigenous Australians than ever are homeowners, fewer live in overcrowded accommodation and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who rent are slowly shifting away from social housing in favour of private properties.

Figures to be published on Wednesday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare show almost two in five indigenous Australians were homeowners at the last census — of those, 12 per cent owned their home outright and 26 per cent had a mortgage. The number of indigenous households where the home is paid off or mortgaged has reached an estimated 263,000.

The rate of home ownership among indigenous Australians has gradually increased since 2006, while the home ownership rate among non-indigenous Australians has decreased slightly over the same period.

In 2006, 34 per cent of indigenous Australians owned their home or were paying it off.

By 2011 that figure had climbed to 36 per cent and at the 2016 census, 38 per cent of indigenous Australians either owned their homes outright or were paying off a mortgage.

In contrast, the percentage of non-indigenous Australians who either owned their home or were paying it off declined from 68 per cent in 2006 to 66 per cent in 2016.

Dagoman-Wardaman man and chairman of Indigenous Business Australia Eddie Fry oversees a home loan program that is helping increasing numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into home ownership.

IBA approved more than $1bn in home loans to indigenous Australians over the past five years.

In 2014-15, IBA approved 517 home loans to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In 2017-18, the number of home loans approved by IBA was a record 917.

“Home ownership has an opportunity to formulate the next wave of transformative success for indigenous people,” Mr Fry said.

“Home ownership is a key pillar on the journey to economic independence for indigenous Australians, providing not only stable housing but also an anchor from which to build an asset base for current and future generations and equity for other investment and business opportunities.”

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report used census data to show that, between 2006 and 2016, the proportion of indigenous households living in social housing fell from 29 per cent to 21 per cent.

The proportion of indigenous Australians renting privately increased from 27 per cent to 32 per ce

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey #HaveYourSay : Pat Turner Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks invites community to share their voice on #ClosingtheGap

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples know what works best for us and now the conversation on Closing the Gap is changing because we are finally at the negotiating table.

The Coalition of Peaks want to hear ideas on what should be included in the new National Agreement. We want to hear from enough people across Australia to make sure we’re on the right track and have support to finalise the new national agreement with governments.

Some communities, organisations and people may have attended government led meetings about Closing the Gap targets in 2017 and 2018, but this is different.

This time the Coalition of Peaks are leading the discussion and we are now also talking about some important changes that we think needs to happen to improve our lives faster.

And we have a seat at the table with governments so that the better hear what we are saying.

I hope every person and community-controlled organisation takes up this opportunity to influence policies that will have a direct impact on our communities.

And I really look forward to reading the survey responses and attending engagement events across Australia over the next few months,

Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks, CEO of NACCHO and Co-Chair of the Joint Council, Pat Turner said that listening to the voice of an affected community is critical to the success of any policy or program.

This week marks the start of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (Coalition of Peaks) led engagements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the next phase of Closing the Gap – a national policy aimed at improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Coalition of Peaks is working with the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to develop a new National Agreement that will set out efforts over the next ten years to help close the gap.

 

This is the first time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies will have an equal say in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the policy framework.

And the Coalition of Peaks, together with Australian governments, want to ensure that all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have an opportunity to contribute their voice.

The Survey

This week a survey will be sent to hundreds of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations and their networks, inviting responses from both individuals and organisations.

There is a discussion booklet that has background information on Closing the Gap and sets out what will be talked about in the survey.

The survey will take a little bit of time to complete. It would be great if you can answer all the questions, but you can also just focus on the issues that you care about most.

To help you prepare your answers, you can look at a full copy here

The survey is open to everyone and can be accessed here:

https://www.naccho.org.au/programmes/coalition-of-peaks/have-your-say/.

The survey will close at 5pm on October 25, 2019.

There will also be opportunities in every State and Territory for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a say through face-to-face meetings, to ensure that the community’s voice is truly heard and understood.

A Joint Council meeting of COAG Ministers and the Coalition of Peaks recently agreed in principle to the three priority reforms that will underpin the new agreement and form the basis of the survey and other engagements that will take place over the coming months.

Those priority reforms are:

1.Developing and strengthening structures to ensure the full involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in shared decision making at the national, state and local or regional level and embedding their ownership, responsibility and expertise to close the gap;

2.Building the formal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled services sector to deliver closing the gap services and programs in agreed priority areas; and

3.Ensuring all mainstream government agencies and institutions undertake systemic and structural transformation to contribute to Closing the Gap.

A report on what people say during the engagements will be prepared by the Coalition of Peaks, to be provided to governments and made public.

The report will inform the finalisation the new National Agreement between the Coalition of Peaks and COAG.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #COAG #ClosingtheGap : Pat Turner ” Today marks a significant step forward in our historic partnership between governments and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks “

Today marks a significant step forward in our historic partnership between governments and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks with the agreement that we will work towards a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap to guide efforts over the next ten years.

The conversation on Closing the Gap is changing because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are now at the negotiating table with governments.

The proposed priority reforms are based on what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been saying for a long time is needed to close the gap and we now have a formal structure in place to put those solutions to governments.

If we are to close the gap it will be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations leading the way on service delivery. We already know that community-controlled organisations achieve better results because we understand what works best for our peoples.

It is a critical step for the Joint Council to formally recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must share in decision-making on policies that affect their lives.

The Coalition of Peaks are looking forward to engaging with communities around Australia to build support from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for the priority reforms and to ensure that their views on what is needed to make them a success is captured in the new National Agreement.” 

Pat Turner, Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks, CEO of NACCHO and Co-Chair of the Joint Council speaking after a meeting of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap was held in Adelaide on Friday 23 August

The Joint Council agreed on a communiqué, which is attached.

ctg-joint-council-communique-20190823

See Closing the Gap Website

Joint Council makes progress towards new National Agreement on Closing the Gap

A meeting of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap was held in Adelaide on Friday 23 August , between representatives of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and a Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Bodies (Coalition of Peaks).

In its second ever meeting, the Joint Council today agreed to work towards a new National Agreement Closing the Gap.

Importantly, it also agreed in principle to the following three priority reforms to underpin the new agreement and accelerate progress on Closing the Gap:

  1. Developing and strengthening structures to ensure the full involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in shared decision making at the national, state and local or regional level and embedding their ownership, responsibility and expertise to close the gap;
  2. Building the formal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled services sector to deliver closing the gap services and programs in agreed priority areas; and
  3. Ensuring all mainstream government agencies and institutions undertake systemic and structural transformation to contribute to Closing the Gap.

The priority reforms will form the basis of engagements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives of communities and organisations across Australia and will focus on building support and what is needed to make them a success.

In another first, the engagements will be led by the Coalition of Peaks, with the support of Australian Governments.

A Welcome to Country for the second meeting of the Joint Council on #ClosingtheGap in Adelaide , co-chaired by the Minister Ken Wyatt and Pat Turner AM, Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks. 

Additional text AAP

Friday’s agreement follows the release in December last year of a set of draft targets by the Council of Australian Governments in a range of areas including health, education, economic development and justice.

They include a desire to have 95 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025, a bid to close the life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians by 2031 and efforts to ensure 65 per cent of indigenous youth aged between 15 and 24 are in employment, education or training by 2028.

The targets also seek to cut the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island young people in detention by up to 19 per cent and the adult incarceration by at least five per cent by 2028.

The refreshed closing the gap agenda will also commit to targets that all governments will be accountable to the community for achieving.

About the Joint Council

The Joint Council was established under the historic Partnership Agreement, announced in March. The agreement represents the first time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak bodies will have an equal say in the design, refresh, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Closing the Gap framework.

The council is comprised of 12 representatives elected by the Coalition of Peaks, a Minister nominated by the Commonwealth and each state and territory governments and one representative from the Australian Government Association.

See full list in Communique 

ctg-joint-council-communique-20190823

The Joint Council will meet at least twice a year, and will develop a workplan to refresh the Closing the Gap framework and monitor its implementation over the next ten years.

For more information on The Joint Council, The Partnership Agreement, The Coalition of Peaks and to sign up for our mailing list, go to: https://www.naccho.org.au/ programmes/coalition-of-peaks/

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News : Read Barb Shaw AMSANT Chair keynote speeches at the inaugural Indigenous Health Justice Conference #NILCIHJC2019 Darwin 13 Aug and #AMSANT25Conf Alice Springs 7 Aug

” The conference represents the coming together of two strands of community endeavour—health and justice—that I think naturally belong together, and about which I have had a close association with, and passion for, since I was young.

From my sector’s perspective—the primary health care sector—you simply cannot talk about health without invoking the principles of justice.

It’s in our DNA as health professionals.

Even more so when we are talking about Aboriginal community controlled primary health care services.

For our services are—first and foremost—acts of self-determination. There is no stronger expression of our community’s desire and hunger for justice than the pursuit of our rights as First Nations peoples to be self-determining.

To have our people making the decisions about what we need and how we should do things.

And to have our people governing and being employed in the organisations that deliver programs and services to our communities.

And yet we have never accepted, and we will never accept, this imposed status quo.

Aboriginal community controlled health services embody this determination and resolve.” 

Barb Shaw keynote address delivered 13 August to the inaugural Indigenous Health Justice Conference held in Darwin in conjunction with the National Indigenous Legal Conference.

Read in full Part 1 Below

” AMSANT provides a strong and respected voice nationally, which is evidenced by the high regard that we are afforded by the politicians we seek to influence, the bureaucrats we spar with on a daily basis, and by our peers who we work with at the national level, including our national peak body, NACCHO. AMSANT has been a consistent and significant contributor to NACCHO.

I will finish by sounding a note of concern that we can’t take our achievements or position for granted. We need to be forever vigilant, for despite all our efforts, the system has not fundamentally changed and is still configured to marginalise and disempower Aboriginal people. We have to work harder and smarter.

And we know we can because AMSANT is all of us. When we work together, when we combine our voices, and when we share a vision, then nothing is going to stop us.

May the next 25 years of AMSANT be as wonderful as the first.

AMSANT Chair Barb Shaw Keynote address for AMSANT 25th Anniversary Conference
Alice Springs Convention Centre, 7th August 2019 

At the #AMSANT25Conf Dinner 25 years of Aboriginal health leadership cutting the 25 year celebratory cake Our Barb Shaw Chair and John Paterson CEO , Pat Anderson , June Oscar and Donna Ah Chee 

Read and or download 25 Anniversary address here 

Barb Shaw – Keynote address for AMSANT 25th Anniversary Conference_FINAL (2)

Good morning everyone.

I’d like to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the land on which we’re meeting, the Larrakia people, and particularly their elders, past, present and emerging, and to thank James Parfitt for his warm welcome to country.

My name is Barb Shaw.

I am the Chairperson of the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance of the NT—or AMSANT—and also the Chief Executive Officer of Anyinginyi Health Service.

I would like especially thank David Woodroffe for his insightful words of introduction, and particularly his highlighting of the importance of the words hope, optimism and resilience. These are qualities that have always been strong in our communities.

I am very grateful to the Winkiku [Win-kee-koo] Rrumbangi NT Indigenous Lawyers Association for their invitation to AMSANT to partner with them in holding the inaugural Indigenous Health Justice Conference, being held in parallel with this year’s National Indigenous Legal Conference.

The conference represents the coming together of two strands of community endeavour—health and justice—that I think naturally belong together, and about which I have had a close association with, and passion for, since I was young.

From my sector’s perspective—the primary health care sector—you simply cannot talk about health without invoking the principles of justice.

It’s in our DNA as health professionals.

Even more so when we are talking about Aboriginal community controlled primary health care services.

For our services are—first and foremost—acts of self-determination. There is no stronger expression of our community’s desire and hunger for justice than the pursuit of our rights as First Nations peoples to be self-determining.

To have our people making the decisions about what we need and how we should do things.

And to have our people governing and being employed in the organisations that deliver programs and services to our communities.

When we take a long, hard look at the many, many injustices our people face today, we can trace the path of injustice back to the persistent and variously callous, arrogant, or ignorant denials of our rights to self-determination that is our lived experience as First Nations peoples in this country.

And yet we have never accepted, and we will never accept, this imposed status quo.

Aboriginal community controlled health services embody this determination and resolve.

In the NT, we have been around more than 45 years, since Congress was first established in Alice Springs in 1974.

It was a time when one out of every four of our babies died before their first birthday! Just think about that.

It was a time when the life expectancy for Aboriginal males was just 52 years and for Aboriginal females, 54 years.

The community rallied—literally. It was a turning point and a movement was born.

Other communities followed and new community controlled services emerged—Urapuntja in 1977, Wurli Wurlinjang in the early 1980s, Pintupi and Anyinginyi in 1984, with more joining over the years.

As a sector, we didn’t sit back and wait for the government to do to us—we actively drove the agenda, took a leadership role, and did the hard work to advocate and lobby—and importantly—to provide the evidence and substance to what we were asking for.

Last week AMSANT held our 25th Anniversary celebrations in Alice Springs. One of our strong and amazing leaders, Pat Anderson, reminded us of our sector’s leadership in the early years, including in the international arena.

When primary health care leaders from around the world met in Russia in 1978, to set out a vision for primary health care, resulting in the historic Alma Ata Declaration—we were there—making our contribution to the Declaration’s drafting.

And in 1996, when the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations was drafting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples—UNDRIP—we were there, advocating for community control.

Back in Australia, we led the campaign to remove health from ATSIC’s responsibilities—where it was chronically underfunded—and transfer it to the Commonwealth Department of Health, where Commonwealth bureaucrats were made accountable for our people’s health.

Importantly, this meant we were finally able to begin to access the mainstream resources and services due to us, that we were not receiving.

This brought significantly increased funding to our sector and transformed the Aboriginal health landscape.

Today, our services provide over 60% of all primary health care to our people in the Northern Territory.

And we do it better. In 2010, a major study concluded that when ACCHSs deliver health programs there is fifty percent more health gain or benefit than if those programs were delivered by mainstream primary care services.

The important point here is that this didn’t come from government. It came from us.

This history also illustrates two fundamental principles that our two disciplines, justice and health, also hold in common—Truth and Evidence.

For our sector, our truth existed in the history of disadvantage, neglect, exclusion and institutional racism that our communities were facing.

But in order to get action from government we needed to provide the evidence to support our case.

The battles we were fighting were, in fact, situated within a much longer history of struggle to establish and protect human rights.

Advances in public health achieved during the 19th century laid the foundations for a set of rights as citizens and communities that we now regard as standard entitlements and the responsibility of good government—if not to provide—then at least to regulate.

These advances depended on evidence.

For example, discovery of the causes of infectious diseases, such as cholera, provided crucial evidence for the need for public infrastructure for clean water supply and sewage disposal.

Evidence of the impacts on health caused by poor and overcrowded housing contributed to establishing a role for government in the provision of public housing and building standards—the concept of shelter as a basic human right.

Such advances in our knowledge of health determinants underpin the rights and laws that have developed around these issues, which we largely take for granted.

In stating this, it is also apparent to all of us here that these rights have not become automatic and universally available, and that those who most often lack them, come from the poorest and most marginalised sections of our society.

Here in the Northern Territory, particularly in remote communities, the lack of adequate housing, water and sewerage are major issues of concern.

For our people, connection to country and the ability to live on our ancestral lands are fundamental to our identity, to our cultural and spiritual wellbeing, and to our right to maintain our relationships and communities.

However, we cannot achieve this without basic infrastructure and services that are routinely provided in cities and towns, but which in many of our communities, are either inadequately provided or don’t exist.

Poor quality and inadequate sources of potable water have become issues of public health concern which in some cases are threatening community viability.

The significant shortfall in housing and high levels of overcrowding and homelessness experienced in Aboriginal communities are unacceptable in themselves, but all the more so, because the evidence tells us that inadequate housing and homelessness are determinants of poor health and wellbeing.

This includes transmitted diseases such as rheumatic heart disease, communicable diseases, effects on stress and wellbeing, family violence and even school attendance.

Whichever way you look at it, Indigenous housing is an area of significant government failure.

In a large part this is because government made a series of ill-considered decisions to cut us out of any significant or meaningful governance and decision-making role in housing.

Our Indigenous Community Housing Organisations were abolished.

The Commonwealth’s Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program or SIHIP, and National Partnership on Remote Indigenous Housing or NPARIH, burned through some $1.7 billion over 10 years without much troubling to get our input.

And the NT Intervention saw the Commonwealth take over responsibility for remote community leases and housing, with housing transferred to the NT Government.

The latter has been its own disaster, with evidence of incompetent management of residential tenancy leases and rents and an inadequate system for responding to repairs and maintenance, leading to significant hardship for residents.

Despite evidence of its own failures, it is perhaps unsurprising that the government is not happy that communities have recently exercised their rights to adequate housing by launching a class action against the NT Government in relation to rents and repairs.

This is a good example of a health justice partnership—the community partnering with a group of lawyers who provided the expertise to document and launch an action at the direction of the community.

It is hard to look at this example as anything other than a spectacular own goal by government.

They should have listened to us, perhaps!

In saying this, it needs to be acknowledged that there are encouraging developments in government policy on housing at both the NT and Commonwealth levels.

The NT Government’s Local Decision Making policy extends to Aboriginal housing and the new National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous housing struck between the NT and the Commonwealth, includes the four Northern Territory Land Councils in a significant role.

However, this falls well short of self-determination in Aboriginal housing.

Here, the leadership has once again come from the Aboriginal community. Four years’ work—supported by the Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT, or APO NT—has resulted in the development of a new Northern Territory Aboriginal peak housing body, Aboriginal Housing NT, or AHNT.

This was our initiative and our hard work—not government’s.

With in-principle agreement to support the new body, it is now a matter of negotiation about what formal role the new peak body will be afforded.

Occasionally an issue emerges that cuts like a knife through the national consciousness, requiring immediate and strong action.

Such was the situation when the 4-Corners program revealed the appalling abuse that was occurring inside the Don Dale youth detention centre. The revelations prompted the immediate establishment of the Royal Commission into the protection and detention of children in the Northern Territory.

This issue blew wide open the systemic failures that exist in the treatment of our young people, mostly Indigenous children, and provided a huge opportunity for reform.

Our sector’s response, alongside our APO NT partners, provided leadership to ensure an evidence-based, therapeutic, public health response was considered by the Royal Commission.

We also advocated for a new Tripartite Forum with an oversight role in relation to reforms in child protection and youth justice. AMSANT is represented on the Forum as one of three APO NT representatives.

The NT Government’s acceptance of the recommendations of the Royal Commission is commendable, however progress on the reforms is concerning and the lack of a commitment of funding from the Commonwealth is disappointing.

It is also disappointing to see the Northern Territory Government waver in the face of a recent campaign to water down the reforms.

We know only too well the politics that have long played out in the Northern Territory to scapegoat and demonise our people as problems to be managed, and punished.

We have seen the law and order and mandatory sentencing campaigns that have directly contributed to outcomes such as Don Dale.  We have suffered under the NT Intervention.

The low road of political opportunism dressed up as community concern.

Anything but focus on the neglect and structural racism that are key underlying determinants of the situation.

We can and must do better as a community.

This brings me to two other moments of national consciousness pricking that bring us—I believe—to a watershed moment in this nation’s history.

The first is Closing the Gap—a policy that was well-intentioned but also typically forged without our consent or input and delivered as a top-down initiative.

What could possibly go wrong?

Burdened with annual, very public demonstrations of its failure according to its own indices—only two of 10 targets achieving reasonable improvement—the Prime Minister sensibly called for a re-fresh of the policy.

Perhaps not so sensibly, the re-fresh consultations were centrally controlled and once again failed to engage us meaningfully.

However, this time, faced with concern expressed by a national Coalition of Peak Indigenous organisations, the Prime Minister asked for our solution.

The result is a formal Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap with the Coalition of Peaks, and the establishment of a Joint Council on Closing the Gap with the Coalition of Peaks represented as a member—the first time that a non-governmental body has been represented within a COAG structure.

APO NT is a member of the Coalition of Peaks and the NACCHO CEO, our very own Pat Turner, is leading the Coalition.

Importantly, the central ask of the Coalition of Peaks, is not around the new indicators—although these are important tools to get right—but for a fundamental change in the way governments work with our people and the full involvement of our people in shared decision-making at all levels.

This includes the need for a commitment to building, strengthening and expanding the formal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled sector to deliver Closing the Gap services and programs.

The second watershed moment was the release of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

That this considered and heart-felt gesture from our communities was summarily dismissed by the Prime Minister of the day—and that it continues to be undermined by baseless scaremongering—represents a moment of national shame.

But we have taken great heart from the many, many non-Indigenous organisations and individuals who have taken the Statement to their hearts.

This includes the AMA and the Australian Law Society.

And what did we ask for? We asked for:

  • a process of treaty-making to lay a firm basis for the future relationship of First Nations and those who came to this country later;
  • a process of truth telling about our shared past; and
  • a constitutionally enshrined voice to Parliament to ensure ongoing structures for our input into policy making and the life of the nation.

If we were to try to pinpoint the essence of what justice for our people means and what it will take to address the health disadvantage we face, then we would probably find it contained within the pregnant potential of these two initiatives—Closing the Gap and the Uluru Statement.

We are not going anywhere.

And we will not give up on our dreams.

All we ask is to be afforded the responsibility to make our own decisions about our own lives.

To have the opportunity to participate in decision-making over the policies that affect us; and to have our organisations and our people serve our communities.

To be afforded respect as equals, side-by-side, safe and secure in our cultures and identity.

To have the courage and the decency to face the truth of this nation.

Over the next two days, these and many other issues will be discussed and I know it will be done with passion and with goodwill.

I commend this conference to you.

Thank you.