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

 I’m joined today by the Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt and the convener, leader, chair of the Coalition of Indigenous Peak Groups, Pat Turner.

And I want to come to the important reason that we’re gathered together today, to speak about the finalisation of the Closing the Gap Agreements that have been historically reached between the group of Coalition Peaks, the Commonwealth and the states and territories.

This is a very significant day, and I know one that both Ken and Pat have been working together on now for some time and I’m so pleased that we’ve come to this day. I think it’s going to have a very meaningful impact on how we progress to ensure that young Indigenous boys and girls can grow up in this country with the same expectations as non-Indigenous boys and girls in this country. That’s what we want to see. That’s what it’s all about.

That, as Australians right across the country, we can have the same hopes, the same aspirations, the same goals, ultimately. It’s not an easy road and there’s still a long road ahead of us to achieve that. But what we’re announcing today, I think, will make a very meaningful impact on achieving that journey together.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison 30 July 2020

Download full transcript including questions and answers

Launch CTG NPA Prime Minister 30 July Transcript

Read download NACCHO Press Release and links to all documents 

So, with that let me turn, with your agreement, to the important reason that we’ve gathered today, as serious as the pandemic is. The issue of achieving those aspirations for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians together are of great significance to our country, not just now but into the future. It is a national aspiration, a national goal, a national task.

The process that we began around about two years ago, when we came together, began with listening as to why we were being unsuccessful in closing the gap. Any good process starts with listening and that’s what we did as a Government. We listened carefully.

And there were many discussions and there were many very unprecedented discussions, including here, in this very Cabinet room, as I sat early this year in January together with Indigenous leaders from peak groups, with Ken, and that was quite an extraordinary discussion. And it charged us up to keep going with the work that was being done to form the Agreement which we’ve reached today.

As we have been dealing with the pandemic, there have been two phrases, two concepts, that have come up in almost all the briefings that I’ve had. They talk about lines of effort and they talk about unity of effort. And as I was reflecting on this Agreement last night, I believe that’s what this does. It sets out very clear lines of effort, which has been important. But, more importantly, it sets out the process of having a unity of effort. And when we do those two things together, that’s where we make progress.

Whether it’s attacking a pandemic or attacking the very serious issues of Indigenous disadvantage for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in this country. And the other thing we did as we listened and we identified these things, and we looked at how we had not been making the progress all of us wanted on closing the gap, we reflected on the fact that Closing the Gap and the initiative taken by Kevin Rudd was an entirely worthy initiative and an initiative deserving of credit. But, innocently, there were elements of how that was done which was misguided.

That’s not a criticism, that is a learning. A learning of these many years that have passed since then, as we’ve sought to live up to those worthy aspirations at that time. And one of the mistakes that have been made is, as we’ve looked at this as a Federal Government, we’ve decided what the gap is. We didn’t look at the gap through the eyes of Indigenous Australians.

We told Indigenous Australians what the gap was that we were going to close and somehow thought they should be thankful for that. That was wrong-headed. That wasn’t the way to do it.

We needed to understand what the gap was, looking through the lens and the eyes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They needed to tell us what the gap was that needed to be closed and that’s what this task has been about. It has also been about understanding that this is not the task or role or responsibility of any one organisation, level of government, or nation of peoples across the country. This is the task of us all. And for that to be successful, we need a partnership between all of these groups. Understanding what these lines of effort are to achieve this unity of effort.

And so we set about achieving a partnership and setting out these 16, as I understand, particular areas of activity. Underpinned by four key things we’re seeking to do to make them possible. And the first of those is partnership – a partnership of states and territories who have significant roles to play in achieving the outcomes that are set out here in this Agreement.

This is not something the Commonwealth can even pretend to think it can do alone. It must be done together with the service delivery and policy arms of state and territory governments. But also with the delivery agencies of Indigenous organisations, which are on the ground, making a difference.

Secondly, it’s about building the capabilities of those on-the- ground, community-based organisations in Indigenous communities to deliver those services as best as they possibly can. It is about transforming mainstream government agencies and institutions and how they conceive these challenges and how they go about engaging and delivering their services and broader policies that impact on Indigenous Australians, whether they’re directed to them specifically or not.

And it’s about getting the right data, the right evidence, and the right reporting that creates the transparency to drive the actions we’re seeking to get progress from.

The data then, as it’s set out in each of these 16 areas, is incredibly well-presented in terms of what we need. It sets out the goal and those goals haven’t changed drastically.

But what it has done is identified the things that make that goal achievable and the signs you need to look for along the way to know you’re going to meet that goal and how we’re progressing against those key data points. And it gets granular. It says, “We’re not just going to look up here, we’re going to go down the community level, we’re going to go and break this up by different groupings to understand where the real challenges are and where our progress is doing well.”

As Ken has often said, this process has to acknowledge the gains to drive the confidence that other areas can see achievement. But it’s also about separating out where the accountabilities lie to get the action. And then there is the further data that is needed to drive the whole process and there are some serious weaknesses when it comes to the intelligence and information that we need to inform plans to eliminate Indigenous disadvantage in this country as much as we possibly can.

And so I find it a very practical document, Pat and Ken. I commend you on the work that it’s done. It’s realistic, it’s shared, it’s evidence-based and led, it’s transparent, it’s practical, it’s ambitious. And from this point, the real work starts. And the plans that are needed from the Federal Government, from the state governments, the plans that need to find their way into budgets.

But I tell you where we start – we start with what we have to do, and then we apply the resources to achieve that. This isn’t about buckets of money, this is about changing the way we do things and ensuring that we apply the resources most effectively to achieve that. And with that I’ll pass you on to Ken, and then to Pat.

THE HON. KEN WYATT MP, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS:

 Prime Minister, thank you very much. I want to acknowledge the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, on whose land we are today, their elders past and present.

The concept of Closing the Gap was an idea that arose from the Human Rights Commissioner of the day, Tom Calma. Tom put forward a series of propositions and the first signing of a Closing the Gap Agreement was done by a former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.

The intentions were honourable. The outcomes were never achieved in the way that we had aspired to reach in the way of improving the lives of Indigenous Australians. And this particular Agreement is historic.

Because it goes to the very thing that I said right at the beginning when I first came into this role – that we need to develop approaches to address the issues of inequality and inequity by having Indigenous Australians sitting and jointly designing, planning and developing a direction that is based on how we wrap around people, their life expectancy, their life expectations, and their aspirations from the community level through to the peak organisations.

It’s been an incredible privilege working with Pat and the 51 peak organisations.

When we first started, it was 21. And then it grew. But the more people that were involved, the greater the depth of discussion around what do these targets mean?

How will they change the lives of people? And how will we bring governments with us? And that was a critical part of the conversation, as to how do we then take it to the next stage? Because, primarily, it was the Prime Minister who tabled the Closing the Gap Report. There was no requirement for states and territories to do that.

This Agreement through the state and territory cabinet processes has endorsed a new approach. An approach that will involve Aboriginal people as partners in the design of the work of government agencies.

It will involve transforming the way in which government agencies at every level, including local government, work with Indigenous Australians. It also commits, through the cabinet process, ministers in all portfolios to work towards achieving closure in the targets and the gap that is associated with the targets.

But I think more importantly is the way in which the spirit of intent for the outcome we’ve achieved today in this Agreement was reached through the passion and commitment of so many people.

I want to acknowledge Pat’s leadership. If you work with Indigenous organisations, as she has done, she has certainly brought 51 significant leaders to the table, to agree on the targets that we have within the Agreement, including incarceration rates, including family safety and the safety of women, and expanding those targets to focus in key and critical areas.

But I also want to acknowledge every state and territory Aboriginal Affairs Minister, because their officials and the officers from the National Indigenous Agency and the officers who worked with Pat in the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation worked paragraph by paragraph through the Agreement until all parties were satisfied. But the thing that is different this time is the enthusiasm of all to address these targets.

Prime Minister,I want to acknowledge you, because you’ve done something that no other Prime Minister has done,andthatistoputfaithintheIndigenouscommunitytodeveloptargetsforusalltoachieve.But for all of us to take responsibility for, and for all of us to be accountable for. And by all of us focusing on those three tranches,Iamextremelyoptimisticthatwewillseeclosuresinareastoagreaterextentthan what we’ve seen historically in the past.

And the amount of goodwill means that the reforms that we seek to achieve will now be done in a way that is very different. It means a person living in Ampilatwatja or living in Balgo WA, or in Arrente country will have avenues in which to influence government policy and direction, and to have a say on those things that impact on them through our peaks, and through the other structures that exist within states and territories.

So, I compliment all who are involved. And whilst I have been Minister, I’ve enjoyed the immense journey of the very meaty debates, but the way in which we have come together to produce a blueprint for improving the lives of our people across this nation, with flow-on effects for all Australians.

It is part of the Morrison Government’s commitment to having a change of direction that is going to make a difference on the ground with state and territory Premiers and Chief Ministers who, through National Cabinet, have signed up to this Agreement, along with the President of the Australian Local Government Association, so it means that local government equally will be involved in achieving the outcomes.

I’d now like to ask Pat to come forward and make her comments.

PAT TURNER AM:

Thank you very much, Minister, and thank you, Prime Minister. Today truly is an historic occasion. This is the first time a National Agreement designed to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been developed and negotiated between Australian governments, local government, and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives.

We have come a long way as partners since the partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap came into effect in March last year and I want to thank each government for the spirit in which they have approached the partnership.

I particularly want to thank you, Prime Minister, for your leadership in taking the first step in agreeing to establish a formal partnership between the Coalition of Peaks and governments on Closing the Gap.

The Prime Minister probably didn’t fully realise what he was committing to, and possibly no government did, but maybe that was a good thing at the time.

Today we now have a comprehensive set of commitments from governments that places Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations at the centre of Closing the Gap. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know what is best for our communities, not governments, and this National Agreement means that decisions of Government on Closing the Gap need to be negotiated and agreed with us.

But I have to say, the Prime Minister and Ken will know it hasn’t always been easy, and some of our negotiations have been very hard-fought.

For the Coalition of Peaks, the National Agreement is not just words. They represent actions that can make a real difference to the lives of our people, our families, and our communities. We have also had the voices of more than 4,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who participated in our engagements on what should be included in the new National Agreement, guiding us in our negotiations.

The Coalition of Peaks is confident that the National Agreement, if fully implemented, has the potential to establish a strong policy foundation to give effect to what our people have been saying for a long time is needed to make a difference.

The National Agreement may not include everything our people want or need to make lasting change to our lives, but this is a huge step forward. I also want to thank all the members of the Coalition of Peaks. This is the first time our community- controlled leadership have come together in this way to bring our collective experiences and expertise to the task of Closing the Gap, and it has been a real privilege to work with my colleagues in the Peaks.

It is important that we celebrate today’s achievements. We are marking a turning point in Indigenous Affairs and the relationship between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives and we have all played our parts.

But the real hard work starts tomorrow, as we begin the implementation of the National Agreement in full partnership between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, organisations and representatives. Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you, Pat. Let’s take questions on this matter and then we can return to the pandemic issues afterwards.

JOURNALIST: We’ve heard many moving and passionate speeches by Prime Ministers and Ministers over the last 12 years about this subject and every year moving speeches by Prime Ministers and Ministers lamenting the fact that governments have fallen woefully short of meeting the targets. What commitment can you give that these new targets will actually be met?

PRIME MINISTER: Well, it has the full backing of our entire Government. I said when Ken was appointed as the first Minister for Indigenous Australians, as an Indigenous Australian, that every Minister in my Cabinet is a Minister for Indigenous Australians. Because that’s the change, that’s the shift that needs to have effect to actually make more progress. I think you’re right, Mark, there’s never been any lack of passion or commitment or dedication from this podium, no matter who stood behind it. Every Prime Minister that I know has shared this passion and this dedication but also the frustration that goes along with the lack of progress in this area.

What I think is different about this process is there has been some humble learnings that has led to its development and its execution. There has been a recognition that in sometimes we have been too ambitious without understanding the detail of what you actually have to do to get there. And what I particularly like about this Agreement is how, as I explained before, it gets very granular about how you get there, and how you know when you’re not getting there, and that’s very important. This evidence-led process which has an accountability to it, which I think is very important.

Now, I’d love to give you a guarantee, like every one of my predecessors would have and endeavoured, tried to, as I am today. But I am tempered by that bitter experience of my predecessors and my own. And so I take comfort in the fact that we’ve got a partnership now that we haven’t had before. It’s not because others didn’t want it. I think the partnership is the product of the learnings, the humble learnings that have been necessary. So, I do hope, Mark, that we can live up to this. We owe it to everybody Indigenous boy and girl in the country today, and every Indigenous person in the country today.

JOURNALIST: Prime Minister, and Minister Wyatt, there’s been some criticism of the fact that the domestic violence target is not being announced today and it’s going to continue to be worked on. Can you explain why, given what we know about the over-representation of First Nations women as victims of domestic violence, why that is still being worked on and is not being announced today?

PRIME MINISTER: Sure, I’m happy to, and I’ll let Ken and Pat speak to that because they’ve been directly involved in those decisions.

THE HON. KEN WYATT MP, MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS: In dealing with this issue we want zero tolerance of any domestic violence, of violence against women. I know that when the working group was going through this, the focus on just physical violence against women was seen as not sufficient. That hasn’t lowered our bar for absolute extinction of domestic violence against any woman, and this fits within the Fourth National Plan that our Government has in place as well. But our senior women have asked that we do more work on that and I respect the request that they have made, and we will come back with further work. But the target is still zero tolerance of domestic violence against our women.

PAT TURNER AM: Yes, thank you. So we do have some more work to do in our negotiations with all of the governments. It is a national priority and one that we take very seriously, and we hope to have that nutted out as we go through in the next few months and we start our work on the implementation plans to get some real nutty figures in there.

Let me say on the National Agreement, it’s very important that you read it in detail and you understand it because there are funding provisions that are already committed to in the National Agreement and they will come on board as we progress the important work now on the implementation plans and the important work that we have to do to make sure that we have the right people at the right table, at the right time, in the right place.

 

NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News Alert : Community control ‘key to Indigenous advancement’, says our CEO Pat Turner

 

Pat Turner believes that when Indigenous organisations take over the job of improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, it will be the end of the grim practice of monitoring failure and calling it Closing the Gap.

“Self-determination has been a policy of the commonwealth since 1971 but we have never been given agency to exercise it to the fullest ­extent,” Ms Turner said.

“(That is) because there’s been so much government neglect of programs and the way they’ve implemented programs, and their lack of accountability for the poor outcomes that leaves us in the desperate situation we’re in today.”

From the Australian front page and page 4 interview with Paige Taylor

Ms Turner, who began working life as a switchboard operator, taught Australian studies at Georgetown University in the US and later established indigenous television channel NITV, has emerged as a prominent Aboriginal voice.

Working with Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt, Ms Turner has steered a radical re­design of the Closing the Gap scheme established by the Rudd government in 2008.

It has culminated in a draft agreement with states and terri­tories — as well as the Local Government Association of Australia — to bolster community-­controlled indigenous organisations across Australia so they are capable of doing the work that is currently done by government agencies and non-government organisations dominated by non-Aboriginal people.

The draft agreement, which sets ambitious targets to reduce indigenous disadvantage, is due to go to national cabinet this month.

Ms Turner understands what a strong network of community-controlled indigenous organisations can do. She represents 143 of them as chief executive of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

The community-controlled indigenous health sector is established and in touch with grassroots people all over the country. It led the advocacy that safeguarded remote Aboriginal communities when the corona­virus pandemic hit Australia but Ms Turner acknowledges there is no real equivalent in education, early childhood or other spheres, including the disability sector.

Changing that is key to the success of the new Closing the Gap agreement, Ms Turner said.

In 2019, after 11 annual reports, just two of seven Closing the Gap targets set in 2008 — early childhood education and Year 12 attainment — had been achieved. Targets were not met on school attendance, child mortality, employment, life expectancy and literacy and numeracy.

“We were most grateful that Kevin Rudd took the initiative to set up the Closing the Gap … that money he invested in it was over $4bn,” she said.

“What we weren’t happy with was the fixation on targets.

“They don’t drive change … and while you’ve got to have them, they’re not the things that make the difference.”

Ms Turner said indigenous people would be the difference. “The reforms are equal decision-making between governments and Aboriginal people at every level — local, regional, state, and national,” she said.

“So when they’re talking about measures that impact on us, at the moment what you’ve got in this arrangement are those sitting in ivory towers, the capital cities, and they come up with a policy or implementation plan based on what the government’s commitments of the day are and go out to Aboriginal people and say ‘We’ve got this new program and if you meet these guidelines, you’ll be eligible for funding’.”

Ms Turner said under the new agreement, communities would determine what was needed and they would be supported by governments to achieve it.

The third of five children raised in Alice Springs, Ms Turner has clear views about what gives a child a good start in life. She does not have children and helps raise a great nephew with her sister in a home they share in Canberra.

“I think it starts from pre-birth. It’s about the responsibilities of raising children for both young men and young women and having children at the right time in their lives, rather than unexpected pregnancies,” she said. “Too many young people are having too many kids too early. It just puts massive pressure on the whole extended family.”

Ms Turner’s world view was shaped in part by her father’s accidental death in 1963, when she was 10. Her mother went to work in three jobs as a dishwasher.

She was also influenced by the advocacy of her uncle Charles Perkins, the civil rights activist.

“What I understood very early was Aboriginal people endured a lot of ­racism in daily lives — including me — and that wasn’t right.”

Ms Turner rose through the ranks of the public service, including at the Department of Health and Centrelink, and was the only indigenous person to work as chief executive of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. “I never had one qualified audit report of my organisation; not one,” she said.

It is her view that the commonwealth’s reshaped work-for-the-dole scheme, called CDP, is a lost cause. “It needs to be abolished and what Aboriginal people really need is a job guarantee. Award wages and proper jobs,” she said.

It is a case argued in The Weekend Australian on Saturday by Noel Pearson, who described Australian economist Bill Mitchell’s longstanding call for government to fund real jobs, at the minimum wage, to all unemployed Australians as “one of the most imaginative and compelling answers” to the question of how to build a stronger, fairer and more resilient nation.

Ms Turner is adamant the new Closing the Gap agreement can play a role. “If you invest, as a government, in an Aboriginal community-controlled organisation to do the service delivery, instead of all these bureaucrats sitting around in jobs, those jobs could be undertaken by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, which means families at the local level have a decent job,” she said.

“We will have a sustainable workforce, and can offer scholarships and apprenticeships … so that we expand the opportunities and career choices for our young­er generations.”

Part 2

As a receptionist in the Native Welfare department in the early 1970s, it was Pat Turner’s job to let her bosses know when somebody was at the front desk for them.

One day a very young Ms Turner told her boss a gentleman was here to see him, and her boss replied: “Is he black or white?”

It made her blood boil so she challenged him about what difference it made. He agreed to see the visitor. “I had great pleasure in taking him in. Of course, he was an Aboriginal bloke, but I wasn’t gonna tell him that,” she said.

By 1975, Ms Turner was a trained welfare officer back in her hometown of Alice Springs, reading Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. She also took kids to play sport. She also taught them their rights and obligations.

“There were too many of our kids at risk with the criminal justice system,” she said.

After speaking to parents and the local headmaster, she took indigenous kids to the Alice Springs Magistrates Court in a borrowed bus.

“Ninety five per cent of the people going to court every day were Aboriginal and most of the cases were for public drunkenness,” she said.

Afterwards, the police prosecutor and Ms Turner would ask the children for their observations.

Sometimes the children had questions about why an accused went to jail or what they did wrong.

“I would say, ‘Well, what would you do if you were pulled up by the police?’ and some kids said, you know, like, ‘run’,” Ms Turner said. “And so we’d explain to them how to handle that situation. It was about increasing their awareness, how to deal respectfully with the police and not get into further trouble.”

Ms Turner said the children she knew then each finished school and got jobs in indigenous organisations.

This made her proud of them and the families who supported them.

She lamented that excessive gambling, alcohol and drug abuse had left too many children “to their own devices” in Alice Springs these days.

“I think it’s gone a bit backwards in terms of the opportunities for children,” she said.

Paige Taylor

 

NACCHO Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health News Alert : Joint Council recommends historic National Agreement on Closing the Gap to National Cabinet, the Australian Local Government Association and the Coalition of Peaks for signing

The Joint Council met this afternoon by teleconference to discuss the final details of the draft National Agreement on Closing the Gap. The Joint Council acknowledged the work between Australian governments, the Australian Local Government Association and the Coalition of Peaks to negotiate the historic agreement.

This is the first National Agreement of its kind that will be signed by Australian governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, represented by the Coalition of Peaks. It has been developed in genuine partnership between all parties.

“We are making history,” said Pat Turner AM, Lead Convener of the Coalition of Peaks; CEO of NACCHO and Co-Chair of the Joint Council. “I’m proud to say that we are in the home stretch of bringing this historic National Agreement to light.”

“A real game changer for this next phase of Closing the Gap is that the expertise and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on what works and what is needed is at the centre,” Ms Turner said.

The draft National Agreement is informed by a comprehensive engagement process, led by the Coalition of Peaks, in late 2019 with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country on what should be included.

“The draft National Agreement does not include everything that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want, but I know that we have pushed governments in their commitments because the Coalition of Peaks have been at the table. There is a significant difference from what governments alone were prepared to commit to in December 2018 and where we are now. That change has come about because of the work of the Coalition of Peaks.”

The draft National Agreement sets a strategy to close the gap that is strongly based on, and underpinned by, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ priorities. It is built around four new Priority Reforms about transforming the way governments work with and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in order to improve outcomes. The Priority Reforms were overwhelmingly supported during the engagements.

The 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 focus areas.

3. Ensuring all mainstream government agencies and institutions undertake systemic and structural transformation to contribute to Closing the Gap, improve accountability and respond to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

4. Ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to, and the capability to use, relevant data and information to monitor the implementation of the Priority Reforms, the Closing the Gap targets and drive local priorities.

The draft National Agreement includes commitments to tangible actions from all governments to change the way they work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and give effect to the four Priority Reforms. All four Priority Reforms will have a target to measure government action in these areas.

The draft National Agreement also establishes 16 national socio-economic targets in areas including education, employment, health and wellbeing, justice, safety, housing, land and waters, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. The targets will help to monitor progress in improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“The Coalition of Peaks have always said that targets alone do not drive change. We have seen this from the past 10 years. It is the full implementation of the Priority Reforms that will make the difference to our peoples’ lives. This is where we need to focus governments to focus and this is exactly what the new National Agreement will do,” Ms Turner said.

“The Joint Council considered the ambition of the closing the gap targets in the draft National Agreement and agreed that parity of outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians is the only acceptable outcome.”

“Expected parity dates are not fixed dates. If governments implement the Priority Reforms in full and invest in the outcome areas of health, education, employment and housing, parity will be achieved earlier,” Ms Turner said.

The National Agreement includes new engagement and accountability mechanisms that mean jurisdictions will work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to implement the Agreement. All parties to the National Agreement are fully committed to the outcomes of the Agreement.

“This new National Agreement has the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of our people and has the potential to establish a strong policy foundation to finally give effect to what our people have been saying is needed, for a long time, to close the gaps,” Ms Turner said.

About the Joint Council

The Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap establishes a Joint Ministerial and Coalition of Peaks Council on Closing the Gap (Joint Council) with members from the Coalition of Peaks, a Minister from each state and territory government and the Commonwealth government, and a representative from the Australian Local Government Association.

Its role is to support national leadership, coordination and cooperation on Closing the Gap and provide advice to First Ministers, the President of Local of Government Association, and the Coalition of Peaks.

The Joint Council communique is at: http://coalitionofpeaks.org.au/joint-council-communique-july-2020/

About the Coalition of Peaks The Coalition of Peaks is a representative body of around fifty Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled peak organisations and members. The Coalition of Peaks came together on their own as an act of self-determination to be formal partners with Australian governments on Closing the Gap.

Members are either national, state or territory wide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled peak bodies including certain independent statutory authorities. Their governing boards are elected by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and / or organisations.

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

 Third Meeting of the Joint Council on Closing the Gap

3 July 2020, Communiqué

The Joint Council acknowledged the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the many lands, waters and rivers that members joined from, and paid their respects to Elders past and present. The previous meeting was on 23 August 2019 in Adelaide.

National Agreement on Closing the Gap

The Joint Council acknowledged the work between Australian governments, the Australian Local Government Association and the Coalition of Peaks to negotiate the draft National Agreement on Closing the Gap which was considered in detail today.

The Joint Council is proud to recommend the National Agreement on Closing the Gap to First Ministers, the President of the Australia Local Government Association and the Coalition of the Peaks for agreement and signature.

This is an historic National Agreement. It was developed in genuine partnership between the Commonwealth, the Coalition of Peaks, State and Territory governments and the Australian Local Government Association. It is the first time a National Agreement designed to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been developed and negotiated with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The National Agreement is based on, and underpinned by, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ priorities. It is built around four new Priority Reforms that will change the way governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

All governments have committed to tangible actions to change the way they work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and give effect to the four Priority Reforms. All four Priority Reforms will have a target to measure government action in these areas.

The 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 focus areas
  3. Ensuring all mainstream government agencies and institutions undertake systemic and structural transformation to contribute to Closing the Gap, improve accountability and respond to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  4. Ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to, and the capability to use, locally relevant data and information to monitor the implementation of the Priority Reforms, the closing the gap targets and drive local priorities.

The draft National Agreement also establishes 16 national socio-economic targets in areas including education, employment, health and wellbeing, justice, safety, housing, land and waters, and languages. These build upon the draft targets of 2018. The targets will help to monitor progress in improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

It is our collective ambition to reach parity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians. The ambition of the targets take all governments beyond a business as usual approach and will require an increased effort by all parties. Expected parity dates are not fixed dates. With the full implementation of the Priority Reforms and a significant joint focus on the outcome areas, parity will be achieved earlier.

The National Agreement includes new engagement and accountability mechanisms that mean jurisdictions will work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to implement the Agreement. All parties to the National Agreement are fully committed to the outcomes of the Agreement and share ownership of those outcomes.

Engagement report

Joint Council welcomed the recently released ‘Report on engagements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to inform a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap’, published by the Coalition of Peaks on 24 June 2020. The report provides a comprehensive analysis of the outcomes of the historic engagements which took place between September and December 2019.

To support the full involvement and ownership of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in closing the gap, the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap is based on what Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have said is needed to improve outcomes. The Joint Council has reviewed the report on the engagements and is satisfied that the key outcomes are included in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

Members attending

Member Representing
The Hon Ken Wyatt MP (Co-chair) Commonwealth
Pat Turner AM (Co-chair) Coalition of Peaks
Muriel Bamblett AO Coalition of Peaks
Jamie Lowe Coalition of Peaks
Cindy Berwick Coalition of Peaks
Jill Gallagher Coalition of Peaks
Donella Mills Coalition of Peaks
Vicki O’Donnell Coalition of Peaks
David Warrener Coalition of Peaks
Katrina Fanning PSM Coalition of Peaks
John Paterson Coalition of Peaks
Ruth Miller Coalition of Peaks
Gabrielle Upton MP New South Wales
Gabrielle Williams MP Victoria
The Hon Craig Crawford MP Queensland
The Hon Ben Wyatt MLA Western Australia
The Hon Steven Marshall MP South Australia
The Hon Roger Jaensch MP Tasmania
Rachel Stephen-Smith MLA Australian Capital Territory
The Hon Selena Uibo MLA Northern Territory
Mayor David O’Loughlin Australian Local Government Association

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Cultural Heritage : Australia’s most powerful land councils have joined Indigenous leaders across Australia to try to force a moratorium on mining and other works that place cultural heritage sites at immediate risk

In an historic meeting held on the 17th June 2020, Aboriginal leaders from across Australia representing Aboriginal Land Councils, Native Title Representative Bodies and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Organisations expressed their outrage at the destruction of the 46,000 year-old heritage site at Juukan Gorge and vowed to pursue national reforms to prevent this from ever happening again.

Picture above Rock shelters in Juukan Gorge, in Western Australia’s Pilbara region.

The appalling conduct of Rio Tinto, one of the richest companies on earth, has created headlines and public outrage. It no longer deserves to be considered the leading miner in building positive relationships with Aboriginal peoples in Australia.

However, sadly it is not just Rio Tinto and many similar incidents have been taking place across Australia for decades. Moreover, as immoral as it was, the destruction of Juukan Gorge does not appear to have been illegal and more destruction across Australia is contemplated under the current legislative regimes.

We find ourselves in this situation because governments, of both political persuasions and at all levels, have rarely been prepared to put the protection of Aboriginal heritage ahead of development and in the past 20 years, other than in the rarest of cases.

They have let their legislation, supposedly to protect our heritage, to fall into disuse or to focus on regulating destruction, rather than protecting, enhancing and educating about our living cultures unique to this country.

This is no way to protect the oldest living culture on earth. Politicians mention this regularly but when the crunch comes, they have not been prepared to protect it. Meanwhile, they are slow moving or refuse to change archaic and paternalistic laws.

While the Federal Environment Minister has the power to issue emergency declarations under the the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act, this is rarely ever done. It failed again in respect to Juukan Gorge.

Our leaders agree this cannot continue and intend on fighting back. Not only should the lives of our people matter as much as those of non-Indigenous Australians, but our heritage and culture should also be equally important.

We are determined to work together to develop a united national approach to this serious problem and insist all governments at all levels work with us to develop and implement reforms led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. Governments must partner with us to develop best practice standards and implement broader reforms that support self-determination.

The National Native Title Council (NNTC) also briefed leaders on their important work to achieve reform to date.

In the meantime, all governments are asked not to make any decisions that will damage our heritage sites. This is particularly important for Western Australia which has a disgraceful record of heritage protection and where there are other sites in the Pilbara under immediate threat. Our leaders will work together to support Traditional Owners who are facing threats to their heritage sites and pursue all legal and political avenues should it be necessary.

A network is being put in place to make sure Aboriginal Land Councils, Native Title Representative Bodies and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Organisations are communicating across the nation to make sure that they alert one another to any threats and to allow for national action to be taken.

Importantly, our leaders propose to meet with responsible Ministers from the Commonwealth, States and Territories as soon as possible to discuss a process for reviewing heritage protection legislation across Australia, to engage with our communities and Traditional Owners about what they want to see in these laws, and to jointly design with Ministers a new system that will make sure that an incident like what happened at Juukan Gorge never happens again.

Our communities want laws that are based on the principles of empowerment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to make decisions on our own cultural heritage, self- determination, First Nations decision making, greater transparency and free, prior and informed consent

First Nations cultural heritage is 65,000 years of culture and history that must be protected for all future generations, for all Australians. We urge people from all backgrounds and all sections of Australian society to support our call for greater protection of Australia’s cultural heritage

The following organisations and individuals support this communique:

·       NSW Aboriginal Land Council ·       National Native Title Council
·       Walalakoo Aboriginal Corporation ·       South Australian Native Title Services
·       NTSCorp ·       North Queensland Land Council
·       Native Title Services Goldfields ·       Professor Marcia Langton AM
·       Cape York Land Council ·       Dr Val Cooms
·       Central Land Council ·       Northern Land Council
·       Boonwurrung Land and Sea Council ·       Kimberley Land Council
·       First Nations Legal & Research Services ·       Balkanu Cape York Development Corporation
·       National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) ·       Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation
·       The Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations ·       South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council

 

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus Alert No 80 : June 12 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob : Message update from our NACCHO CEO Pat Turner on COVID-19 advice for #BlackLivesMatter protesters

“Mass gatherings where people are close together are high-risk for spreading COVID-19 ”

Pat Turner, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation

Download full press release here

“It has been recognised that COVID-19 poses a serious risk to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people due to higher levels of chronic conditions especially those aged 50 years and older.

“The specific advice of all health authorities is that while COVID-19 remains in Australia that everyone should take precautions including the social distancing and hygiene practices,” she said.

“People with coronavirus can spread the virus for at least 48 hours before showing symptoms. Those who attended the rally should take every precaution they can in terms of practical measures to protect themselves and their families.

“It is important you continue with social distancing, regular hand washing and cough hygiene. If you can, avoid contact with Elders and with people with chronic medical conditions as these people are at much higher risk of serious COVID-19 illness if they get infected.

If you develop even the mildest of symptoms, stay home and get a COVID-19 test. The symptoms that warrant a COVID-19 test include a sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, chills, night sweats or a temperature over 37.5°C.

“As per government’s health advice, people who marched don’t need to isolate unless they felt sick, in which case, they should get tested. The earlier we pick up infections, the quicker we can move to prevent further spread.”

Aboriginal Health and #BlackLivesMatter News Alerts : Aboriginal deaths in custody with commentary from Pat Turner , Helen Milroy , Marcia Langton , @KenWyattMP @David_Speers @GayaaDhuwi @pat_dudgeon @SenatorDodson

1.1 NACCHO COVID-19 advice to Black Lives Matter protesters.

1.2 VACCHO press release responding to a Black Lives Matter protester testing COVID-19 positive.

1.3 Aboriginal Deaths in custody : Black Lives Matter referred to 432 deaths : its now 437 !

2.Listen to Pat Turner podcast canvassing both causes and solutions, advocating major changes to the justice system.

3.Minister Ken Wyatt press release: Indigenous incarceration rates

4. Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia welcomes reports of Australian governments adopting Indigenous incarceration Closing the Gap targets.

5. View Senator Patrick Dodson speech plus download Senate debate Black lives Matter.

6.Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and hearing loss.

7. Watch Professor Marcia Langton AO and Black Lives Matter video.

8. ABC’s David Speers Black Lives Matter and slavery

1.1 NACCHO COVID-19 advice to Black Lives Matter protesters.

Click here for advice

1.2 VACCHO press release responding to a Black Lives Matter protester testing COVID-19 positive.

Last week, VACCHO supported a harm minimisation approach to the peaceful protests. We recognised that large crowds were likely to congregate in Melbourne’s CBD regardless of any discouragement.  We wanted to ensure those deciding to attend, could do this as safely as possible.

Our messaging to those who decided to go to the rally was loud and clear; say home if unwell or vulnerable, have chronic conditions, or care for anyone who does; be sensible and wear face masks, bring sanitisers and wash your hands; and maintain safe distance of 1.5 meters apart.

Today, Victoria’s Chief Health Officer, Brett Sutton, announced that a non-Aboriginal man in his thirties who attended the BLM rally held in Melbourne, has tested positive to COVID-19. Victoria reported another 7 cases overnight. These 7 cases are not linked or traced back to the rally.

Brett Sutton also advised that this man, who wore a mask at the rally, showed no symptoms Saturday. Mr Sutton reaffirmed that he was diagnosed 24 hours following the rally, meaning it was ‘highly unlikely’ that he caught the virus there.

Normally people show symptoms 4-6 days after being exposed to the virus. Currently, 179 of the 1,699 cases of COVID-19 are linked to cases of community transmission in Victoria which are unable to be traced back to a known source.

Read full Press Release HERE

1.3 Aboriginal Deaths in custody : Black Lives Matter referred to 432 deaths : its now 437 !

Last weekend, Black Lives Matter protests brought thousands on to the streets campaigning for an end to Aboriginal deaths in custody.

Many signs at rallies referred to the 432 deaths that are known to have happened since the royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody delivered its final report in 1991.

That figure is based on Guardian Australia’s findings from a two-year long project to monitor Aboriginal deaths in custody, Deaths Inside.

We updated the database and published new results on Saturday. We found the number had risen to 434.

But by Saturday morning even that number was already out of date. Just before marches began in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and towns around the country, the department of corrective services in Western Australia confirmed that a 40-year-old Aboriginal man had died in custody at Acacia prison, near Perth.

Read full article HERE

2.Listen to Pat Turner podcast canvassing both causes and solutions, advocating major changes to the justice system

Pat Turner, for decades a strong Aboriginal voice, is the lead convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, which brings together about 50 Indigenous community peak organisations. In this role she is part of the negotiations for a new agreement on Closing the Gap targets.

Unlike the original Rudd government targets, the refreshed Closing the Gap agreement, soon to be finalised, will set out targets for progress on justice and housing.

But the issue is, how much progress should be the aim?

Read this Pat Turner interview HERE

“We want to push the percentages of achievement much higher, but we are in a consensus decision-making process with governments … what the targets will reflect is what the governments themselves are prepared to commit to,” Turner says.

The Australian Black Lives Matter marches have focused attention on the very high rates of incarceration of Aboriginal people, often for trivial matters.

In this podcast Turner canvasses both causes and solutions, advocating major changes to the justice system.

She points to “huge issues with drug and alcohol abuse”, with inadequate resourcing to deal with these problems.

She urges reform for sentencing arrangements for those charged with minor offences, criticising a system which imprisons people who cannot pay fines, or post bail. “It would be less expensive overall for the jurisdictions, and it would more beneficial to the community [if those people weren’t in prison]”. And she identifies the “the over-incarceration of women [as] a major concern.”

Among the changes needed, she says, is better training of police.

“Now I’m not saying that all the police behave badly – we have got outstanding examples of how the police work with our communities.” But “we just can’t wait for ad hoc ‘good guys’ to come out of the system and engage properly – we need wholesale reform of the police departments.”

Listen Here

3.Minister Ken Wyatt press release: Indigenous incarceration rates

” The Federal  Government is progressing with the Closing the Gap refresh in partnership with the Coalition of Peaks, and while we’re still in final negotiations, it has been agreed that there will be justice targets contained within that agreement that focus on incarceration rates.

What’s important is that this Agreement has been developed in Partnership with Indigenous Australians and so we’re all working towards better outcomes for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

I will keep on working to empower Indigenous Australians – improve health, education and employment outcomes – and reduce the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in custody.

Minister Ken Wyatt Press Release:

Every death in custody is a tragedy.

Unfortunately, there is no simple solution and no single answer.

Through all the work I do as Minister for Indigenous Australian we’re working to address the factors that contribute to high incarceration rates – these include health, education and employment outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

If we want to reduce the number of deaths in custody we need to look very closely at what’s happening here in Australia – the factors contributing to incarceration rates and the way in which our systems are handling these incidents – this requires a co-operative approach between government and with communities, particularly when States and Territories hold the policies and levers relating to policing and justice matters.

The relationship between Indigenous Australians and the police, both the good and the bad, in respective jurisdictions must also be examined.

The Morrison Government, through the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA), is playing a key role in ensuring that there are additional protections in place for individuals when they are taken into custody through the Custody Notification System (CNS).

But we also need to remember that reducing the number of Indigenous people in contact with the justice system, through addressing the underlying factors that lead to offending, is just as key in addressing the number of deaths in custody.

So we should be looking at these things every day – that’s why we fund a range of activities to complement State and Territories to improve justice and community safety outcomes for Indigenous Australians.

It takes more than money – it takes commitment – it takes listening and understanding, and it takes us working together.

4. Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia welcomes reports of Australian governments adopting Indigenous incarceration Closing the Gap targets.

Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia welcomed today’s reports of Australian governments adopting Indigenous incarceration Closing the Gap targets.

Noting that Indigenous Australians are almost ten times proportionally overrepresented in prison, Professor Tom Calma AO, Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia Patron, said:

The 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was a response to too many Indigenous Australians being in jail, and dying in jail and in police custody. That this crisis is worse, not better, in 2020 is a scandal.

The legacies of colonisation: structural racism, poverty and social exclusion are at the root of the high rates of imprisonment we suffer. All these must be addressed along with policing and sentencing reform as set out in the Australian Law Reform Commission’s 2018 Pathways to Justice Report.

But in the shorter term, we must also address the pathways to prison that the resulting untreated trauma, mental health and alcohol and drug problems create for our people.

Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia Chair Professor Helen Milroy continued:

We know that high rates of trauma, mental health issues and alcohol use are reported in Indigenous prisoners at the time of their offending, but also that – for many – prison is the first time they get any kind of mental health or other support. Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia calls on Australian governments to work together with us to develop a comprehensive mental health focused, justice reinvestment based strategic response to reducing Indigenous imprisonment rates.

This would feature integrated communitybased mental health, AOD and diversionary programs, continuing mental health support in prison, and – upon release – continuity of care to prevent recidivism and to support the reintegration of our people back into our families and communities.

Professor Pat Dudgeon, National Director of the Centre of Best Practice in Indigenous Suicide Prevention and Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia director, added:

Black lives do matter. And in addition to other causes of death in custody, we know that both the stress of pending court cases and the challenges of post-release life contributes to suicides among us, something often forgotten by policy makers. It is critical that diversionary programs and Indigenous prisoner mental health support are also considered within integrated approaches to suicide prevention among us.

Professor Calma closed by stating:

Over a decade ago as Social Justice Commissioner, I called for the development of Closing the Gap targets to reduce our incarceration rates, and for a justice reinvestment approach to doing so.

I repeat these calls today. Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Australia aims to implement the Gayaa Dhuwi (Proud Spirit) Declaration’s Vision of Indigenous leadership delivering the best possible mental health system and standard of mental health to Indigenous Australians.

The organisation stands ready to lead and partner with stakeholders and Australian governments to develop a comprehensive mental health based strategic response to help close the imprisonment rate gap.

5. View Senator Patrick Dodson speech plus download Senate debate Black Lives Matter

Download Senate debate Black lives Matter

Black lives matter debate in Senate

6.Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and hearing loss

Download Report HERE

Hearing Loss

Read previous other report HERE 

7. Watch Professor Marcia Langton AO and Black Lives Matter video.

8. ABC’s David Speers Black Lives Matter and slavery

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

Aboriginal leaders are pushing for more ambition across all categories in the Closing the Gap refresh, including health, education, economic development and housing.

The 2018 draft agreement was “totally inadequate”and governments should be prepared to spend more money to meet ambitious targets rather than propose modest goals.

The Rudd government’s Closing the Gap initiative failed because of a lack of funding.

We have now got a national agreement very close to finalisation except the ambition of governments is very slack at the moment

We want to achieve parity across the board but unless governments invest correctly in the achievement of the targets, then it is going to be extremely difficult to (meet) them. There will be some movement (on the draft 2018 targets) but I don’t think it will be enough.

It would be the wrong lesson to adopt less-ambitious targets because of the failure to hit the ambitions set by Kevin Rudd in 2008.

There needed to be more control given to peak Aboriginal bodies to roll out the programs and control the funding.

We should be running our own affairs in this day and age.We don’t need bureaucrats to tell us what to do.

We want realistic targets. We don’t want what suits the bureaucracy. The money that has been spent to date has largely been eaten up by overly bureaucratic processes and very little of it hits the ground where it is most needed.”

Pat Turner NACCHO CEO and the Lead Convener  Coalition of Peaks  for the Closing the Gap “refresh

Full story front page of the Australian 9 June

Read previous NACCHO posts for Coalition of Peaks

More ambitious targets to reduce the number of Aboriginal Australians in jail will be put to state and territory governments as part of an overhaul of the Closing the Gap program to reduce Indigenous disadvantage.

Morrison government sources confirmed the commonwealth would scrap a draft agreement to reduce the rate of young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in prisons by up to 19 per cent by 2028.

It will instead take a higher target to the states next month after thousands of protesters took to the streets to express their anger over indigenous incarceration rates and deaths in custody.

Officials from state and federal departments will meet Aboriginal representatives including Pat Turner, the chief indigenous negotiator for the Closing the Gap “refresh”, on Tuesday before a meeting of state and territory leaders to decide on the stricter targets on July 2.

Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody in 1991, the rate at which indigenous people have died in jail as a percentage of the Aboriginal prison population has fallen and is now lower than for the non-indigenous prison population, according to data from both the Australian Institute of Criminology and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

But the number of indigenous people in the prison system has increased from 19 per cent in 2000 to nearly 30 per cent in March this year, according to ABS figures. There are now 12,900 indigenous people in prisons, out of a total prison population of 44,159.

Indigenous people made up almost 3 per cent of the population at the 2016 census

Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt is pushing for each state and territory to adopt specific incarceration targets, according to sources close to negotiations. The new targets will be more ambitious than the draft Closing the Gap target, released in December 2018, for a 5 per cent decline in the incarceration rate among adults and an 11 to 19 per cent reduction among youths.

The high rate of indigenous incarceration and associated frequency of deaths in custody were seized on by Australian Black Lives Matter protesters at the weekend marches, which fuelled a backlash over the breaching of coronavirus social-distancing restrictions.

Mr Wyatt declined to comment on the new targets but told The Australian he was “working to address the factors that contribute to high incarceration rates (including) health, education and employment”.

“If we want to reduce the number of deaths in custody, we need to look very closely at what’s happening here in Australia — the factors contributing to incarceration rates and the way in which our systems are handling these incidents,” Mr Wyatt said.

“This requires a co-operative approach between government and with communities, particularly when states and territories hold the policies and levers relating to policing and justice matters.

“It takes more than money; it takes an iron-stead commitment; it takes listening and understanding; and it takes us working together. The Morrison government is progressing with the Closing the Gap refresh in partnership with the Coalition of Peaks, and while we’re still in final negotiations, there will be a justice target contained within that agreement.”

The 2018 draft targets included: 65 per cent of indigenous youth (15-24 years) to be in employment, training or eduction by 2028; 60 per cent of Aboriginal Australians aged 25-64 to be in work; and 82 per cent to live in appropriate-sized housing by 2028.

Just two of the seven Closing the Gap targets set in 2008 — early childhood education and Year 12 attainment — were achieved. Ambitions failed in targets for school attendance, child mortality, employment, life expectancy and literacy and numeracy targets.

A report by the Productivity Commission estimated state and federal governments spent $33.4bn on services for indigenous Australians in the 2016 financial year, up from $27bn (in 2016 dollars) in 2009.

The direct government expenditure per Aboriginal Australian was $44,886 in 2016, compared with $22,356 on non-indigenous Australians.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #Coronavirus and #ReconciliationWeek News Alert : Read full speech from our CEO Pat Turner launching #NRW2020 #InthisTogether and new @coalition_peaks website #COP #ClosetheGap

” I truly believe that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to be impacted by the legacy of colonisation in every aspect of our lives.

But what also continues is our resilience amidst the adversity we face.

When we face adversity together, we see stronger outcomes.

Accordingly, today I would like to talk about the topic of ‘In This Together’.

I would like to focus on four aspects of what togetherness looks like currently for our people — aspects that we can and must build upon.

First, I want you all to know about how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations came together from across the nation to form the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled Peak Organisations.

Second, I want to discuss the unprecedented opportunity we have for genuine shared decision-making in the Partnership Agreement between the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the Coalition of Peaks.

Third, I want to alert you to the negotiations now underway to finalise a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, which came out of the Partnership Agreement that also advances this idea of ‘In this Together’.

Fourth, without engaging in any premature celebrations whatsoever, as we still have a long way to go, I will talk about the strong, coordinated work of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations that have come together from across Australia to successfully protect our people from to COVID-19.

I will then bring together the four — how the work of the Coalition of Peaks can help in optimising the health and wellbeing of our people and communities amidst the impacts of the pandemic.

NACCHO CEO Pat Turner opening Reconciliation SA’s Reconciliation Week Breakfast May 27 see full speech Part 1 below

Download full event PowerPoint

Combined Power Point NRW MAY 2020 event (1)

In addition to the website, the Coalition of Peaks is also launching social media accounts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Coalition of Peaks new website : 

Facebook: 

Instagram:

Twitter

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and organisations are encouraged to engage with and share the work of the Coalition of Peaks

Download full press release HERE

20.05.27 – Final – Media Release – Coalition of Peaks Website and Social Media Launch

Good morning everyone, thank you for inviting me here today.

My name is Pat Turner, and I am the daughter of an Arrente man and a Gurdanji woman.

I am also the CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), and the Lead Convener of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled Peak organisations.

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

I am speaking to you from Canberra, which is Ngunnawal country.

I also want to acknowledge and thank Reconciliation South Australia for the opportunity to be the keynote speaker for your annual breakfast, in this case I assume the first ever virtual one.

Peter Buckskin, a co-chair of Reconciliation South Australia, and I worked together in ATSIC and he has made a great contribution to improving life outcomes for our people. Meanwhile, Shona Reid is Eastern Arrente, and like me we can both trace our ancestry back to Central Australia with pride.

Number one – Coalition of Peaks

Read all NACCHO Coalition of Peaks Articles 

Our people have lived in a climatically harsh country for more than sixty thousand years, which has required great knowledge and custodianship of the environment and close cooperation between our people to succeed.

This cooperation continues to be evident in our recent collaboration in forming the Coalition of Peaks to make sure that we share decision making in relation to Closing the Gap.

The Coalition of Peaks comprises nearly 50 national, State and Territory community-controlled Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations.

This is every community-controlled peak organisation in Australia.  They include NACCHO, SNAICC – National Voice for our Children, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, First Peoples Disability Network and First Nations Media Australia.

The Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement has led South Australia’s involvement in the Coalition of Peaks.  To its credit, it has facilitated the establishment of the South Australian Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation Network that has brought together other Aboriginal peaks in South Australia to work together at the state level.

Never have community controlled peak bodies and organisations come together in this way – to develop policy and negotiate with governments.

Number two – The Partnership Agreement between the Coalition of Peaks and COAG

The historic Partnership Agreement, which commenced in March 2019 and is a public document, was also an initiative of the Coalition of Peaks.  Of most importance is that the signatories are COAG and the Coalition of Peaks – that is, legitimately appointed community representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities from across Australia.

We proposed the Partnership Agreement after gaining the support of the Prime Minister and the Council of Australian Governments to a partnership being formed with representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to underpin the next phase of Closing the Gap.

Prior to this, COAG had decided on its own to refresh the Closing the Gap strategy that was originally agreed to in 2008 and given effect to by the National Indigenous Reform Agreement.

To do this refresh, in 2018 COAG undertook a series of consultations with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia — which were inadequate and lacked transparency.

While the rhetoric was about partnership, there was no real commitment to it and the refresh was proceeding on the basis that COAG would make all the decisions.

To be frank, at this point in time, we did not consider we were ‘In This Together’ with them.
NACCHO and other community-controlled peaks decided that this could not continue and took a risk in publicly insisting that we be able to share decisions about the Closing the Gap strategy instead of COAG making decisions on its own.

We wrote to all First Ministers to put forward three (3) main propositions—

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 decision making.

Under the Partnership Agreement, the Coalition of Peaks are already sharing decision making on developing, implementing, monitoring and reviewing the Closing the Gap strategy for the next ten years.

A new COAG Council, the Joint Council on Closing the Gap, is also established under the Partnership Agreement.

For the first time, this COAG Council has members from outside Governments.  In fact, it has 12 members elected from the Coalition of Peaks including a representative from each jurisdiction.  Ruth Miller is the representative for South Australia.

In addition, each jurisdiction nominates a Minister with responsibilities for Closing the Gap.  It is co-chaired by the Federal Minister, Minister Wyatt, and me.

Number 3 – the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap

Following a review of the National Indigenous Reform Agreement, the Joint Council on Closing the Gap agreed that it should be replaced with a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

Joint Council also agreed that the new Agreement should not only be signed by First Ministers but also the Coalition of Peaks on behalf of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.   That is incredibly significant for our people and for Australia.

Once in place, the National Agreement will be a platform to address the structural inequalities Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face arising from years of unmet need.

Instead of targets being the focus, which was the case with the National Indigenous Reform Agreement, the Coalition of Peaks have also gained support from the Joint Council and all Governments that four priority reforms will underpin the new National Agreement.  These are:

  • establishing formal partnerships between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives across the country on closing the gap
  • building and strengthening our community-controlled organisations to deliver the services we need
  • transforming mainstream agencies and institutions of governments, such as the police and universities, to make a much bigger contribution to Closing the Gap; and
  • ensuring government data and information is shared with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities to support us being able to make good decisions about our lives.

Finally, Joint Council also agreed to the Coalition of Peaks leading engagements with representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia to see what they thought about the priority reforms and what else should be included in the new National Agreement.

Those engagements took place between September and December last year including in South Australia and included an online survey and over 4000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had a say.

We have published the outcomes of those engagements and are making sure that what people said is reflected in the Agreement currently being negotiated with COAG.

Number 4 – Our ACCHO’s and communities’ coordinated COVID-19 response

I would also like to speak on our ACCHO’s and communities’ coordinated COVID-19 response.

Only three months ago the Prime Minister announced to the nation that last year the gap in infant mortality rates between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians increased.

In the three months since then COVID-19 has been a whole new stark reminder to us all just how vulnerable the health of our people is.

We have been reminded of the significantly greater risk we face of being profoundly impacted due to the pre-existing co-morbidities many of us battle.

The pandemic has highlighted the fault lines of disadvantage endured by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for generations, from health and education to housing.

Overcrowded housing, poverty and other social determinants are the root cause of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples being at high risk from pandemics and other communicable diseases.

The pandemic has exposed what we have been advocating for decades – better and less crowded housing for our people.

Overcrowding makes self-isolation and stopping the spread of a virus incredibly difficult, if not impossible.

NACCHO continues to advocate for greater federal, state and territory investment in housing for our people, and for housing initiatives to be developed in genuine partnership with us.

And as we know, there will be long term social, economic, health and cultural costs of the pandemic.

The risk facing our communities is a direct result of years of neglect, disinvestment and failed policies and programs that have been developed without our input.

But our organisations and communities are best placed to respond to this crisis and to drive progress towards the longer-term priority of closing of the gap in life outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

The Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Sector began actively preparing to respond to a possible COVID-19 outbreak in January 2020, in advance of the public response by the government. As a result, many of our ACCHOs had a level of preparedness prior to the pandemic which many general practices could not match.

This pandemic has demonstrated the community-controlled health sector collaborates extremely well, and the high level of information sharing and joint decision making must continue into the future.

Throughout the pandemic, the Government has been committed to taking the advice of our community controlled health sector, and listening to the recommendations of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group on COVID-19 to implement response plans to keep our mob safe.

Those of our organisations with strong existing partnerships with governments have been able to respond quickly to the threat of COVID-19.

Well-established and properly funded community-controlled organisations across numerous sectors have been able to accelerate measures that support our communities.

One example is the formal relationship between governments and Aboriginal Peaks Organisations in the Northern Territory (APONT) and the Aboriginal Advisory Council of Western Australia, which has enabled an informed response to the needs of our remote communities impacted by the swift travel restrictions out in place.

Other examples include —

First Nation’s media sector has been able to get health information out quickly in a way that people can understand

The New South Wales Coalition of Peaks has supported our young people to stay engaged in their education and make sure our older people have access to food, and

The Victorian Aboriginal Executive Council is working to make sure our kids continue to have access to safe early childhood services.

What NACCHO and our Affiliates and ACCHOs have been doing

Click on the above map to see full list of all NACCHO Members 

During these past few months ACCHOs have once again proven themselves to be the best in the business at —

  • knowing our people
  • our people feeling safe to access our services
  • being a well-established sector
  • having strong formal relationships with government

Together, collectively and nationally, as a sector we have been able to respond quickly and decisively to protect our people.

This is despite our ACCHOs and other Aboriginal community-controlled organisations having borne the brunt of repeated funding cuts and a roller coaster of policy and administration changes.

As soon as it became evident in January just how deadly the COVID-19 virus was, well in advance of the Commonwealth response, NACCHO, our Affiliates and Members initiated awareness campaigns for our communities and planning for prevention and response.

Before the first case of coronavirus in Australia our communities were preparing to close borders, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts were discussing measures needed to protect our mob across the nation.

In January I began sending COVID-19 health messages to all our Affiliates and ACCHOs, with gave me the opportunity to ask them how prepared they felt they were for the impending pandemic.

It was clear there were PPE shortages in many clinics, and concerns around how to prepare a pandemic response — including quarantine measures.

ACCHOs are barely funded for their regular day to day activities, let alone for a pandemic response.

I discussed options with the Department of Health for ways additional funding for ACCHOs and Affiliates to support the preparation of pandemic plans.

The government was receptive of the advice I provided and allocated $6.9 million to NACCHO and Affiliates to prepare a pandemic response and $5 million to assist remote communities prepare for COVID-19.

I also wrote to the Prime Minister on 16 March to propose a range of specific measures which needed to be taken to protect our communities.

The government again responded positively from the outset, and this spirit of collaboration has been crucial to our successful response to the pandemic.

With our Affiliates and ACCHOs in WA, the NT and QLD I strongly argued for the immediate application of travel restrictions and quarantine measures to protect our people and communities, and for urgent additional support to be deployed to Affiliates and ACCHOs to combat the virus.

I continue to pursue funding for quarantine/isolation facilities for remote, urban and regional communities which will be critical if we are going to properly manage an outbreak in our communities.

NACCHO has been sharing important public health messages and culturally appropriate COVID-19 news alerts and posts on our blog and across all social media platforms, and launched a dedicated COVID-19 website page.

And our Affiliates and ACCHOs — they have initiated their own creative and innovative awareness campaigns for our communities in January.

These campaigns have been successful because they were created by Aboriginal people, health groups and organisations for Aboriginal people and communities.

ACCHOs are busily facilitating phone consults, home visits to Elders and those self-isolating and seeing some patients at the clinic for flu vaccinations.

All the while, despite staff and equipment shortages and the challenges of working in a restricted environment due to lockdown, our ACCHOs have not wavered from treating those in our communities with chronic conditions as they continue to provide their comprehensive primary health services to their communities.

Up to now, as a sector, together, we have done exceptionally well, keeping infections out of our communities.

As of 3 May 2020, only fifty-five cases (0.8% of all cases tested) have been people identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.

There have been absolutely no cases in our remote or very remote communities.

But, as stated earlier, there is a long way to go.

NACCHO and our Affiliates will continue to work collaboratively with the different tiers of government throughout this crisis, including pointing out the danger of moving too quickly to relax restrictions without a clear roadmap.

Conclusion

Despite the tireless work of our ACCHOs and other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, there is a clear absence in this time of crisis of a national policy platform for governments to systemically re-build our communities and address the inequities too many of our people continue to face.

There is also a clear absence of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander national body for pooling collective expertise to work in partnership with governments to respond to the impacts of the pandemic.

It is because of this policy and process vacuum that the Coalition of Peaks was formed and why we have been continuing our work, in partnership with Australian governments, to chart a meaningful way forward, across a range of sectors and initiatives for bringing about real, sustained change.

The new National Agreement and the Coalition of Peaks will be crucial to rebuilding our communities post-pandemic.

The federal, state, territory and local governments must continue to work in full partnership with the Coalition of Peaks as a collective and as individual members to ensure that we emerge from this crisis stronger.

And, I must add, this pandemic cannot and should not be used by anyone as a reason to delay the finalisation of the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap.

The pandemic has disrupted governments, but it has disrupted us also.  Community-controlled organisations, including in health, have had to face much bigger workloads.  Nevertheless, we have continued to work to finalise the National Agreement and we expect governments to do the same.

Our response to the pandemic can and must galvanise our collective efforts and sharpen our focus to the task of closing the gap.

The National Agreement must be sorted by mid-July and I am confident this is achievable.  If it isn’t, we risk the Agreement being put on the “never- never” because of upcoming elections in jurisdictions like Queensland and the Northern Territory and because governments will be pre-occupied with their delayed budgets.

I ask  all participants in this virtual Breakfast, and in fact make a call to Australia, that everyone support the leadership of the Coalition of Peaks, made up of our own community controlled organisations, in achieving a new Closing the Gap agreement.

There is no better demonstration or more important priority for being ‘In This Together’.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #ReconciliationWeek : @RecAustralia #NRW2020 Virtual events this week speakers include : @NACCHOChair Donnella Mills CEO Pat Turner @KenWyattMP @LindaBurneyMP @mdavisqlder @SummerMayFinlay Pat Anderson Karen Mundine Dean Parkin Fiona McLeod Larissa Behrendt

1. National Sorry Day Tuesday 26 May

2. Photos from the Uluru Convention: Special Online Event! 26 May .

3. Reconciliation SA presents Patricia Turner AM, CEO NACCHO to provide a keynote session : May 27

4.National Reconciliation Week 2020 #NRW2020 ” Conversations from The Heart ” #UluruStatement May 27

5. NRW launch: National Acknowledgement of Country 12pm* 27 May 

6. 20 years on: Crossing Bridges for Reconciliation : 12pm – 1pm* Thursday 28 May 

7.For resources CLICK on this banner 

1.National Sorry Day Tuesday 26 May

Today is National Sorry Day and it marks 23 years since the tabling of the Bringing Them Home report.

Listen to the voices of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and children and find resources and toolkits from HERE 

2.”Photos from the Uluru Convention” Special Online Event! 26 May .

“Photos from the Uluru Convention” Special Online Event! 26 May 2020 5:30-6:30 pm.

Wayne Bergmann in conversation with Pat Anderson AO, @mdavisqlder, @Gabrielle_J_A, @SallyScales & Jimmy Widders Hunt. #UluruStatement #auslaw #IndigenousX

Register at:

3. Reconciliation SA is excited to have Patricia Turner AM, CEO NACCHO to provide a keynote session : May 27 Tickets close today May 26 at midday 

Uncle Bunna Lawrie to provide some musical inspiration at this years Reconciliation SA Virtual Breakfast.

Tickets on sale now and will close on midday 26 May 2020.

4.National Reconciliation Week 2020 #NRW2020 ” Conversations from The Heart ” #UluruStatement featuring Professor Megan Davis, Dean Parkin, Donnella Mills & Fiona McLeod AO SC

We will delve into what constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples might look like, the mechanics of constitutional reform, what reconciliation means for all Australians and the progress made, as well as what the justice system looks like on the frontline for First Australians.

Please join us for what will be an engaging, thought-provoking and memorable conversation.

Wednesday 27 May 2020
12.30pm to 1.30pm AEST

Webinar
Details to be sent the day prior to acceptances only

Please note to register replace the ” Donnella Mills ” info on the form with your own info 

REGISTER HERE

5.NRW launch: National Acknowledgement of Country 12pm* Wednesday 27 May 2020 

To launch NRW 2020 we are asking everyone to take to social media to acknowledge Country. We can’t be physically together to show respect but we can show respect to Country where we are.

On the first day of NRW, take the time to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the Land that you are on, wherever you are.

Choose your social media platform – or the privacy of your own space – to pay your respects.

Consult the AIATSIS Map of Indigenous Australia for a guide to the Traditional Owners of the Land you are on, and tag the Traditional Owners and/or your own mob plus #InThisTogether2020 #NRW2020

 6.20 years on: Crossing Bridges for Reconciliation : 12pm – 1pm* Thursday 28 May 2020 

20 years on is a panel discussion hosted by ABC Speaking Out’s Larissa Behrendt. Panel members will reflect on the bridge walks of 2000 and the role of reconciliation since that historic moment.

Featuring Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, The Hon Linda Burney MP, Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine and University of Wollongong Lecturer, Summer May Finlay.

Facebook Livestream on Reconciliation Australia and ABC Australia Facebook pages. The panel will be broadcast on Speaking Out, which can be heard on Radio National (Fridays at 8pm), ABC local Radio (Sundays at 9pm) and the ABC listen app.

7. In Concert Together 9pm -10pm* Friday 29 May 2020 ||

Reconciliation Australia and ABC bring you Busby Marou, Alice Skye and more in concert, hosted by Christine Anu on her National Evenings show on ABC Radio.

Tune into ABC Radio or the ABC listen app or watch on the Facebook Livestream on Reconciliation Australia, ABC Sydney or ABC Australia Facebook pages.

*All times are Australian Eastern Standard time.

For more event info and updates, check-out the National Reconciliation Week 2020 website. 

Aboriginal Health #CoronaVirus News Alert No 60 : May 13 #KeepOurMobSafe #OurJobProtectOurMob :#Closingthegap: Aboriginal groups say #coronavirus should not delay new targets

” The pandemic should not be used by governments as a reason to delay the new agreement on closing the gap targets, a coalition of more than 50 Aboriginal peak organisations has warned ahead of the next scheduled meeting in June.

The Coalition of Peaks said the “quick and decisive” efforts of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations has kept Covid-19 from devastating communities so far, and shows that strong partnerships with governments make a big difference to Aboriginal health and safety.

But the virus has exposed the inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people on many fronts, the lead convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Pat Turner, said.

“Covid-19 is a pathogen, but it is also a diagnostic test being run on Australia – and the results are not good,” Turner said. “

Indigenous organisations say their success with Covid-19 shows strong partnerships with governments make a big difference

Originally published in The Guardian

For info Coalition of Peaks website

While Australians over 65 are considered at high risk of suffering the worst effects of Covid-19, in Aboriginal communities, where there is a higher chronic disease burden, anyone over 50 is considered vulnerable.

“Covid-19 doesn’t discriminate so the gap in potential outcomes is a result of the structural inequity that exists in Australia,” Turner said.

“It is not natural occurrence but the direct result of years of neglect, disinvestment and failed policies, developed without our input.”

In March last year, Australian governments signed a historic partnership agreement with the Coalition of Peaks on closing the gap. They have since developed four reform priorities that are yet to be formally adopted.

“This pandemic has shown just how important those reforms are,” Turner said.

The reforms are to have greater Aboriginal involvement in decision making and service delivery at a national, regional and local level. There is also a commitment to making sure government agencies and institutions undertake systemic and structural transformation, and strengthening community-controlled organisations to deliver the services Aboriginal people need.

Scott Morrison has already committed $1.5m for the fourth priority – a data project to support evidence-based policy and decision making by Indigenous communities.

“Our organisations and communities are best placed to respond to this crisis and yet are the same organisations and communities that have borne the brunt of repeated funding cuts and a rollercoaster of policy and administration changes,” she said.

Turner also said the absence of an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander national body or voice to parliament, bringing its collective expertise to respond to Covid-19, was “stark” in its absence.

“People have labelled Covid-19 as some sort of great equaliser but, in reality, its impact is not shared equally,” she said.

“The truth is that there can be no equality until we work together to dismantle structural inequity. Collective will is the only real equaliser.”