NACCHO Aboriginal Health #RefreshTheCTGRefresh News : Dr @mperkinsnsw #ClosingtheGap failures are firmly rooted in racism and Nicholas Biddle From @ANU_CAEPR 4 lessons from 11 years of #ClosingtheGap reports

 

1. Some targets are easier than others

2. The life-expectancy measure is unpredictable

3. On-track one year, off-track the next

4. Indigenous Australians in the city and country have different needs

5.Closing the Gap Failures are firmly rooted in racism

” Scott Morrison last week became the fifth prime minister to deliver a Closing the Gap report to parliament – the 11th since the strategy began in 2008. Closing the Gap has aimed to reduce disadvantage among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with particular respect to life expectancy, child mortality, access to early childhood education, educational achievement and employment outcomes.

Almost every time a prime minister delivers the report, he or she states the need to move on from a deficits approach.

Which is exactly what Morrison did this time. But he also did something different. Four of the seven targets set in 2008 were due to expire in 2018.

So last year, the government developed the Closing the Gap Refresh – where targets would be updated in partnership with Indigenous people.

Nicholas Biddle ANU : Four lessons from 11 years of Closing the Gap reports : See in full Part 1 Below 

Read NACCHO Closing the Gap response and download the report

” Once again, minimal progress has been made towards closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage.

Racism has been mentioned as an issue, but exactly how does racism make a contribution to this “unforgivable” state of affairs ?.

The answer is in the criminal justice system. Studies have shown mass incarceration has a profoundly negative effect on the health, education, and employment of families and communities-and Indigenous Australians are the most incarcerated group on Earth.

The US, the mother of all jailers imprisoned 655 people per 100,000 in 2018. Australia imprisoned 164 non Indigenous people and 2481 Indigenous people per 100,000. Western Australian imprisoned 3663 Aboriginal people per 100,000.

In 1991, when the report on Aboriginal Deaths in Custody was handed down, 14% of all prisoners were First Nations people.  By last year, the figure was 28%. ”

Lesson 5 Dr Meg Perkins is a registered psychologist, researcher and writer : See Part 2 Below

First Published in The Conversation 

The current report and the work leading up to it has led to new targets, such as a “significant and sustained progress to eliminate the over-representation of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care” and old targets framed differently.

For example, the headline new outcome for families, children and youth is that “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children thrive in their early years”. This is on top of more specific targets such as having 95% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander four-years-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025 – which this year is on track.


Read more: Closing the Gap is failing and needs a radical overhaul


Looking back on the past 11 years, there are several things we’ve learned. This includes those targets that seem easiest to meet, as well changes in the demographics of the population that complicate the measuring of the targets. Below are three lessons from the last decade of the policy.

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1. Some targets are easier than others

The targets where there has been some success tend to be those where government has more direct control. Consider the Year 12 attainment compared to the employment targets. To increase the proportion of Indigenous Australians completing year 12, the Commonwealth government can change the income support system to create incentives to not leave school, while state and territory governments can adjust the school leaving age.

That is not to downplay the efforts of parents, teachers, community leaders, and the students themselves. But, there are some direct policy levers.

To improve employment outcomes, on the other hand, discrimination among employers needs to be reduced, human capital levels increased, jobs need to be in areas where Indigenous people live and to match the skills and experiences of the Indigenous population. These are solvable policy problems with the right settings and community engagement. But, they are substantially more complex.


Read more: Three reasons why the gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians aren’t closing


2. The life-expectancy measure is unpredictable

The main target has always been related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy. The 2019 report shows the target of closing the gap by 2031 is not on track.

Unfortunately, the life expectancy target is one of the more difficult to measure, as it uses multiple datasets that are potentially affected by different ways Indigenous people are counted in the census and changing levels of identification. The most recent estimates, based on data for 2015-17, are that life expectancy at birth is 71.6 years for Indigenous males and 75.6 years for Indigenous females.

While the gaps with the non-Indigenous population of 8.6 years and 7.8 years respectively are smaller than they were in 2010-12 (the previous estimates) the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and most demographers suggest extreme caution around the interpretation of this change. The ABS writes:

While the estimates in this release show a small improvement in life expectancy estimates and a reduction in the gap between 2010-2012 and 2015-2017, this improvement should be interpreted with considerable caution as the population composition has changed during this period.

More people have been identifying as being Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander over recent years. What’s more, the newly identified Indigenous people tend to have better outcomes on average (across health, education, and labour market outcomes) than those who were identified previously. This biases our estimates, making it appear there is more rapid progress than there might otherwise be.


Read more: Three charts on: the changing status of Indigenous Australians


The Closing the Gap framework was implicitly designed around improving the circumstances of the 2008 Indigenous population relative to the 2008 non-Indigenous population. However, both populations have changed substantially over the intervening years. There has been a growth of the non-Indigenous population due to international migration. It is hard to measure and track differences in changing populations.

3. On-track one year, off-track the next

There is also the yearly reporting cycle. The target of child mortality, for instance, no longer appears to be on track. This is despite it being on track in previous years. Yearly fluctuations make it hard to gauge the effectiveness of long-term policy settings.

For other indicators, such as employment, the data is available far less frequently than it could be, and we are less able to judge the effect of individual policies and interventions. Having said that, in my view, the sophistication and nuance with which data in the Closing the Gap reports has been presented has improved considerably.

It seems most policies prioritise Indigenous Australians living in remote areas than those in the city. David Clode/Unsplash

4. Indigenous Australians in the city and country have different needs

This isn’t always reflected in policy settings. The current report shows many outcomes are worse in remote compared to non-remote Australia. It also makes the point (though less frequently), that the vast majority of Indigenous Australians live in regional areas and major cities. This creates a tension between relative and absolute need. Unfortunately, the policy responses of government often don’t get that balance right.

Take the signature policy proposal announced with the current report – a suspension or cancelling of HECS debt for teachers who work in remote schools. What the policy ignores is that the vast majority of Indigenous students live outside remote Australia, that outcomes for Indigenous students in non-remote areas are well behind those of non-Indigenous students, and that the schools Indigenous students attend in non-remote areas tend to be very different from those of non-Indigenous students.


Read more: Infographic: Are we making progress on Indigenous education?


Attracting and keeping more high quality teachers in remote areas is a worthwhile policy aim. Alone, it is not sufficient.

The current report and speech by the prime minister states that “genuine partnerships are required to drive sustainable, systemic change” and that the government needs “to support initiatives led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to address the priorities identified by those communities”.

These are admirable goals. But, they require significant resources, a genuine engagement with the evidence (even if it isn’t positive), taking the Uluru Statement from the Heart seriously, and real ceding of control to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

5.Closing the Gap Failures are firmly rooted in racism

Some people think Aboriginal people must be uniquely anti-social and/or make very bad choices, but research tells us the majority of people in prison are suffering from severe cognitive impairments and/or mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder and major depression.

Why are we punishing people with disabilities for behaviour that may not be intentional ?.

When we look at children in school, we find three times as many Aboriginal children are suspended from school than non-Aboriginal children. Some of the special purpose schools in NSW are filled with Aboriginal children only.

Many youth detention centres in the country have 100 per cent Aboriginal inmates. Why are so many Aboriginal children being suspended from school and set on the road to crime and punishment, and what happens to white Australian children who are not able to behave appropriately in the classroom ?.

It seems mainstream Australian children are referred to health professionals when they have difficulties at school. They are seen as suffering from learning disabilities, autism, or ADHD. Speech therapists and other allied health professionals work to help them catch up with peers and stay in school.

Due to intergenerational disadvantage, Indigenous people often don’t have the resources to find a therapist to assist their child. People born before 1972 were not guaranteed a place in school, and so grand parents may not have had much education.

Parents may have left school in Year 8 or 9 and are not familiar with developmental norms or disabilities. If they know that their child is falling behind at school, they often do not have the money to pay for expensive psychological assessments, which cannot be done in Medicare. Without an assessment, and a diagnosis , the school cannot make allowances for a child with brain-based disabilities.

The racist policies of the past have left many Aboriginal people disadvantaged when it comes to dealing with the education system. If their child is having difficulties, suspensions are often the consequence. Once suspended and out on the street, racism sets in again.

Aboriginal children are searched and arrested more often. We will never close the disadvantage gap until we can offer support to the children of young people. We need to raise the age criminal responsibility from 10 to 15 years, and spend money on supporting children, not punishing them.

Dr Meg Perkins

 

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #RefreshtheCTGRefresh : Read and /Or Download #ClosingtheGap response Press Releases from Pat Turner NACCHO CEO @June_Oscar @congressmob @closethegapOZ @amapresident @RACGP @RecAustralia @Change_Record @Mayi_Kuwayu

Close the Gap Campaign

AMA

RACGP

Reconciliation Australia

Change the Record

AMSANT Darwin

Mayi Kuwayu /ANU

Greens

Introduction NACCHO Closing the Gap response CEO Pat Turner AM 

On the floor of Parliament yesterday, the Prime Minister spoke of a change happening in our country: that there is a shared understanding that we have a shared future- Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, together. But our present is not shared. Our present, and indeed our past is marred in difference, in disparity. This striking disparity in quality of life outcomes is what began the historic journey of the Closing the Gap initiatives a decade ago.

But after ten years of good intentions the outcomes have been disappointing. The gaps have not been closing and so-called targets have not been met. The quality of life among our communities is simply not equal to that of our non-indigenous Australian counterparts.

Yes change must come from within our communities, but change must also come from the whole of Australia. We must change together.

The time has come for our voices to be heard and for us to lead the way on Closing the Gap. We are ready for action. ”

Pat Turner AM is the CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

But I’m ever hopeful that change is near. I was heartened by the statement made by the Prime Minister yesterday on the floor of Parliament. For the first time, I heard a genuine acknowledgement of why the Closing the Gap outcomes seem steeped in failure. I heard an acknowledgement that until Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are brought to the table as equal partners, the gap will not be closed and progress will not be made. This is a view that our community has expressed for many years – a view I am encouraged has finally been heard.

Historically, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders have not been equal decision-makers in steering attempts to close the unacceptable gaps between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and the broader community. Our struggle as community-controlled organisations to even gain a voice at the table  – let alone for governments to actually listen to us – has long been at the crux of the disappointing progress.

Last year, an accord on the first stage of the Closing the Gap Refresh languished because discussions were not undertaken with genuine input from community members. We turned an important corner in December when an historic agreement was reached to include a coalition of peak bodies as equal partners in refreshing the Closing the Gap strategy.

We now need to ensure that the agreement blossoms into genuine action.

We simply cannot let this opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of our people slip by. Government cannot be allowed to drag the chain on this until it becomes another broken promise.

We are doing the heavy lifting and have drafted a formal partnership agreement for the Commonwealth, state and territory governments to consider. We are determined to do all that we can to fulfil COAG’s undertaking to agree formal partnership arrangements by the end of February.

The agreement sets out how we all work together and have shared and equal decision making on closing the gap. We are confident that a genuine partnership will help to accelerate positive outcomes to close the gaps.

The lack of progress under Closing the Gap is the lived reality of our people on the ground everyday. They are being robbed of living their full potential. Sadly, attending the funerals of people in our community – including increasingly young people taking their own lives – is all too common.

A coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies from across the nation has formed to be signatories to the partnership arrangements. We are now almost 40* service delivery, policy and advocacy organisations, with community-control at our heart. This is the first time our peak bodies have come together in this way.

Our coalition brings a critical mass of independent Indigenous organisations with deep connections to communities that will enhance the Closing the Gap efforts. We are a serious partner for government. We want to ensure our views are considered equal and that we make decisions jointly.

We cannot continue to approach Closing the Gap in the same old ways. The top-down approach has reaped disappointing results as evidenced by the lack of progress of previous strategies to reach their targets.

We must not lose sight of the most crucial point of Closing the Gap, which is to improve the everyday lives of our people. We must ensure our people are no longer burdened with higher rates of child mortality, poorer literacy, numeracy and employment outcomes and substantially lower life expectancies.

Yesterday on the floor of Parliament, the Prime Minister said that this will be a long journey of many steps. And I say, we have been walking for centuries. We have journeyed far and we will keep walking forward and climbing up until we reach a place where we are all on equal ground.

I also heard the Leader of the Opposition say that the burden of change needs to be carried by non-Indigenous Australians in acknowledging that racism still exists, that our justice system is deeply flawed and that generational trauma cannot be ignored.

Yes change must come from within our communities, but change must also come from the whole of Australia. We must change together.

The time has come for our voices to be heard and for us to lead the way on Closing the Gap. We are ready for action.

1 .Close the Gap Campaign

“We have had so many promises and so many disappointments. It’s well and truly time to match the rhetoric. We cannot continue to return to parliament every year and hear the appalling statistics,

 Last December, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), led by the Prime Minister, agreed to a formal partnership with peak Indigenous organisations on Closing the Gap.

We strongly support the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak bodies that has formed to be signatories to the partnership agreement with COAG, and for them to share as equal partners in the design, implementation and monitoring of Closing the Gap programs, policies and targets.

This partnership really does have the potential to be a game changer. It means active participation in decisions about matters that affect us. It will allow the voices of Indigenous Australians at community, local and national levels to be heard. “

The Co-Chairs of the Close the Gap Campaign, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar AO and the Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples Rod Little, say that commitment must be followed by action.

It was imperative for Australian governments to have an agreement in place by the end of February with the coalition of more than 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and justice groups, so all stakeholders can get onto the “nitty gritty” of the Closing the Gap Refresh with new targets set to be finalised by mid year. ”

National Family Violence Prevention Legal Services (FVPLS) Forum convenor Antoinette Braybrook 

Download CTG Press Release

1.Close the Gap response to CTG

2.AMA

“After more than a decade, the lack of resourcing and investment in the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continues to see unacceptable gaps across a range of outcomes.

The lack of sufficient funding to vital Indigenous services and programs is a key reason for this.”

The AMA supports the comments made by Ms Pat Turner, CEO of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) who said: ‘While our people still live very much in third-world conditions in a lot of areas still in Australia … we have to hold everybody to account’.

Closing the Gap targets are vital if we are to see demonstrable improvements in the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The call for a justice target and a target around the removal of Aboriginal children should be considered.

The AMA welcomes the decision of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to agree a formal partnership with us on Closing the Gap. This is an historic milestone in the relationship between Governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.” 

AMA President, Dr Tony Bartone

Download the AMA Press Release

2 AMA Closing the Gap progress disappointing

See all NACCHO AMA posts

3.RACGP

‘This year’s Closing the Gap report reminds us that whilst we are making important progress, we are still not doing enough for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

It’s critical we get this right. Our people deserve to live full and healthy lives, like every other Australian. We know the best way to achieve this is when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have a say in the decisions that impact them.

Governments must acknowledge the critical role of primary healthcare and particularly the culturally responsive care offered by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in Closing the Gap “

Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, Associate Professor Peter O’Mara, told newsGP he welcomes the Prime Minister’s commitment to establishing a formal partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the Closing the Gap Strategy.

Read full Press Release HERE

Read NACCHO RACGP articles HERE

4.Reconciliation Australia

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and peak bodies have been demanding a greater say in the policy priorities, and design and implementation of programs around the CTG since its inception over a decade ago. Today’s commitment by the Prime Minister, supported by the Opposition Leader, is welcome albeit overdue, and builds on the COAG commitment in December.

It is simple common sense that people, who live each day with the problems CTG is trying to address, will have the greatest knowledge and understanding of the causes and solutions to these problems “

Karen Mundine, CEO of Reconciliation Australia, said her organisation was disappointed by the failure but remained hopeful that a bipartisan commitment to a greater First Nations’ voice in the planned refresh of the CTG would lead to more effective programs being delivered in partnership with communities.

Download the Press Release

4.Reconciliation Aust CTG Response

5.Change the Record

 “Change the Record calls on the Prime Minister to listen to the majority of        Australians who believe governments must act to close the gap on justice, as shown by the 2018 Australian Reconciliation Barometer results.

“Almost 60% of Australians want the Federal Government to include justice in Closing the Gap, and 95% agree our people should have a say in matters that affect us,”

In the past year the Government engaged selected stakeholders in a nation-wide consultation, however many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations were excluded. Change the Record stands in support of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled peak bodies as they push for a formal partnership agreement to finalise the Closing the Gap Refresh.

This historic step to make our peak bodies equal partners with Government is critical to our self-determination and to Closing the Gap,”

Change the Record co-chair Damian Griffis.

Download the CTG Press Release

5. Change the Record

6. AMSANT Darwin

We would have loved to be part of those discussions about what to prioritise. We absolutely support education being a top priority target, but we need to ensure we are also prioritising some of those targets such as housing.”

You are not going to get kids to go to school if they haven’t had a decent night’s sleep because of an overcrowded house, you are not going to get kids to go to school if they haven’t got food in their tummy … you ain’t going to get kids to go to school if parents are not encouraging them to go to school due to lack of support services for parents”,

John Paterson AMSANT Darwin

From SMH Interview

7.Mayi Kuwayu /ANU

 ” The refreshed targets help us focus on progress and achievement. Most of these refreshed targets are not dependent on how things are going within the non-Indigenous population (they are not moving targets) — they are absolute, fixed targets that we can work towards. For example, the old target of “halve the gap in employment by 2018” is replaced by “65 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth (15-24 years) are in employment, education or training by 2028”.

Further, the refreshed targets are evidence-based and appear to be achievable.

This is a change from the original targets which the evidence showed could never have been met. They were always going to fail. This is a problem because it has reinforced the idea held by many in the wider Australian community that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inequality was “too big of a problem” and could never be overcome. Or even worse, it supported the myth that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people themselves were the problem

Ray Lovett, Katherine Thurber, and Emily Banks are part of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Program at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, Australian National University, and conduct research on the social and cultural determinants of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing.

Their approach is to conduct research in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals, communities, and organisations, and to frame research using a strengths-based approach, where possible. Follow the program @Mayi_Kuwayu Professor Maggie Walter is the Pro Vice-Chancellor Aboriginal Research and Leadership at the University of Tasmania.

 Read Article in Full 

8.Greens

” Mr Morrison’s closing the gap address was paternalistic and patronising and a clear indication that he doesn’t get it.

Mr Morrison lectured the Parliament about co-design and collaboration but he does not practice what he preaches

The Coalition was dragged kicking and screaming to a co-design approach and the Government’s failure to listen when the process started was in fact the reason we are so delayed with the Close the Gap refresh.

You would think that he was the first person to think of collaboration and co-design!

Senator Rachel Siewert 

Download the Greens CTG Press Release

8.Greens Party CTG Response

NACCHO Aboriginal Health #refreshtheCTGRefresh 2 of 2 : Download the #COAG 9 page statement on the #ClosingTheGap refresh

 ” One of the lessons governments have learned over the last ten years is that effective programs and services need to be designed, developed and implemented in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

We must place collaboration, transparency, and accountability at the centre of the way we do business with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia. Working in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is fundamental to Closing the Gap.

All governments remain committed to engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and other stakeholders to finalise and implement the Closing the Gap Refresh “

From the COAG Statement

1.Download CTG COAG 6 Page Statement

2.Download CTG  COAG 3 Page Draft Targets Outcomes

3. Download COAG Communique Dec 12

Where we actually let Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians lead the discussion, determine the outcome, own the outcome,”

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, said the partnership provided a meaningful opportunity, the “likes of which we’ve not seen before”. From The Guardian 

“We can’t close the gap unless we do this in partnership with Aboriginal people,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“I think the wording of what we’re doing so far on Closing the Gap is good but we have to talk funding at some stage.”

The Northern Territory chief minister, Michael Gunner, said on Wednesday it was a vital partnership and initiative could not afford to “go off the rails again”.

“ COAG’s commitment to a genuine formal partnership approach between the government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the Closing the Gap strategy is a welcome step in the right direction

This is something that we’ve long campaigned for – because involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in decisions that affect their lives will lead to far better outcomes.

We as a sector are looking forward to working with the Prime Minister and COAG to negotiate and agree the refreshed framework, targets and action plans which will be finalised through the committee by mid-2019.

NACCHO Chief Executive Officer Pat Turner AM see NACCHO Press Release HERE

In December 2016, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to refresh the Closing the Gap agenda ahead of the tenth anniversary of the agreement and four of the seven targets expiring in 2018.

In June 2017, COAG agreed to a strengths-based approach and to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were at the heart of the development and implementation of the next phase of Closing the Gap.

In 2018, a Special Gathering of prominent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians presented COAG with a statement setting out priorities for a new Closing the Gap agenda. The statement called for the next phase of Closing the Gap to be guided by the principles of empowerment and self-determination and deliver a community-led, strengths-based strategy that enables Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to move beyond surviving to thriving.

Since the Special Gathering identified priorities, all governments have worked together to develop a set of outcomes and measures for inclusion in the Closing the Gap Refresh. COAG has now agreed draft targets for further consultation to ensure they align with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities’ priorities and ambition as a basis for developing action plans.

PARTNERSHIPS WITH ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER AUSTRALIA

COAG recognises that in order to effect real change, governments must work collaboratively and in genuine, formal partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as they are the essential agents of change.

This formal partnership must be based on mutual respect between parties and an acceptance that direct engagement and negotiation will be the preferred pathway to productive and effective agreements. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must play an integral part in the making of the decisions that affect their lives – this is critical to closing the gap.

COAG will ensure that the design and implementation of the next phase of Closing the Gap is a true partnership. Governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will share ownership of and responsibility for a jointly agreed framework and targets and ongoing monitoring of the Closing the Gap agenda.

The refreshed Closing the Gap agenda recognises and builds on the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.

CLOSING THE GAP – A VISION FOR THE FUTURE

Closing the Gap requires us to raise our sights from a focus on problems and deficits, to actively supporting and realising the full participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the social and economic life of the nation. COAG recognises there is a need for a cohesive national agenda focussed on important priorities for enabling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, children and communities to thrive.

COAG has listened to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and stakeholders. COAG has heard there is a need to focus on the long term and on future generations, to strengthen prevention and early intervention initiatives that help build strong families and communities, and to prioritise the most important events over the course of a person’s life and the surrounding environment.

COAG acknowledges Closing the Gap builds on the foundation of existing policies and commitments within the Commonwealth and each state and territory. Closing the Gap does not replace these policies, but provides a people and community centred approach to accelerate outcomes.

COMMUNITY PRIORITIES FOR THE NEXT TEN YEARS

The Special Gathering Statement to COAG in February 2018 recommended the priority areas for the next phase of Closing the Gap:

 Families, children and youth

 Housing

 Justice, including youth justice

 Health

 Economic development

 Culture and language

 Education

 Healing

 Eliminating racism and systemic discrimination.

All priority areas are important and interconnected, and COAG is committed to achieving positive progress in all areas.

The Commonwealth, states and territories have consulted widely on these priorities. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities, peak bodies, service providers, technical experts and members of the public had the opportunity to provide their views on the future of Closing the Gap.

In considering where to set targets, there was a focus on the priority areas that lend themselves to the design of specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound targets. This focus on evidence and data enables COAG to effectively track progress over time.

CROSS SYSTEM PRIORITIES

Governments must deepen their relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This means understanding what matters to communities and continuing to build capability for genuine collaboration and partnership, acknowledging the differing priorities and challenges in different places across urban, regional and remote Australia.

All Australian governments are committed to working cooperatively in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and their communities, to positively transform life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

COAG recognises that progress reports over the past decade confirm that closing the gap in remote Australia requires particular focus, recognising the rich cultural strengths as well as the need for targeted approaches to address disadvantage in these areas.

COAG acknowledges that culture is fundamental to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ strength and identity. COAG further acknowledges the impacts of historical wrongs and trauma faced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and families.

All Australian governments recognise the need to address intergenerational change, racism, discrimination and social inclusion (including in relation to disability, gender and LGBTIQ+), healing and trauma, and the promotion of culture and language for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. These will be taken into account as cross system priorities for all policy areas of the Closing the Gap agenda. Cross system priorities require action across multiple targets.

REFRESHED TARGETS

The Commonwealth, states and territories share accountability for the refreshed Closing the Gap agenda and are jointly accountable outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. COAG commits to working together to improve outcomes in every priority area of the Closing the Gap Refresh.

The refreshed Closing the Gap agenda will commit to targets that all governments will be accountable to the community for achieving. This approach reflects the roles and responsibilities as set out by the National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA), and specified in respective National Agreements, National Partnerships and other relevant bilateral agreements.

While overall accountability for the framework is shared, different levels of government will have lead responsibility for specific targets. The lead jurisdiction is the level of government responsible for monitoring reports against progress and initiating further action if that target is not on track, including through relevant COAG bodies.

The refreshed framework recognises that one level of government may have a greater role in policy and program delivery in relation to a particular target while another level of government may play a greater role in funding, legislative or regulatory functions. Meeting specific targets will require the collaborative efforts of the Commonwealth, states and territories, regardless of which level of government has lead responsibility. Commonwealth, state and territory actions for each target will be set out in jurisdictional action plans, and may vary between jurisdictions. COAG acknowledges that all priority areas have interdependent social, economic and health determinants that impact the achievement of outcomes and targets.

Through a co-design approach, jurisdictional action plans will be developed in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, setting out the progress that needs to be made nationally and in each jurisdiction for the targets to be met. Action plans will clearly specify what actions each level of government is accountable for, inform jurisdictional trajectories for each target and establish how all levels of government will work together and with communities, organisations and other stakeholders to achieve the targets. Starting points, past trends and local circumstances differ, so jurisdictions’ trajectories will vary and may have different end-points.

COAG recognises that promoting opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be involved in business activities contributes to economic and social outcomes for families and communities, and has committed to publishing jurisdiction specific procurement policies, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment and business outcomes annually.

PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY

Closing the Gap is a whole-of-government agenda for the Commonwealth and each state and territory. To provide direct accountability to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and the Australian public as a whole, each jurisdiction will report publicly each year on its Closing the Gap strategy. The Prime Minister will make an annual statement to parliament.

Governments will engage with the community to develop a meaningful framework for transparently tracking and reporting progress with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders.

INDEPENDENT REVIEW

The Productivity Commission’s Indigenous Commissioner will conduct an independent review of progress nationally and in each jurisdiction every three years. All governments will provide input into the Productivity Commission’s review, taking into account differences between urban, regional and remote areas.

The Closing the Gap targets may be subject to refinement, where appropriate, through the review of the NIRA and periodic Productivity Commission reviews.

WHERE WE ARE GOING FROM HERE

A new formal partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, through their representatives, will be established by the end of February 2019.

Building on the work undertaken to date, working through this new partnership, the Commonwealth, and states and territories, will by mid 2019:

 finalise all draft targets;

 review the NIRA; and

 work with the Productivity Commission’s Indigenous Commissioner to develop an independent, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led approach to the three-yearly comprehensive evaluation and review of progress nationally and in each jurisdiction.

One of the lessons governments have learned over the last ten years is that effective programs and services need to be designed, developed and implemented in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We must place collaboration, transparency, and accountability at the centre of the way we do business with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australia. Working in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is fundamental to Closing the Gap.

All governments are committed to broadening and deepening their partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities over the lifetime of the refreshed agenda. This includes strengthening mechanisms to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have an integral role in decision making and accountability processes at the national, regional and local levels, building on existing arrangements and directions within different jurisdictions.

To guide the development of Commonwealth, state and territory action plans by mid-2019, COAG has endorsed a set of Implementation Principles informed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities:

Shared Decision-Making – Implementation of the Closing the Gap framework, and the policy actions that fall out of it, must be undertaken in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Governments and communities should build their capability to work in collaboration and form strong, genuine partnerships in which

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can be an integral part of the decisions that affect their communities.

Place-based Responses and Regional Decision Making – Programs and investments should be culturally responsive and tailored to place. Each community and region has its own unique history and circumstances. Community members, Elders and regional governance structures are critical partners and an essential source of knowledge and authority on the needs, opportunities, priorities and aspirations of their communities.

Evidence, Evaluation and Accountability – All policies and programs should be developed on evidence-based principles, be rigorously evaluated, and have clear accountabilities based on acknowledged roles and responsibilities. Governments and communities should have a shared understanding of evidence, evaluation and accountability.

Targeted investment – Government investments should contribute to achieving the Closing the Gap targets through strategic prioritisation of efforts based on rigorous evaluation and input from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, especially as it relates to policy formation, outcomes and service commissioning.

Integrated Systems – There should be collaboration between and within Governments, communities and other stakeholders in a given place to effectively coordinate efforts, supported by improvements in transparency and accountability.

WHERE WE HAVE COME FROM – TEN YEARS OF CLOSING THE GAP

In 2008, COAG agreed to the NIRA to implement the Closing the Gap agenda. In signing the agreement, governments acknowledged that a concerted national effort was needed to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage in key areas.

At the time, Closing the Gap was the most ambitious commitment ever made by governments to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. However, the agreement was negotiated with little to no input from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and without an adequate understanding of the mechanisms and timeframes needed to deliver lasting change. It also perpetuated a deficit-based view that framed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy as a series of responses to disadvantage and inequality, and under-emphasised the strength and agency of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

While some progress has been made to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples with respect to life expectancy, child mortality, educational achievement, employment and early childhood education, only three of the seven current targets were on track at the agreement’s ten-year anniversary in 2018. There is a shared view among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the broader Australian community and Australian governments that we must do better.

PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

Public engagement on the Refresh has been led by the Commonwealth at the national level, and by states and territories at the local and regional levels.

COAG Public Discussion Paper and Consultation Website:

In December 2017 the COAG public discussion paper and Closing the Gap Refresh consultation website were launched, with the website open for feedback and submissions from the public until the end of April

  1. Feedback from the website, including over 170 major submissions, was collated and used to inform the technical workshop process and COAG’s consideration of target areas for the next phase of the agenda.

Special Gathering of Prominent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians:

In February 2018, COAG leaders agreed that the priority areas identified in the statement of the Special Gathering would form the basis for remaining community consultations on the Refresh. The Special Gathering priority areas were tested in the national roundtables and other engagement processes led by the Commonwealth from February 2018 and have been strongly supported by stakeholders.

Consultations: The Commonwealth held 18 national roundtables in state capitals and regional centres across the country, ending with a national peaks workshop in Canberra in April. Roundtables sought feedback from participants on the priorities identified in the Special Gathering statement. Over 1,000 people were directly engaged through the meetings and roundtables hosted by the Commonwealth in this first phase of public engagement.

In May and June 2018 the Commonwealth hosted a series of technical workshops to develop potential targets and indicators for the refreshed agenda. The workshops brought together academics, business and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community experts and data custodians with Commonwealth and state officials in a co-design process structured around the Special Gathering priority areas. The first technical workshop in May was attended by officials from all jurisdictions and over 70 subject matter experts, including representatives from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities, academics and practitioners. A similar number attended the second technical workshop in June, which had a stronger emphasis on data issues and technical design.

A second series of national roundtables were conducted to test the analysis arising from the initial consultations, submissions and technical workshops. This phase of consultation sought to return to stakeholders who had previously been engaged in the process or lodged submissions to the public consultation website, including members of the Redfern Alliance, national peak bodies, national service providers, and other individuals and organisations. The outcomes of this phase of consultations were fed into discussions between governments in the lead up to the COAG meeting in December 2018.

States and territories held consultations over the same period to ensure views from across the country were heard and incorporated into the Refresh.

All governments remain committed to engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and other stakeholders to finalise and implement the Closing the Gap Refresh