Close the Gap Campaign
Change the Record
Mayi Kuwayu /ANU
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
“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
‘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.
“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
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
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
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.
” 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