THE CLOSING THE GAP REFRESH
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.