This booklet has been developed by the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations in consultation with Australian governments – federal, state and local – and with the assistance of a grant from the Commonwealth Government. This booklet is intended to be an accompanying document of background information on Closing the Gap and sets out what will be talked about in an upcoming survey that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are being asked to complete. The survey is to gain ideas from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities on what should be included in the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap (National Agreement). A report on what is said will be prepared by the Coalition of Peaks, to be provided to governments and made public. The report will help finalise the new National Agreement. The new National Agreement will set out how governments and the Coalition of Peaks will work over the next ten years to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia.
There’s still a wide difference in life outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians, despite more than ten years of work, called ‘Closing the Gap’. We’re now taking a different approach. The Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (Coalition of Peaks), with the support of Australian governments at all levels – federal, state and local – are talking to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives, communities and organisations about Closing the Gap throughout September and October 2019.
A report on these discussions will be prepared by the Coalition of Peaks. It will cover what was said at each meeting, will be made public, and will be presented to the Joint Council on Closing the Gap.
- The Closing the Gap strategy in the National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA) was only partially implemented in some areas and stopped in others. Efforts from governments to work together fell away and long-term funding for programs and services was not guaranteed or continued.
- Initial Closing the Gap discussions involved Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations but there was no ongoing commitment to involve communities, based on their own representation, in decisions about how targets could be achieved. This has meant that progress on Closing the Gap in life outcomes has been disappointing. Australia’s Productivity Commission stated in its Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage Report in 2016 that: "A number of indicators show improvements, particularly some early childhood, health and education measures. However, significant gaps in outcomes remain. Particularly concerning, it appears that family/ community violence outcomes have stalled, while involvement with the child protection system remains high, and mental health, drug and alcohol, and youth and adult criminal justice outcomes appear to be worsening."
- The Prime Minister’s 2019 Closing the Gap Report indicates that only two of the seven targets are on track to be met – the targets on early childhood education and Year 12 attainment.
- There is strong evidence that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communitycontrolled services are better for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, achieve better results and help make sure we get the support we need. They employ more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people than do mainstream services and result in communities taking more responsibility for services that can be a cultural match to their needs.
- While there are some examples of good practice from mainstream services, particularly when partnerships are formed with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled sector, overall, communities continue to be concerned about whether mainstream services are supportive and culturally safe. We need measures such as ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people play a key role in decision making in these institutions if there is to be any long-term change.