The National Agreement on Closing the Gap is underpinned by a Partnership Agreement which expresses the agreed arrangements for formal partnership between all Australian Governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, represented by the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (Coalition of Peaks). The Partnership Agreement commits Parties to conduct annual 'health checks' to support continual improvements to the partnership as it evolves and matures.
- Together with the the Coalition of Peaks, the government parties have committed to targets for the Priority Reforms, which will measure the change governments are making in the way they work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as well as socioeconomic targets which focus on measuring the outcomes experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
- Different cultural perspectives to governance add a complexity to this partnership that is not found in partnerships between governments and non-Indigenous parties, where formal partnerships, as a way of working together, reflects the dominant Western form of governance.
- The Coalition of Peaks expressed a range of concerns with the negotiation process. They stated that governments didn’t fully comprehend or acknowledge the emotional burden carried by the Coalition of Peaks, as direct representatives of their communities and membership, when they made compromises to secure an agreement.
- The embargo on sharing drafts of the National Agreement disadvantaged their members and increased their emotional stress as it made it difficult for the Peaks to conduct open consultations with their member organisations. It was not apparent that barriers to equal participation had been consciously, proactively or adequately addressed by Governments.
Tensions between the partners will always exist because the Coalition of Peaks, recognising that the needs of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are so great, will always demand the best outcome for their people and the community-controlled organisations they represent. Governments will not always be willing or able to meet all of their demands due to different views on feasibility or competing priorities determined by resource availability or political imperatives.