The federal government has announced the details of the new Closing the Gap agreement today, heralding an unprecedented level of partnership between all levels of government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples organisations across the country.
The agreement sets 16 targets to improve the socio-economic disparities faced by Indigenous people such as housing, education, health and justice, through four central priority reforms.
The reforms, which heavily emphasise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander involvement at all stages, will entail “formal partnerships and shared decision making; building the community-controlled sector; transforming government organisations; [and] shared access to data and information at a regional level.”
The agreement follows from last year’s Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap, 2019-2029, which committed all levels of government to work alongside organisations within the Coalition of Peaks, a representative group for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led peak bodies, in March of last year.
The partnership agreement also marks a shift from the original Closing the Gap Agreement, which was primarily driven by state, territory and federal governments, and despite some progress, struggled to meet the majority of its goals across the 2008-2018 period.
“The gaps we are now seeking to close are the gaps that have now been defined by the representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This is as it should be. This creates a shared commitment and a shared responsibility,” Prime Minister Morrison said speaking about the new agreement.
“By focusing our efforts on these more specific, practical and shared objectives, we can expect to make much greater progress.”
The representative of the Coalition of Peaks who signed the agreement, Lead Convenor Ms Pat Turner AM, also expressed hope that this iteration of Closing the Gap would be a success, drawing attention to the agreement’s aforementioned “priority reforms”.
“If the priority reforms are implemented in full by governments and through shared decision making with First Nations people, we should see changes over time to the lives and experiences of our people,” Ms Turner AM said.
The new agreement also emphasises accountability from both government and the Coalition of Peaks, with an “Indigenous-led review of change on the ground” and triennial reporting from the Productivity Commission among the measures set to gauge progress on the agreement’s targets regularly.
More information on the 16 targets, the majority of which have a deadline of 2031, can be found at the Closing the Gap website.