A significant step has been taken towards a new national agreement on closing the gap to ensure better health, education and employment opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The joint council, involving the “historic partnership” between governments and indigenous groups, met in Adelaide on Friday and pledged to work towards a new agreement to guide their efforts over the next 10 years.
Council co-chair Pat Turner said the conversation on closing the gap was changing because Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people “are now at the negotiating table”.
Ms Turner said the proposed priority reforms put in place a formal structure to bring solutions to governments.
“If we are to close the gap it will be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations leading the way on service delivery,” she said in a statement.
“We already know that community-controlled organisations achieve better results because we understand what works best for our peoples.
“It is a critical step for the joint council to formally recognise that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples must share in decision-making on policies that affect their lives.”
Friday’s meeting identified three priority reforms to underpin the new agreement on closing the gap.
- Developing and strengthening structures to ensure the full involvement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in shared decision making at the national, state and local or regional level and embedding their ownership, responsibility and expertise to close the gap:
- Building the formal Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled services sector to deliver closing the gap services and programs in agreed priority areas:
- And ensuring all mainstream government agencies and institutions undertake systemic and structural transformation to contribute to closing the gap.
Friday’s agreement follows the release in December last year of a set of draft targets by the Council of Australian Governments in a range of areas including health, education, economic development and justice.
They include a desire to have 95 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025, a bid to close the life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians by 2031 and efforts to ensure 65 per cent of indigenous youth aged between 15 and 24 are in employment, education or training by 2028.
The targets also seek to cut the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island young people in detention by up to 19 per cent and the adult incarceration by at least five per cent by 2028.
The refreshed closing the gap agenda will also commit to targets that all governments will be accountable to the community for achieving.
Ms Turner said peak indigenous groups looked forward to engaging with communities around Australia to build support from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples for the priority reforms.
She said that would ensure their views on what was needed to make them a success were captured in the new national agreement.