Closing the gap 2020

A new national agreement to redress inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians was released by the Commonwealth Government on 30 July.

The development of the National Agreement has been a partnership between Australian Governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations.

Its objective is to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and governments to work together to overcome the entrenched inequality experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and achieve life outcomes equal to all Australians.

Central to the new National Agreement are four priority reforms that commit governments to change the way they work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

It also focuses on 16 targets to improve outcomes in areas such as education, employment, health and wellbeing, justice, safety, housing, land and waters, and languages.

For the first time, the Commonwealth, states and territories, the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) on behalf of local government and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations are jointly accountable for ensuring the outcomes of closing the gap are achieved through implementation, and will report annually on their success in progressing actions against their plans.

ALGA National President, Mayor David O’Loughlin, warns against becoming carried away.

“Previous Closing the Gap agreements were implemented amid great fanfare and with high hopes too, so a degree of caution is perhaps warranted, as is the suspension of belief that this is someone else’s responsibility.

“The parties to those old agreements all faithfully declared their intention to consult widely and extensively with Indigenous groups and their representatives before setting to work.

“But the results have been very ordinary.”

With just two of the original seven national health, education and employment targets on track, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Closing the Gap report proved a ‘top-down, government-knows-best’ approach had failed to deliver what was needed.

O’Loughlin believes ‘active participation of Indigenous Australians, and local government, in the planning and delivery of mechanism to bring about better outcomes’ will give the new agreement an edge over previous attempts.