The newly released Annual Report on Closing the Gap shows limited progress on the key targets for improving life outcomes for First Nations Australians.
Initiatives that recognise First Nations leadership, provide genuine opportunities for decision making and strengthen and embed cultures will lead to positive sustainable improvements in health and wellbeing outcomes.
As co-Chairs of the Close the Gap Campaign, we represent 55 First Nations and mainstream organisations who—since 2006—have come together as allies to advocate for greater investment and changed ways of working to enable First Nations health equality to become a reality.
Over the past sixteen years, this Campaign, our Indigenous Leadership and our allies have provided guidance and solutions to some of the most pressing issues in our communities.
We concur with the Government’s view that Australia can and must do better on the four Priority Reforms and all 17 socio-economic targets.
While we are encouraged by the steps that have been taken across the four improved target areas, it is very clear that a step-change is required if we are to make genuine and sustainable gains.
Since the National Partnership Agreement came into effect, progressing the foundational work for delivering the Closing the Gap Strategy has been the primary focus. We respect the time, care and dedication that has gone into this process.
However, the need to apply this good work is growing greater by the day. Of those targets where data is available, outcomes have declined across four critical targets: school readiness; adult incarceration; suicide; and children in out-of-home care, and we know that a decline across any target area will only make the work to improving all outcomes more difficult.
The new Priority Reform Areas are central to Closing the Gap, as they set the pre-conditions to achieve socio-economic targets, and provide the potential to drive generational change for First Nations people across Australia.
We need to see action on these Priority Reforms along with a robust evaluation framework that holds each jurisdiction to account on making genuine progress on their commitment to transformation.
“While we cannot ignore the lack of progress on the ground and the further trauma that is creating each and every day, there is a real opportunity before us to change the future. We have a seat at the table and we have a Government who understands that system transformation is inseparable from program effectiveness—that it has been our exclusion and the absence of our voices, that has led to uninformed systems, policies and practices which have caused us harm,” said Commissioner Oscar.
We have a real opportunity to come together to close the gap. The road ahead will not be without obstacles, but if we have the courage to act—to work together towards a shared vision, we know it can be done.
The Campaign calls on governments and all key stakeholders to reflect on the way they currently do business, explore good practice and allyship, and to take real, measurable action to achieve equality for First Nations in Australia.