The new National Agreement on Closing the Gap has today come into effect, upon signature by the First Ministers of all Australian Governments, the Lead convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, and the President of the Australian Local Government Association.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new Closing the Gap agreement is an historic achievement.
“Today finally marks a new chapter in our efforts to close the gap – one built on mutual trust, shared responsibility, dignity and respect,” Prime Minister Morrison said.
“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.”
“This is the first time a National Agreement designed to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has been negotiated directly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives.”
“By focusing our efforts on these more specific, practical and shared objectives we can expect to make much greater progress.”
Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM, MP, said the National Agreement demonstrates the Government’s commitment to work in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“The way all levels of government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives have come together to negotiate this National Agreement and collectively determine how we strive to close the gap demonstrates our commitment to working together through meaningful partnerships,” Minister Wyatt said.
“We know that the best out comes are achieved when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are equal partners with governments, and when they have a direct say in how we are going to be successful in driving the desired outcomes.”
The Lead convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Ms Pat Turner AM, said “for the first time, First Nations people will share decision-making with governments on Closing the Gap. The National Agreement makes this a reality, not just for the Coalition of Peaks, but for all First Nations people that want to have a say on how things should be working in their communities.”
“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.”
At the centre of the National Agreement are four priority reforms that commit governments to change the way they work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
These reforms will embed joint-decision making; build the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled service sector; transform mainstream government services; and improve data to support informed decision-making.
The new National Agreement builds on the draft targets endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments in 2018. It establishes 16 targets in areas such as education, employment, health and wellbeing, justice, safety, housing, land and waters, and languages.
For the first time, all governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations share responsibility for achieving targets and significantly more reporting will increase accountability for all parties This acknowledges that all parties have a role to play in improving outcomes for Indigenous Australians.
Each jurisdiction will report annually on their progress and contribution towards Closing the Gap, and the Productivity Commission will make more data publicly available and conduct an independent review of progress every three years.
Parties to the National Agreement – the Commonwealth Government, State and Territory governments, the Coalition of Peaks, and the Australian Local Government Association – will now develop plans that set out how they will implement the priority reforms and contribute towards achieving the targets.
The National Agreement is available on the National Indigenous Australians Agency website.