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Win for Indigenous people as ACT joins national Closing the Gap Partnership

Ian Bushnell 29 March 2019

The Agreement fundamentally changes how governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples towards Closing the Gap. File photo.

The ACT Government has formally joined a national Closing the Gap partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies that gives Indigenous people a say in the development of new policies to change their poor life outcomes.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr was the first State or Territory leader to sign the Partnership Agreement with the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations and the Commonwealth Government on Friday 22 March.

The Partnership Agreement establishes a formal partnership between the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations, fundamentally changing how governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples towards Closing the Gap.

Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs Rachel Stephen-Smith, who represented the ACT at the inaugural Joint Council on Closing the Gap in Brisbane on Wednesday, has welcomed the Coalition of Peaks’ leadership in ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices are at the table as new targets and strategies are developed to address the gap in life outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians.

“The Partnership Agreement guarantees that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations will be sitting alongside Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers, co-designing the new Closing the Gap framework and ensuring it is implemented effectively,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“We know that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have the answers and the ACT Government has expressed concern throughout the Closing the Gap refresh process that their voices were not being heard. We have welcomed the Coalition of Peaks’ advocacy to turn that around and were very pleased to sign the Partnership Agreement.”

Ms Stephen-Smith singled out Pat Turner, CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, for her leadership and tenacity in driving this ground-breaking partnership model.

She said self-determination was the guiding principle underpinning the ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Agreement 2019-2028, through which the ACT Government would deliver on its Closing the Gap commitments.

The ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body has welcomed the signing of the Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap, which means for the first time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, through their peak body representatives, will share decision making with governments on Closing the Gap.

ACT Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elected Body chairperson Katrina Fanning said shared decision making between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled representatives in the design, implementation and monitoring of Closing the Gap was essential.

“The only way to make progress is to have Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the centre of decision making,” said Ms Fanning.

The Partnership Agreement sets out how governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks bodies will work together to agree on a refreshed national agreement on Closing the Gap, including any new Closing the Gap targets and implementation and monitoring arrangements.

The Partnership Agreement also marks the establishment of a new Joint Council on Closing the Gap that will be co-chaired by a Minister and a representative of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Bodies.

“There is much work to be done and we look forward to a constructive partnership with the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments to improve the quality of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples,” Ms Fanning said.


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