Reconciliation Australia welcomes historic partnership agreement

Reconciliation Australia today described the signing of an historic partnership agreement between the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations as a possible template for the reworking of relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and Australian governments.

Reconciliation Australia CEO Karen Mundine said formalising this new partnership giving key Aboriginal and Torres Strait organisations a formal role in redesigning, implementing and monitoring the Closing the Gap strategy signals a significant shift towards shared decision making.

“The additional experience, knowledge and skills that the Peak Organisations can bring to COAG’s deliberations will lead to better outcomes,” said Ms Mundine. “And better outcomes are critical given the latest disappointing results which saw five of seven Closing the Gap targets not met.”

The 2019 Closing the Gap Report highlighted that significant work remains to be done to overcome the gaps in employment and economic outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The targets for improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment rates, and health and educational outcomes have not been met over the past 10 years, with some indicators actually going backwards with those in regional and remote areas facing the highest unemployment levels.

“First Nations’ peak bodies have a wealth of expertise about what is happening in their communities and it is simple common sense that we should use that knowledge and understanding to build programs that work,” she said.

“This partnership agreement comes after ten years of advocacy by Aboriginal and Torres Strait organisations for decisive input into the Closing the Gap strategy,” said Ms Mundine. “It is a testament to the hard work and perseverance of these peak bodies.”

Recent research conducted by Reconciliation Australia as part of the 2018 Australian Reconciliation Barometer found that a majority of Australians believe that governments must do more to address disadvantage, and 95 per cent of the general community believe it is important for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to have a voice when it comes to matters that affect them.

She said the agreement was particularly significant leading in to this year’s National Reconciliation Week (NRW) theme of Grounded in Truth: Walk Together with Courage aimed at building better race relations.

“To successfully close the gap, it is critical that all Australian’s, including our political leaders, take the NRW theme to heart and better respond to First Nations’ demands that our voices are heard; this agreement does that,” Ms Mundine said.

Paul House with gum leaves and smoke
Paul Girrawah House

Paul Girrawah House has multiple First Nation ancestries from the South-East Canberra region, including the Ngambri-Ngurmal (Walgalu), Pajong (Gundungurra), Wallabollooa (Ngunnawal) and Erambie/Brungle (Wiradyuri) family groups.

Paul acknowledges his diverse First Nation history, he particularly identifies as a descendant of Onyong aka Jindoomang from Weereewaa (Lake George) and Henry ‘Black Harry’ Williams from Namadgi who were both multilingual, essentially Walgalu-Ngunnawal-Wiradjuri speaking warriors and Ngunnawal–Wallaballooa man William Lane aka ‘Billy the Bull’ - Murrjinille.

Paul was born at the old Canberra hospital in the centre of his ancestral country and strongly acknowledges his First Nation matriarch ancestors, in particular his mother Dr Aunty Matilda House-Williams and grandmother, Ms Pearl Simpson-Wedge.

Paul completed a Bachelor of Community Management from Macquarie University, and Graduate Certificate in Wiradjuri Language, Culture and Heritage and Management from CSU.

Paul provided the Welcome to Country for the 47th Opening of Federal Parliament in 2022. Paul is Board Director, Ngambri Local Aboriginal Land Council, Member Indigenous Reference Group, National Museum of Australia and Australian Government Voice Referendum Engagement Group.  

Paul works on country with the ANU, First Nations Portfolio as a Senior Community Engagement Officer

Acknowledgement of Country

Reconciliation Australia acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing  connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders past and present. 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be aware that this website contains images or names of people who have passed away.

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