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.