Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community engagements send a clear message to governments

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities aroundAustralia have had their say on a new national agreement on Closing the Gap,which is currently in development through a partnership between the Coalitionof Peaks and the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islandercommunity-controlled Coalition of Peaks, in partnership with governments, led acomprehensive engagement process in 2019, achieving a high level of communityparticipation. There were nearly 1700 respondents to an online survey and more than2300 individuals attended almost 70 face-to-face meetings that were held incities, regional towns and remote communities in every state and territory.

The Coalition of Peaks has today released a snapshotsummary of what was heard through the engagement process. Face-to-face meetingsrevealed overwhelming support for the reform priorities developed by theCoalition of Peaks, validated by the online survey findings of more than 90 percent support for all three:

  1. Developing formal partnerships between government andAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on Closing the Gap
  2. Growing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlledservices
  3. Improving mainstream service delivery

One theme that regularly emerged was that shared decision-makingdepends on all parties having access to the same information, leading theCoalition of Peaks to now propose the development of local data projects as thefourth reform priority.

In 2018, Australian governments agreed to new Closing theGap targets in draft form, and while there was broad community support for thegeneral areas chosen, there was also feedback on some of the wording, outcomes,measures and focus.

Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks and CEO of NACCHO PatTurner said that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been clear:reforming the way governments work to close the gap is critical to acceleratingprogress.

“Participants and survey respondents were united on theirsupport for the priority reforms, speaking with one clear voice.” Turner said.”Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities know what works for them andhave charted a clear way forward for the new national agreement on Closing theGap.

“It was essential to the Coalition of Peaks that ourcommunities were engaged in the development of the next Closing the Gapagreement from the beginning. The Coalition of Peaks has listened and is now workingso that governments also hear your voice and put the priority reforms at theheart of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap,” Turner said.

The engagement process was independently reviewed byIndigenous-owned consultancy Two Point Co., which specialises in capturing agenuine Indigenous voice to inform policy design. The review concludes that the”campaign to mobilise the community to participate was effective and that the”engagements were open, fair and transparent.”

The Coalition of Peaks formally acknowledge the support ofCOAG for the engagements and their commitments under the historic PartnershipAgreement on Closing the Gap to fully engage Aboriginal and Torres StraitIslander representatives, communities and organisations in the design,implementation and monitoring of the new Closing the Gap arrangements.

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