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National peak body for Aboriginal-controlled community organisations urges further reforms to close the gap

Aaron Bloch -

The Coalition of Peaks, the national representative body of more than 80 Aboriginal community-controlled peak organisations, has urged further reforms in response to the latest Closing the Gap data from the Productivity Commission.

The Productivity Commission released the data on the National Agreement on Closing the Gap's progress against its targets overnight.

The update revealed a lack of progress on the objectives of the Agreement, showing there are now four targets "on track" compared to the 11 which are "not on track".

Whilst some measures are improving but still not on track, including completion of both secondary and tertiary qualifications, others like reducing suicides of First Nations people are regressing and worsening against baseline data.

Other targets not on track include the proportion of Indigenous 25-34-year-olds in employment, education or training at 67% and the proportion of First Nations people in appropriately sized housing at 88%.

Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, Patricia Turner AM, called for further change to close the gap.

"When structural and systemic change is made, there will naturally be a positive effect on the trajectory of the Closing the Gaps targets. This is what the Priority Reforms are all about in the National Agreement, but we are not seeing them implemented properly by governments," she said.

"The Priority Reforms are about changing the way governments work with our people. It is the comprehensive adoption of them that government parties need to understand and embrace if we are going to be able to work together to finally close the gap.

"More than two years on from the signing of the National Agreement and some governments are still talking about how they might start to tackle and implement the Priority Reforms."

Ms Turner said that "a sense of urgency" should come from this data for "governments to get on with the structural change needed to the way governments work as set out in the Priority Reforms. It is clear that the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people depend on it."

Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, called for all levels of government to refocus and increase their efforts to improve the lives of Indigenous people.

This new data follows the release of the 2023 Closing the Gap Implementation Plan which provided for an additional $400 million of funding.

"Closing the Gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and the wider Australian community is a top priority for the Albanese Labor Government," the Minister said.

"The gap is not closing fast enough. I know many people are frustrated by the lack of progress. It is particularly disappointing to see the target for healthy birthweights for babies has gone from being 'on track' to 'not on track'.

"More of the same isn't good enough. We need to do things differently by working in partnership with communities to get better results."

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians, Malarndirri McCarthy, said "The latest data on Closing the Gap progress is not good enough and our Government is making significant changes in the delivery of First Nations policy and support for communities to get ahead".

"We will continue to work in partnership with the Coalition of Peaks and state and territory governments and eventually a Voice to address these results," she said.

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