Thursday, 4 February 2021
Questions without Notice
Closing the Gap
My question is to the Minister for Indigenous Australians. Will the minister outline how the Morrison government's new national agreement on Closing the Gap changes how the government works with Indigenous Australians now and into the future and how this will help to build a stronger nation?
I thank the member for Sturt for his contribution in this parliament and his interest in Indigenous matters. The Closing the Gap strategy is something that both sides of this chamber have had a significant role in in the various positions that we've held within this place. But what's different is the Prime Minister and I had a discussion. What we said was that we want to have the peak organisations sit and negotiate the new agreement. Fifty-one peak Aboriginal organisations sat with state officials, ministers for Aboriginal affairs and the Commonwealth and negotiated each target. Each target was negotiated on the basis of: what is the best outcome that we will get and achieve in closing the gap in so many areas? These reforms will embed joint decision-making, building the capacity of Aboriginal community controlled health organisations. We're focusing on transforming mainstream government agencies and, in addition, developing and using data to make informed decisions at the local level.
This year, for the first time, every state and territory government—through a process in which the ministers for Indigenous affairs agreed, national cabinet agreed and state and territory cabinets also endorsed—agreed that each of their jurisdictions would report on the targets for Closing the Gap in each of their parliaments. We've never done that before. It has been only the Commonwealth that has reported. This is a substantial shift, because those four embedded reforms now form the basis for the way in which state and territory governments will work with Aboriginal people at the local level, at the jurisdictional level. The Commonwealth will remain committed to ensuring that we achieve a process, because we know that when Indigenous people are involved we see better outcomes. We see participatory decision-making. It's a quantum shift from where we were.
I acknowledge that Kevin Rudd started the process of closing the gap. What we've ensured, and the Prime Minister made reference to it in his speech at the National Press Club, is our continued commitment to embed this so it doesn't matter who is in government; we continue the practice of involving Indigenous Australians. By doing that, we've got a better chance.
Having 51 peak Aboriginal organisations negotiate every target with the layers of government was interesting. But it was also a power of strength at the end when we all sat together and endorsed the agreement, because there was common commitment from everybody that we would work together to achieve better outcomes.