Closing the Gap

History of Closing the Gap

  • 27 July, the National Agreement on Closing the Gap (the National Agreement) came into effect upon signature by First Ministers of all Australian governments, the Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (the Coalition of Peaks) and the President of the Australia Local Government Association (ALGA).
  • 3 July, the Joint Council on Closing the Gap (the Joint Council) met for the third time via telepresence across the country. It agreed to recommend the National Agreement to First Ministers of all Australian governments, the Coalition of Peaks and ALGA for signature.
  • 24 June, the Coalition of Peaks released A Report on Engagements with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People that informed the development of the National Agreement. The report provides a record of what was heard during the engagement process. The engagement process included face-to-face meetings with Coalition of Peaks member organisations, in partnership with state and territory governments, a national engagement session in Canberra and an online survey.
  • 2020 Closing the Gap Report interactive website.
  • 2020 Closing the Gap Report tabled in the Australian Parliament.
  • On 22 March, the historic Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap 2019-2029  between all Australian Governments, the Coalition  Peaks and ALGA, was signed.
  • 27 March, the Joint Council met for the first time in Brisbane.
  • 23 August, the Joint Council held its second meeting in Adelaide where they endorsed new Reform Priorities for collective action to be built into the new National Agreement and accelerate improvements in life outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


    Joint Council agreed the proposed reform priorities be tested through a public engagement process led by the Coalition of the Peaks to ensure they were right and could deliver real change to peoples’ lives, taking into account differing local and jurisdictional contexts.

    The Joint Council also endorsed high‑level accountability arrangements to deliver greater transparency and shared accountability for improving outcomes and for how governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples work together.

  • Between October and December, the Coalition of Peaks undertook a series of engagement sessions around Australia, supported by the Commonwealth and state and territory governments, to inform the new National Agreement.
  • 2019 Closing the Gap Report interactive website.
  • 2019 Closing the Gap Report tabled in the Australian Parliament.
  • In February, A special gathering of prominent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians presented the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) with a statement setting out priorities for a new Closing the Gap agenda, calling for the next phase to be guided by principles of empowerment and self-determination and deliver a community-led, strengths-based strategy that enables Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to move beyond surviving, to thriving.
  • Between May and June, the Australian Government hosted two technical workshops in Sydney and Canberra. These workshops considered 23 draft targets that aligned with priorities identified by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
  • On 12 December, COAG committed to forming a genuine formal partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to finalise the Closing the Gap Refresh and provide a forum for ongoing engagement throughout implementation of the new agenda. Read the December 2018 COAG Statement on Closing the Gap.
  • COAG also issued a draft Closing the Gap framework as a basis for further discussion with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities. It included a set of draft targets, accountabilities and reporting requirements, and a way forward for the development of Commonwealth, state and territory action plans.
  • 2018 Closing the Gap Report interactive website.
  • 2018 Closing the Gap Report tabled in the Australian Parliament.
  • Between November 2017 and August 2018, the Australian Government hosted 29 national roundtables in each state and territory capital city and major regional centres. In addition to these roundtables, the Minister for Indigenous Affairs and officials from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet attended meetings and held informal discussions with a significant number of stakeholders. Over 1,200 participants attended the roundtables and meetings.
  • 2017 Closing the Gap Report interactive website.
  • 2017 Closing the Gap Report tabled in the Australian Parliament.
  • In July, the National Indigenous Health Equality Council, was established.
  • In November, COAG approved the National Indigenous Reform Agreement which set out six Closing the Gap targets:
    • to close the life expectancy gap within a generation
    • to halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade
    • to ensure access to early childhood education for all Indigenous four year olds in remote communities within five years
    • to halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievements for children within a decade
    • to halve the gap for Indigenous students in year 12 attainment rates by 2020 and
    • to halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade.
  • To help achieve these goals, COAG identified a number of building blocks (early childhood, schooling, health, economic participation, healthy homes, safe communities and governance and leadership).
  • In December, COAG pledged to close key gaps in life expectancy, halve the gap in mortality rates for children and halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievements within a decade.
  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Professor Tom Calma AO, in his Social Justice Report 2005, urged Australian governments to commit to achieving equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in health and life expectancy, within 25 years.