The Parties to this National Agreement on Closing the Gap (the Agreement) begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the lands and waters on which Australians live and work, and pay respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.
The Parties also acknowledge the strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in sustaining the world’s oldest living culture. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their cultures have prevailed and endured despite too many experiencing entrenched disadvantage, political exclusion, intergenerational trauma and ongoing institutional racism.
Improvements to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people occurred under the Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA), known as Closing the Gap, starting in 2008. But more needs to be done, and done differently.
This Agreement arises from a commitment from all Australian governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives to a fundamentally new way of developing and implementing policies and programs that impact on the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It fulfils the commitments made in the historic Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap (Partnership Agreement) which commenced in March 2019 and signalled a new way of working to close the gap.
This Agreement builds on, and replaces, the NIRA. It continues the successful elements of the NIRA, strengthens others and addresses foundational areas previously excluded from consideration. The most significant of those was that NIRA was only an Agreement between Australian governments whereas in this Agreement, for the first time, representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are also parties.
This Agreement also stems from the belief that when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a genuine say in the design and delivery of services that affect them, better life outcomes are achieved. It recognises that structural change in the way Governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is needed to close the gap.
In response, all Australian Governments are now sharing decision-making with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people represented by their community-controlled peak organisations on Closing the Gap, the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (Coalition of Peaks). This is an unprecedented shift in the way governments work, by encompassing shared decision-making on the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programs to improve life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The extensive expertise and experience of the Coalition of Peaks and its membership have been central to the commitments in this Agreement. So too has the feedback from the extensive engagements in 2019 with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia, led by the Coalition of Peaks, on what should be included in this Agreement.
The views and expertise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including Elders, Traditional Owners and Native Title holders, communities and organisations will continue to provide central guidance to the Coalition of Peaks and Australian Governments throughout the life of this Agreement.