14 February 2019

Closing the Gap - Progress too slow but partnership welcomed

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) has welcomed today's bi-partisan commitment to more genuinely partner with Aboriginal people in the national effort to Close the Gap.

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader, Bill Shorten made the commitments at the release of the annual Closing the Gap report to Parliament.   

Cr Ah-See said it was important that the partnership will be with Aboriginal people's community controlled organisations, not just the government of the day's preferred advisers and public servants.

He said he was genuinely moved by the sincerity of both leaders' speeches.

"Both speeches didn't shy away from the confronting truths, but they also showed a determination to highlight the successes and achievements of our people, which are many," Cr Ah See said.

Cr Ah-See welcomed the government's commitment towards waiving HECS debts for teachers in remote communities and the Opposition's renewed commitment to a Voice to Parliament and Makarrata Commission.

"We have to stay focussed and determined so that one day in our lifetimes a future Prime Minister will be able to report that the gulf between our peoples has truly closed. We now have a way forward and a joint approach to achieve this."

NSWALC, and its partners in the NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisation (CAPO), have joined a broader, nationwide coalition of almost 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies, who provide legitimate community-controlled representation, to work in partnership towards a refreshed Closing the Gap framework.   

NSWALC's Chief Executive Officer, James Christian said, "the report hasn't told us anything we don't already know. Although there has been progress in relation to all targets, this has not been fast enough to close or even narrow the gap."

Mr Christian went on to say that as only two of the seven Close the Gap targets were on track, a new approach was long overdue.

"Clearly a new approach was needed and now we have it.  We now have a bipartisan commitment in the Federal Parliament and an agreement by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to co-design, implement and monitor programs with Aboriginal people. We look forward to being part of this partnership."