Peak Indigenous Bodies Plead For Close the Gap Involvement
Wednesday, 21st November 2018 at 10:27 am
Humanitarian and health not for profits have come out in support of 13 peak Indigenous bodies, who have repeated a desperate plea for more involvement in the government’s Close the Gap campaign refresh.
In a letter, made public on Monday, the coalition made up of land councils, health and legal groups, said they had been shut out of discussions concerning the new targets of the campaign, which are due to be settled at Council Of Australian Governments’ (COAG) December meeting.
This is the second time the coalition has reached out to the prime minister, premiers and chief ministers, after a letter sent on 4 October was ignored by everyone bar the Northern Territory government.
They called for COAG to hold off meeting, and establish a proper partnership mechanism with the groups instead.
“What we propose is entirely consistent with the commitment made by COAG to set a new relationship with our communities based on a partnership,” the letter said.
“If governments alone, continue to make decisions about the Closing the Gap, without
an opportunity for us to be at the table, it will not be possible to advocate with any confidence or motivate our communities to support Closing the Gap and to take joint responsibility with governments for achieving the targets.”
Pat Turner AM, CEO of National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), said she was frustrated NACCHO and other peak organisations had taken the time to engage with the refresh process, but were still being excluded.
“NACCHO and the peak bodies engaged with the process, took time to submit written submissions and attend workshops to discuss refreshing the Closing the Gap strategy earlier this year. But we can’t see how our input has been taken into account,” Turner said.
The Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association (AHHA) came out in support of the renewed calls on Tuesday, and criticised the government for doing the opposite of what they said they would.
“The current government has repeated many times that the key to ‘what works’ in Indigenous health is doing things with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people not doing things to them,” AHHA strategic programs director Chris Bourke said.
Bourke said the best proven way to go about Closing the Gap was by involving the people directly affected.
“The best research and lived experience suggest that a genuine partnership is the proper way to do it – in fact the only way to do it,” he said.
Ngarra Murray, Oxfam Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples program national manager, told Pro Bono News Oxfam were also supporting calls for a formal partnership.
“When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are included and have input in the design and delivery of services that impact on their communities and decisions about their own lives, the outcomes are improved,” Murray said.
“The way forward must include a genuine partnership approach.”
It has been ten years since the Close the Gap campaign first launched, and the federal government announced they would relaunch it last year, after a report found it had failed on six out of the seven measures.
Turner said the coalition had so far received responses from the Northern Territory and the ACT, but were still waiting on a formal response from the Commonwealth Government.
“It is disappointing that we have not yet received a response but I am hopeful that they will agree. We are also hopeful that the other states will follow suit ahead of COAG on 12 December,” Turner said.
She also encouraged the rest of the social sector, as well as all Australians to get behind the push for a partnership.
“We want all Australians to get behind Aboriginal people in having a lead role over matters that directly impact on our lives. In this instance it is about supporting the call to have a formal partnership approach in the Closing the Gap strategy and for COAG to agree.”
Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion did not respond to Pro Bono News’ request for comment.