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Governments' inadequate commitment to their Closing the Gap responsibilities is holding back progress

[supplied by Lowitja Institute]


Dr Janine Mohamed. Image: supplied

Lowitja Institute echoes and welcomes the draft findings of the Productivity Commission's first three-yearly review of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap and urges all levels of government to accelerate the implementation of the Agreement’s four Priority Reforms. 


Lowitja Institute CEO Adjunct Professor Janine Mohamed said the draft review report, released yesterday, tells us that governments do not adequately understand the urgency or magnitude of what is required to meet their commitments under the National Agreement.


The Productivity Commission review states that 'governments are not adequately delivering' on the National Agreement and there has been a ‘business-as-usual approach to implementing policies and programs that affect the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’.


Adjunct Professor Mohamed highlighted the findings on Priority Reform Three that calls for governments to transform the way they work, ensuring they are accountable, transparent, culturally safe and responsive to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.


The Productivity Commission review found work towards this priority reform has been insufficient.


"The Productivity Commission warns that this is putting the achievement of the other Priority Reforms, and ultimately the Closing the Gap targets, at risk," Adjunct Professor Mohamed said.


Lack of progress on the establishment of independent mechanisms to monitor governments’ efforts on this priority is hindering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities’ ability to hold governments to account and build trust. 


"The Coalition of Peaks made it clear to governments that the socioeconomic targets will only be achieved if governments transform the way they work. What is needed is whole-of-system understanding and effort to embrace every opportunity to embed Indigenous ways of knowing, being, and doing."


"That means we can’t have a 'one-size-fits all' approach; we need place-based co-design, which is good for everyone," she said.


The Productivity Commission found that, in most policy areas, governments have not co-developed and enacted shared decision-making arrangements that enable reforms to be designed in genuine partnership. 


Their investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations is often short-term, unpredictable, and not collaborative and there has been little change to the public sector data-sharing landscape.


The draft report calls for stronger independent performance-monitoring arrangements and formal data-development responsibilities to be established in order to improve transparency and accountability. 


Governments are also urged to embed responsibility in central agencies and senior leaders to accelerate transformation towards public sectors that are partnership-focused and culturally safe for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. 


Ever since the National Agreement was signed in 2020, the members of the Coalition of Peaks, including the Lowitja Institute, have strongly advocated that governments need to genuinely commit to implementing the Priority Reforms. 


"This draft report underscores the urgency of our calls," Adjunct Professor Mohamed said. "The health and wellbeing of our peoples cannot wait any longer."


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