In December 2016, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to refresh the Closing the Gap agenda ahead of the tenth anniversary of the agreement and four of the seven targets expiring in 2018. In June 2017, COAG agreed to a strengths-based approach and to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were at the heart of the development and implementation of the next phase of Closing the Gap.
In 2018, a Special Gathering of prominent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians presented COAG with a statement setting out priorities for a new Closing the Gap agenda. The statement called for the next phase of Closing the Gap to be guided by the 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.
Since the Special Gathering identified priorities, all governments have worked together to develop a set of outcomes and measures for inclusion in the Closing the Gap Refresh. COAG has agreed proposed refreshed targets for further consultation to ensure they align with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities’ priorities and ambition as a basis for developing action plans.
The priorities identified by the Special Gathering were used as a basis for consultations. From November 2017 to August 2018, the Commonwealth released a public discussion paper and sought submissions, held 29 National Roundtables, two technical workshops and individual stakeholder engagements.
COAG public discussion paper and consultation website
In December 2017 the COAG public discussion paper and Closing the Gap Refresh consultation website were launched, with the website open for feedback and submissions from the public until the end of April 2018. Feedback from the website, including over 170 major submissions, was collated and used to inform the technical workshop process and COAG’s consideration of target areas for the next phase of the agenda.
The Commonwealth held 18 national roundtables in state capitals and regional centres across the country, ending with a national peaks workshop in Canberra in April 2018. Roundtables sought feedback from participants on the priorities identified in the Special Gathering statement. Over 1,000 people were directly engaged through the meetings and roundtables.
A second series of national roundtables were conducted to test the themes arising from the analysis of the initial consultations, submissions and technical workshops. This phase of consultation sought to provide feedback to stakeholders who had previously been engaged in the process or lodged submissions. This included members of the Redfern Alliance, national peak bodies, national service providers, and other interested individuals and organisations. The outcomes of this phase of consultations were fed into discussions between governments in the lead up to the COAG meeting in December 2018.
In May and June 2018 the Commonwealth hosted a series of technical workshops to develop potential targets and indicators for the refreshed agenda. The workshops brought together academics, business and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community experts and data custodians with Commonwealth and state officials in a co-design process structured around the Special Gathering priority areas. The first technical workshop in May was attended by officials from all jurisdictions and over 70 subject matter experts, including representatives from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities, academics and practitioners. A similar number attended the second technical workshop in June, which had a stronger emphasis on data and technical design.
A new formal partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, through their representatives, will be established by the end of February 2019.
Building on the work undertaken to date, working through this new partnership, the Commonwealth, and states and territories, will by mid 2019:
- Finalise all draft targets.
- Review the NIRA.
- Work with the Productivity Commission’s Indigenous Commissioner to develop an independent, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led approach to the three-yearly comprehensive evaluation and review of progress nationally and in each jurisdiction.