Closing the gap targets

Statement from The George Institute on new Closing the Gap targets

The George Institute for Global Health welcomes the new national agreement on Closing the Gap.

The landmark reforms are a culmination of generations of advocates, community members and experts joining together to drive shared decision making with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.

Keziah Bennett-Brook, Program Lead of the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Health Program at The George Institute said: “The Closing the Gap strategy and targets clearly required an overhaul in order to be enacted properly through true self-determination of communities. This is something the Coalition of Peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations have been advocating for over many, many years.

“It’s incredibly important that the holistic definition of health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is meaningfully integrated into the new targets.

“It’s great to see a broader focus on social and cultural determinants of health, as we know that systemic and entrenched issues such as racism, must be addressed in rectifying health inequities.”

The agreement, which includes 16 targets and four priority reforms, were formulated by working in partnership with Aboriginal organisations and federal, state and territory governments.

The four priority reforms include:

  • Build and strengthen structures to empower Indigenous people to share decision-making with governments
  • Build Indigenous community-controlled sectors to deliver services to support closing the gap
  • Transform mainstream government organisations to improve accountability and better respond to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s needs
  • Improve and share access to data and information to enable Indigenous communities to make informed decisions.

In 2018, The George Institute contributed a submission to the refresh of the COAG Closing the Gap framework and targets. It supported the need for principles of self-determination to underpin the targets and to develop and maintain genuine partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders, communities and organisations.

The George Institute’s submission called for a multi-disciplinary group of stakeholders to be included in decision making processes including across health, housing, education, the justice system and welfare, as well as government and non-government bodies to work together in order to set priorities and solve problems collectively.

“We are thrilled these priorities have been acknowledged and included within the 16 targets”, said Bennett-Brook.

“Constant changes in policy, cuts to services, changes in leadership and approaches to funding have all impacted on the ability for the Closing the Gap strategy to make steady progress as hoped for by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

“There is a need for ongoing evaluation and monitoring of the new targets that is centred in valuing Indigenous knowledges and voices as the experts in affairs that impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

“With adequate resourcing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled services and cross-sectoral engagement within the strategy, I am hopeful that we can move towards meaningful progress.”