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Close the Gap - Part 1 Background

Close the Gap - Part 1

Extracts from COAG Communiqués and related materials
issued prior to December 2007 containing commitments
by Australian governments in relation to Indigenous health

See the website of the Council of Australian Governments:

COAG Communiqué, 3 November 2000

‘Governments can make a real difference in the lives of indigenous people by addressing social and economic disadvantage, including life expectancy, and improving governance and service delivery arrangements with indigenous people.

Governments have made solid and consistent efforts to address disadvantage and improvements have been achieved. For example, indigenous perinatal mortality rates have dropped from more than 60 per 1,000 births in the mid-1970s to fewer than 22 per 1,000 births in the mid-1990s. However, much remains to be done in health and the other areas of government activity.

Drawing on the lessons of the mixed success of substantial past efforts to address indigenous
disadvantage, the Council committed itself to an approach based on partnerships and shared
responsibilities with indigenous communities, programme flexibility and coordination between
government agencies, with a focus on local communities and outcomes…’

Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision
(Productivity Commission) Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators, 2003 Report

Driving this Report is a commitment by Australian governments at the highest level to reducing Indigenous disadvantage. Behind the Report is the vision of an Australia in which Indigenous people come to enjoy the same overall standard of living as other Australians – that they are as healthy, live as long and are as able to participate in the social and economic life of the nation.

This means that this Report must be more than a collection of data – it provides policy makers with a broad view of the current state of Indigenous disadvantage and where things need to change if the vision is to be realised.

COAG Communiqué, 25 June 2004

COAG today committed at all levels of government to cooperative approaches on policy and service delivery between agencies and to maintaining and strengthening government effort to address indigenous disadvantage.

To underpin government effort to improve cooperation in addressing this disadvantage, COAG agreed to a National Framework of Principles for Government Service Delivery to Indigenous Australians. The principles address sharing responsibility, harnessing the mainstream, streamlining service delivery, establishing transparency and accountability, developing a learning framework and focussing on priority areas. They committed to indigenous participation at all levels and a willingness to engage with representatives, adopting flexible approaches and providing adequate resources to support

capacity at the local and regional levels.

These principles will provide a common framework between governments that promotes maximum flexibility to ensure tailored responses and help to build stronger partnerships with indigenous communities. They also provide a framework to guide bi-lateral discussions between the Commonwealth and each State and Territory Government on the Commonwealth’s new arrangements for indigenous affairs and on the best means of engaging with indigenous people at the local and regional levels. Governments will consult with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in their efforts to achieve this.

COAG Communiqué 14 July 2006

COAG agreed that a long-term, generational commitment is needed to overcome Indigenous
disadvantage. COAG agreed the importance of significantly closing the gap in outcomes between Indigenous people and other Australians in key areas for action as identified in the Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage: Key Indicators Report (OID) released by COAG in 2003.

COAG’s future work will focus on those areas identified for joint action which have the greatest capacity to achieve real benefits for Indigenous Australians in the short and long term.

COAG has agreed to establish a working group to develop a detailed proposal for generational change including specific, practical proposals for reform which reflect the diversity of circumstances in Australia.

The working group will consider how to build clearer links between the OID framework, the National Framework of Principles for Delivering Services to Indigenous Australians, the COAG Reconciliation Framework and the bilateral agreements between the Commonwealth and State and Territory Governments. The working group will report back to COAG by December 2006.

COAG Communiqué 13 April 2007

COAG reaffirmed its commitment to closing the outcomes gap between Indigenous people and other Australians over a generation and resolved that the initial priority for joint action should be on ensuring that young Indigenous children get a good start in life.

COAG requested that the Indigenous Generational Reform Working Group prepare a detailed set of specific, practical proposals for the first stage of cumulative generational reform for consideration by COAG as soon as practicable in December 2007. National initiatives will be supported by additional bi-lateral and jurisdiction specific initiatives as required to improve the life outcomes of young Indigenous Australians and their families.

COAG also agreed that urgent action was required to address data gaps to enable reliable evaluation of progress and transparent national and jurisdictional reporting on outcomes. COAG also agreed to establish a jointly-funded clearing house for reliable evidence and information about best practice and success factors.

COAG requested that arrangements be made as soon as possible for consultation with jurisdictional Indigenous advisory bodies and relevant Indigenous peak organisations.