History of Closing the Gap
In his Social Justice Report 2005, former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma AO urged Australian governments to commit to achieving equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in health and life expectancy within 25 years.
In 2008, Australian Governments committed to specific targets for reducing inequalities in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy, mortality, education and employment. A seventh target to close the gap in school attendance was added in 2014.
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.
Closing the Gap Refresh process
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.
Throughout the Refresh process the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet conducted a public submission process, held 29 national roundtables, two technical workshops and a range of individual meetings. A list of participants by organisation is available. The priorities identified by the Special Gathering were used as a basis for a number of these consultations and for the development of draft targets. More details are available in the Special Gathering Statement - DOCX 3.69 MB | PDF 193 KB.
Throughout the Refresh process there has been clear demonstration that effective programs and services need to be designed, developed and implemented in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Collaboration, transparency and accountability must be at the centre of the way business is done with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Significantly, on 12 December 2018, COAG committed to forming a genuine formal partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to finalise the Closing the Gap Refresh (by mid-2019) and provide a forum for ongoing engagement throughout implementation of the new agenda.
COAG also issued a draft framework for Closing the Gap as a basis for further discussion with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities. This framework includes a set of draft targets, accountabilities and reporting requirements and a way forward for the development of Commonwealth, state and territory action plans.