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Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples


Executive Summary

The Albanese Government is pleased to present its first Closing the Gap Implementation Plan. The 2023 Commonwealth Closing the Gap Implementation Plan (Implementation Plan) outlines the Government’s forward looking strategic priorities for Closing the Gap over the next 12 to 18 months.

This plan responds directly to the 2022 Closing the Gap Annual Report and shows all Australians where efforts will be focused; what tangible, practical actions are Inbeing taken; where reform is required; and what further partnerships are required to support progress.

It continues to be a living document that will be updated over the life of the National Agreement to respond to ongoing evaluation of progress to ensure the Commonwealth’s actions are meaningful in delivering specific changes to close the gap.

With this Implementation Plan, the Commonwealth will move beyond the foundational work undertaken over the first two years and deliver on specific and tangible actions for accelerating efforts to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by embedding the Priority Reforms and addressing the socio-economic outcomes.

The National Agreement shows us all that to close the gap we need a collective effort by all levels of government in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations. Over the life of this Implementation Plan, there will be a focus on further strengthening the partnership with the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations and truly challenging how government works with First Nations peoples.

This Implementation Plan is in two parts – the first part, titled ‘Changing the Way We Work’, builds on the lessons from the Annual Report. The Annual Report emphasises both the Commonwealth’s key commitments to deliver on the Priority Reforms which seek to address how we partner with rather than do to or for when developing First Nations policies and programs.

One of the critical elements of the National Agreement was the inclusion of four Priority Reforms, to change the way governments work to accelerate outcomes to improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In 2023, work will continue to deliver on the Priority Reforms:

  1. Partnering with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will continue through Policy Partnerships as the Commonwealth works with the Coalition of Peaks to examine opportunities to establish new Policy Partnerships. For example at the Jobs and Skills Summit, the Government committed to work with members of the Partnership Agreement to examine a policy partnership on economic participation.
  2. Continue to strengthen the community-controlled sector through the Commonwealth working in partnership with relevant governments and the Coalition of Peaks to jointly agree additional sectors for Sector Strengthening Plans in 2023, in addition to developing an evaluation methodology for Sector Strengthening Plans.
  3. Build on foundational measures undertaken since the establishment of the National Agreement. As an immediate priority the Commonwealth will progress actions to eliminate racism and continue to undertake systemic and structural transformation.
  4. Enhancing the evidence base to inform both evaluations of individual policies and programs, and larger reviews, such as those conducted regularly under the National Agreement by the Productivity Commission and the Indigenous-led review mechanism.

The second part of the Implementation Plan, ‘Delivering on Outcomes and Targets’ delves into each of the socio-economic outcomes identified in the National Agreement, including – for the first time – the new Community Infrastructure target (Target 9b), and outlines the clear direction the Commonwealth is taking to close the gap in these 19 important areas.

Efforts on all the Priority Reforms and socio-economic targets take into account a number of critical cross-cutting areas, but in addition there are a number of specific actions identified in the ‘Cross‑Cutting Outcome Areas’ chapter.

Cross-Cutting Outcome Areas

  1. Disability
  2. Gender and Sexuality
  3. Ageing Populations
  4. Remote Australia

A summary of new and renewed commitments made by the Albanese Government in this Implementation Plan is listed at Appendix A.

A full appendix of new and existing measures being undertaken by the Commonwealth to support Closing the Gap efforts is on the NIAA website, at Closing the Gap implementation measures.

Overview of the National Agreement

The National Agreement

The National Agreement on Closing the Gap (National Agreement) was signed in July 2020 and is a ground-breaking shift in the way governments commit to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the policies that affect them.

The National Agreement recognises that achieving the goal of Closing the Gap, to overcome inequality and achieve life outcomes equal to all Australians, can only be achieved when working in genuine formal partnership and through shared decision‑making with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Agreement commits all Parties to prepare rigorous Implementation Plans that respond to the differing needs, priorities, and circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia (Clause 96).

Working in Partnership

The National Agreement is supported by a comprehensive governance structure which establishes formal partnerships and shared decision-making with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Enabling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to share decision-making at the partnership table moves beyond funding agreements and other ad hoc processes to structured relationships based on shared objectives, respect and trust.

To view the National Agreement, previous Implementation Plans, and further detail on governing bodies and partnership go to Closing the Gap.

Implementation Plan and Reporting Cycle

The first Commonwealth Implementation Plan was released in July/August 2021. It outlined a series of policies and programs that would contribute to Closing the Gap at the Commonwealth level. The first Commonwealth Closing the Gap Annual Report (Annual Report) was released in November 2022 and showed the previous two years comprised no more than a ‘foundational period’ with disappointing results on both socio-economic targets and Priority Reforms. The Commonwealth will continue to report publicly against its Implementation Plans to ensure accountability across the Commonwealth and to continue to raise the profile and sustain the importance of Closing the Gap.

The Annual Report, with the Productivity Commission data dashboard and annual Productivity Commission Data Compilation Report are designed to measure whether the Commonwealth and all parties are meeting the needs and aspirations of First Nations peoples.

The Productivity Commission’s first three-yearly review of the National Agreement will be released later in 2023. The Joint Council Co-Chairs (the Hon Linda Burney MP, Minister for Indigenous Australians, and Ms Pat Turner AM, Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks) will address National Cabinet in 2023 to galvanise Closing the Gap efforts. Coordination by governments with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is required to sustain progress on the Priority Reforms and socio-economic targets.

The Implementation Tracker, monitored by the Partnership Working Group, is available on the Closing the Gap website: Implementation Tracker. It provides information on progress for each Party on delivering against commitments in the National Agreement.