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And now we measure the legacy of this history every year in the report on Closing the Gap. The gap is not closing. Not fast enough. Even going backwards in some areas.

We say listen to us and we will help make things better so we can close the gap. We say listen to us before making policies that affect us. (Dr Samuel Bush-Blanasi)1

The Hon Anthony Albanese MPOn behalf of the Commonwealth, I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the lands and waters on which Australians live and work. I also pay my respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

It is now 15 years since Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered the National Apology to the Stolen Generations, and 14 since the then Labor Government released the first Closing the Gap Report. Three months ago my Government tabled the most recent Closing the Gap Annual Report. In my Ministerial Statement to Parliament, I noted that the persistence - and even worsening - of so many of the gaps must drive a renewed national commitment to genuine partnership between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We cannot continue down the same path of Canberra imposing decisions – and somehow expect a different result. If we are to achieve the better result that is so desperately needed, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people must have a genuine say in matters that affect them, and a real hand in shaping the solutions.

This Implementation Plan is an important first step – a concrete demonstration of how we will advance real-world solutions that improve the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. It re-affirms Closing the Gap is a top priority for my Government, and it reflects our unwavering commitment to working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I gratefully acknowledge the ongoing work of the Coalition of Peaks, so capably led by Pat Turner, in working together with us to develop and deliver tangible, practical and specific actions.

I am also deeply grateful for the wisdom and strength of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives in leadership positions in my Government: the Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Linda Burney MP; the Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians and the Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy; and the Special Envoy for Reconciliation and Implementation of the Uluru Statement, Senator Pat Dodson. Their leadership and insights are central.

More broadly, we should also acknowledge the strength that lies at the heart of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, and their enduring connection to Country that stretches back more than 60,000 years. At the same time, we recognise what this plan seeks to address: the chasm that lies between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia when it comes to incarceration rates, children in out-of-home care, access to health care, education outcomes and employment rates.

This Implementation Plan is about action, action that gives purpose and direction to our efforts to transform government, and enables the full participation and self-determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our national life. This Plan also accelerates specific actions on the National Agreement’s four Priority Reforms to transform the relationship between governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and organisations.

The Implementation Plan is a critical part of my Government’s work to transform these relationships. It is not the only part.

My Government is committed to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full. Later this year, all Australians will have the historic opportunity to vote on enshrining a Voice to Parliament in our Constitution. The Voice will be an avenue to ensure the perspectives, experiences and knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are infused in the policies and programs the government delivers with them and for them. I am optimistic about the success of the Voice referendum because I am optimistic that Australians will support this embrace of truth, justice, decency and respect.

The Uluru Statement was a gracious invitation to move forward together, just as the National Agreement on Closing the Gap is a respectful commitment to full and genuine partnership. Together, these and other commitments are part of our longer journey towards a better future. A future of equality, respect and dignity for all. A future in which we truly live the spirit of the fair go.

[1]Samuel Bush-Blanasi, 11 December 2022, National Indigenous Times, available at: Hear our Voice!.


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