Either we confront change, or we waste the chance to Close the Gap

8 February 2024

The Productivity Commission’s review of the implementation of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap (the Agreement) shows the inadequacy of a business-as-usual approach which pervades government decision-makers across all jurisdictions.

The Commission’s report released on 6 February calls for fundamental change that requires working in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to close the gap.

As we stated in our submission to the review in 2023: “Business-as-usual, consisting of governments consulting on predetermined solutions that are not addressing the Priority Reforms, is unacceptable.”

PHAA therefore calls on all governments to heed the recommendations from the review to strengthen implementation, and clarify the intent of the four Priority Reform Areas to achieve the objectives of the Agreement. We commend the Commission for taking a strong stance and providing clear recommendations to improve government responsiveness and accountability.

In the absence of a national mechanism such as a Voice to Parliament, Partnership Agreements that empower participation both early, and at every stage of the policy development process, through shared power and decision-making authority are more vital than ever. As the Commission acknowledged, transformational change will only be possible if there is a paradigm shift that addresses the current systemic power imbalance.

Limited progress to create an independent mechanism to improve accountability is another major failure to date. An independent, legislated body to monitor and report on progress against the Agreement, as well as other intergovernmental Agreements designed to close the gap, should be established without delay.

Sadly, the review provides evidence that the socio-economic targets outlined in the Agreement are not likely to be met without such fundamental changes, and risks becoming yet another a broken promise to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

We cannot stand back and let that happen. We must embrace the challenge set out in the review by confronting the need for real change. We must take decisive and courageous action to fulfil the recommendations to effectively close the gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

For further information/comment:

Paris Lord (he/him), PHAA Communications & Media Manager, 0478 587 917, [email protected]