The Australian government has recently released a historic Closing the Gap agreement, featuring 16 new targets aimed at improving the lives of Indigenous Australians in areas such as health, life expectancy, employment and education.
The new agreement was signed by all state and territory governments, and has been set by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.
Indigenous organisations now closely involved
Alongside setting the agreement, Indigenous organisations will direct the execution of the targets.
Global Citizen, an international non-profit that fights extreme poverty, says the direct involvement of Indigenous Australians is a key difference to the targets set in 2008.
These were created with minimal input from Indigenous communities and have predominantly been unmet, the non-profit observes.
Prime Minister acknowledges past failings
During the launch of the new targets in Canberra, Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged previous failings.
“We told Indigenous Australians what the gap was that we were going to close – and somehow thought they should be thankful for that. That was wrong-headed. That wasn’t the way to do it,” Morrison said.
“For the first time, First Nations people will share decision-making with governments on Closing the Gap.”
Commitments on reducing suicide, jail rates
This time, the targets also include commitments on reducing Indigenous suicide, incarceration rates and the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care.
Preserving languages, reducing overcrowded housing and increasing land rights also feature in the latest agreement.
“The way all levels of government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives have come together to negotiate this National Agreement and collectively determine how we strive to close the gap demonstrates our commitment to working together through meaningful partnerships,” Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt, said in a press release.
An opportunity missed, says Legal Service
But not everyone has been happy with the new agreement.
Global Citizen reports that Nerita Waight, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service Co-chair, said the incarceration rate target lacks substance and is not ambitious enough.
According to Waight, the 15% reduction target will not achieve parity in prison rates for Indigenous and non-Indigenous adults until 2093. “It feels like a very missed opportunity,” she said.