The persistence of “government knows best” thinking when designing and implementing services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is hindering progress on closing the gap between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous students, according to a major Productivity Commission review.
The review said governments are failing in their commitments under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, did not fully grasp the nature and scale of the changes required, and urgently needed to “close the gap between words and action”.
The Coalition of Peaks, a partner to the National Agreement on Closing the Gap which represents more than 80 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations, is calling for renewed efforts on existing commitments and a “dedicated self-determination fund”.
“As Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, we know what is best for our communities, but governments across the board are still not meaningfully giving us a voice in the decisions that affect our lives,” Coalition of Peaks’ acting Lead Convenor Catherine Liddle, said.
“The National Agreement sets a road map, informed by our communities across the country, on what is needed by governments to help close the gap. This includes making sure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives are at the table with governments to share and lead in the decisions that impact on our communities’ lives.”
The Productivity Commission review noted the persistence of “government knows best” thinking when designing and implementing services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
“This review involved extensive community consultation, and it confirms what our own countless conversations have told us – that governments still don’t understand that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people know what is best for our communities,” Liddle said.
“When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are given ownership over the decisions that affect their lives, the resources they need, and the opportunity to partner with government, we see better outcomes.”
Liddle said more funding was needed to deliver the reforms, noting there had been no significant injection of funding since 2008.
“We are calling for a dedicated Closing the Gap fund, enshrined in legislation, and directed to Aboriginal community-controlled organisations and our organisations to support our self-determination,” she said.
“Next week the Prime Minister will address Parliament on the anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations, and we hope his words will be matched with action.”
Liddle noted itt will also be the first time the Prime Minister has addressed the nation in a significant way following the Referendum.
“We are calling for tangible commitments to fully fund the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, to make a meaningful difference to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”