In his Social Justice Report 2005, former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma AO urged Australian governments to commit to achieving equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in health and life expectancy within 25 years.
In 2008, Australian Governments committed to specific targets for reducing inequalities in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy, mortality, education and employment. A seventh target to close the gap in school attendance was added in 2014.
In December 2016, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to refresh the Closing the Gap agenda ahead of the tenth anniversary of the agreement and four of the seven targets expiring in 2018.
In 2018, a Special Gathering of prominent Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians presented COAG with a statement setting out priorities for a new Closing the Gap agenda. The statement called for the next phase of Closing the Gap to be guided by the principles of empowerment and self-determination and deliver a community-led, strengths-based strategy that enables Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to move beyond surviving to thriving.
Throughout the Refresh process the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet conducted a public submission process, held 29 national roundtables, two technical workshops and a range of individual meetings. A list of participants by organisation is available. The priorities identified by the Special Gathering were used as a basis for a number of these consultations and for the development of draft targets. More details are available in the Special Gathering Statement - DOCX 3.69 MB | PDF 193 KB.
In December 2018, COAG committed to forming a genuine formal partnership with Indigenous Australians to finalise the Closing the Gap Refresh and provide a forum for ongoing engagement throughout implementation of the new agenda. The partnership will be based on mutual respect between parties and an acceptance that direct engagement and negotiation is the preferred pathway to productive and effective outcomes.
COAG also released a draft Closing the Gap framework, including draft targets, accountabilities and reporting requirements as a basis for further discussion with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities.
By mid-2019, ahead of endorsement by COAG, the partnership – working through the Joint Council – will:
- Finalise all draft targets.
- Review the National Indigenous Reform Agreement.
- Develop an independent, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led approach to the three-yearly comprehensive evaluation and review of progress nationally and in each jurisdiction.