Governments have set an ambitious target of closing the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by 2031.
A new Closing the Gap agreement, which also covers children’s health and jail rates, will be unveiled on Thursday and has the support of Australia’s local, territory, state and federal government leaders.
Non-Indigenous men live 8.6 years longer than their Indigenous counterparts, while the gap is 7.8 years for women.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said having directly negotiated the agreement with Indigenous people would ensure progress could be made on areas ranging from early childhood to employment.
“The gaps we are now seeking to close are the gaps that have now been defined by the representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” Mr Morrison said.
“This is as it should be. This creates a shared commitment and a shared responsibility.”
The new agreement, which comes into effect on Thursday, has the backing of all levels of government and the Coalition of Peaks, which represents around 50 Indigenous representative bodies.
“We know that the best outcomes are achieved when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are equal partners with governments, and when they have a direct say in how we are going to be successful,” Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt said.
The 16 specific national socio-economic targets cover a range of measures, most of which have a 2031 target date.
Among them are increasing the proportion of babies with a healthy birthweight to 91 per cent, driving up the year 12 attainment rate to 96 per cent and cutting the jail rate for adults by at least 15 per cent.
Within five years, 95 per cent of Indigenous children would be enrolled in early childhood education a year before full-time schooling.
As well, the leaders have committed to a “significant and sustained” reduction in violence against women and children with the long-term aim of zero violence.
Coalition of Peaks lead convenor Pat Turner said Indigenous people wanted to have a direct say on how things should be working in their communities.
“If the priority reforms are implemented in full by governments and through shared decision making with First Nations people, we should see changes over time to the lives and experiences of our people,” she said.
The agreement also includes a commitment to increase accountability and transparency.
An Indigenous-led review will examine how outcomes are changing on the ground, with the Productivity Commission to report back on progress every three years.
“If the priority reforms are implemented in full by governments and through shared decision making with First Nations people, we should see changes over time to the lives and experiences of our people,” Coalition of Peaks lead convenor Pat Turner said.
The first Closing the Gap framework was launched by the Rudd Government in 2008, with seven targets to improve Indigenous outcomes.
The most recent progress report found only two of the targets were being met, with progress on improving child mortality, life expectancy and employment outcomes lagging behind.
In 2019, the Council of Australian Governments partnered with the Coalition of Peaks to refresh the strategy.
In early July, a set of sixteen new closing the gap targets were agreed upon.