CASWA project background

How it was developed

In alignment with Priority Reform Two of the National Agreement, the WA Government committed to sector strengthening activities through commissioning AHCWA to establish a new peak body to represent the Aboriginal community-controlled sector in WA. Through extensive consultation with the WA ACCO sector, a name was settled on for the peak body: the Council of Aboriginal Services Western Australia (CASWA).

The Council of Aboriginal Services WA (CASWA) was registered as a Public Company Limited by Guarantee on 16 March 2023.

The aim of CASWA is to strengthen and increase the capacity of WA ACCOs involved in service delivery to Aboriginal people in WA across priority sectors identified under the National Agreement.


Who is on the Committee
Committee Member Role
Vicki O’Donnell Chairperson
Raymond Christophers AHCWA Director
June Councillor AHCWA Director
Deborah Woods AHCWA Director
Ernie Hill AHCWA Director
Preston Thomas AHCWA Director
Fabian Tucker AHCWA Director
Martin Sibosado Independent Representative
Corina Martin Independent Representative
Gail Beck Independent Representative
Who is the Project Team
Project Team member Role
Klaudia Shenton Project Manager – Closing the Gap

Strategies and Initiatives

Western Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council

The Western Australian Aboriginal Advisory Council (WAAAC) was established under Section 18(1) of the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority Act 1972 as a statutory board. It is comprised of prominent Aboriginal leaders from across WA.

The WAAAC plays a key role in working with the WA State Government  to advise on matters that impact Aboriginal people in WA. It helped to develop the WA Aboriginal Empowerment Strategy, and regularly advises on matters relating to children and young people, justice reform, accountability and advocacy in Aboriginal affairs, and Closing the Gap.

All members of the WAAAC have been peer-nominated and represent a diversity of knowledge and expertise across various regions and sectors.


Western Australian Aboriginal Empowerment Strategy 2021-2029

The Western Australian Aboriginal Empowerment Strategy (the Strategy) outlines how the Western Australian Government will work towards a future in which ‘all Aboriginal people, families and communities are empowered to live good lives and choose their own futures from a secure foundation’.

The Strategy was developed in partnership with the Aboriginal Advisory Council of Western Australia, setting out the WA’s approach to meeting its commitments under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap (National Agreement).

The Strategy sets out a high-level framework for future WA Government policies, initiatives and programs that lead to better outcomes for Aboriginal people and their communities, built around genuine partnerships and engagement, strong accountability and culturally responsive ways of working.


Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation (ACCO) Strategy – Department of Communities

The Department of Communities released the Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation Strategy in August 2022.
As WA’s major human services department, the Department of Communities brings together vital services and functions that support individual, family and community wellbeing.

The ACCO Strategy aims to improve the way that the Department of Communities commissions and delivers services to Aboriginal children, families and communities, while supporting the development of ACCOs to increase their capability to deliver place-based, culturally appropriate services across WA.

In line with the National Agreement, the ACCO Strategy aims to facilitate the delivery of culturally secure outcomes for Aboriginal children, families and communities and is directly aligned to Priority Reform 2 of the National Agreement.


Whole-of-government ACCO Strategy – Department of the Premier and Cabinet

The WA Government’s Closing the Gap Implementation Plan committed to developing a whole-of-government ACCO Strategy in 2022.

The Department of the Premier and Cabinet is leading this work, although, as of March 2023, is yet to release the ACCO Strategy.

The aim of the whole-of-government ACCO Strategy is to act as guide to WA State Government agencies that commission human, community and health services; and it will be embedded in their work through the development of Agency Commissioning Plans and the State Commissioning Strategy.

Closing the Gap

Partnership Agreement

In March 2019, a formal Partnership Agreement was established between the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the Coalition of Peaks.

The Coalition of Peaks is a representative body of over 50 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled peak bodies, and is an equal partner alongside governments in all matters relating to Closing the Gap. Currently, the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australian (AHCWA) is the sole Western Australian representative on the Coalition of Peaks.

The Partnership Agreement outlines how the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and the Coalition of Peaks work and share decisions together on the design, implementation and monitoring of Closing the Gap strategies and policies.

This brings both opportunity and responsibility for stakeholders as Aboriginal people and governments are sharing decisions on Closing the Gap, under a formal agreement.

The Partnership Agreement is based on the shared beliefs that:

  • When Aboriginal people are included and have a genuine say in the design and delivery of services that impact on them, the outcomes are better;
  • Aboriginal people need to be at the centre of Closing the Gap policies, to bring about change to matters that affect them, and;
  • Two way communication is imperative for priority reforms to take shape.


National Agreement on Closing the Gap

Under the Partnership Agreement, it was agreed that the National Indigenous Reform Agreement, an Agreement signed by Australian governments in 2008 setting out the original Closing the Gap strategy, needed to be replaced by a new National Agreement focussing on genuine partnership and involvement of Aboriginal people and their communities.

In July 2020, the Joint Council finalised the National Agreement on Closing the Gap (National Agreement).

The National Agreement is an ambitious and historic commitment that has equitable outcomes for Aboriginal people at its centre.

It is an essential long-term reform in the way that governments across the country work with Aboriginal people and it sets a clear path for change.

The National Agreement has been driven by a partnership between Aboriginal people and all Australian governments, and it must be the overarching framework for all Aboriginal Affairs policy activities from all governments into the future.

Previous Closing the Gap initiatives were focussed only on socio-economic targets, however the new National Agreement has four Priority Reforms at its centre.

The focus on reform is based on the belief that meaningful and sustainable improvements in outcomes for Aboriginal people cannot be achieved without transformational changes in the way governments work with Aboriginal people and their communities.

The four Priority Reforms that are guiding the National Agreement are:

  • Priority Reform 1: Shared Decision Making and Partnership – Developing and strengthening structures so that Aboriginal people share decision-making with governments on Closing the Gap.
  • Priority Reform 2: Building the Aboriginal Community-Controlled sector – Building formal Aboriginal community-controlled service sectors to deliver Closing the Gap services.
  • Priority Reform 3: Transforming mainstream institutions – Ensuring mainstream government agencies and institutions that deliver services and programs to Aboriginal people undertake systemic and structured transformation to contribute to Closing the Gap
  • Priority Reform 4: Increasing access to data – Ensuring Aboriginal people have access to, and the capability to use, locally relevant data and info to monitor the implementation of the Priority Reforms, socio-economic targets, and drive local priorities.

In addition to the Priority Reform targets, the National Agreement establishes 17 targets under the 17 socio-economic outcome areas to bring focus to new areas and monitor progress in improvements in the lives of Aboriginal people.

The socio-economic outcomes are focused on areas including education, employment, health, and well-being, justice, safety, housing, land and waters, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages.

Strategic Vision


Aboriginal community-controlled organisations (ACCOs) in Western Australia are united by a strong and collective voice, that enables them to deliver place-based, community-led and culturally appropriate services to achieve better outcomes for Aboriginal people and their communities.


CASWA leads and supports Aboriginal community-controlled organisations to deliver services that have a positive impact on outcomes and build the strength and empowerment of Aboriginal people and their communities across Western Australia.

CASWA will do this through:
  • Policy development and advice to government and other stakeholders informed by
  • sector consultation and research;
  • Representation of ACCOs and advocacy to government and other mainstream stakeholders;
  • Information dissemination; and
  • Capacity-building and sector development.


Culture Culture is fundamental to the wellbeing of Aboriginal people. CASWA is committed to embedding, promoting and celebrating Aboriginal culture in everything we do.

Self-determination ACCOs facilitate self-determination by enabling Aboriginal people to deliver the services to their communities that reflect their needs, cultures, and relationships to land. While abstaining from service delivery, CASWA advocates for ACCOs and their communities across WA to have a genuine share in decision-making with Government on policies and programs that impact Aboriginal people.

Knowledge and innovation CASWA acknowledges old and new Aboriginal knowledge, and advocates for this knowledge to be translated into practice and to underpin everything we do.

Genuine partnerships and collaboration It is essential that ACCOs are actively and equally involved in the design and delivery of services that impact Aboriginal people. CASWA facilitates genuine partnership relationships between communities and government and demands the recognition of ACCOs as subject matter experts.

Commitment – In order to improve social outcomes for Aboriginal people, services must remain committed to the key tenets of Aboriginality: culture, kinship, land and community.
CASWA entrenches these commitments in everything we do.

Integrity – In the face of adversity and resistance, integrity ensures that the right work is carried out for the right reasons. CASWA ensures that all decisions will be underpinned by a commitment to uphold integrity.

CASWA project background

Strategies and Initiatives

Closing the Gap

Strategic Vision