7 February 2024

WA Aboriginal Community-Controlled Peak Bodies stand together as the Productivity Commission hands down its report on the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. The Council of Aboriginal Services Western Australia (CASWA) and the Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia (AHCWA) have welcomed the release of the Productivity Commission’s review report (Report) of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap (National Agreement) as a critical step towards achieving genuine and lasting outcomes for Aboriginal people and their communities.

The Report delivers an independent and thorough account of the many issues that have challenged the implementation of the National Agreement since its commencement. More importantly, the Report recommends key actions to be taken by all Australian Governments to significantly improve their accountability to commitments under the National Agreement.

CASWA and AHCWA have strongly supported the four key recommendations of the Report, that: power needs to be shared; Indigenous data sovereignty needs to be enhanced; significant institutional and cultural changes are required within governments; and, greater accountability to National Agreement commitments is required.

AHCWA Chairperson Ms Vicki O’Donnell OAM and CASWA CEO James Christian PSM jointly recognised the findings and recommendations of the Report stating, ‘the Productivity Commission has listened carefully to the voices of Aboriginal people across the country and found what we’ve known from the beginning; that the full implementation of the National Agreement’s Priority Reforms is the essential foundation for closing the gap in life outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people’.

Ms O’Donnell said, ‘unlike the 2008 National Indigenous Reform Agreement, the new National Agreement was developed with Aboriginal people and their peak bodies led by the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations. We were heartened when the Western Australian (WA) Government signed on to the National Agreement which commits them to genuine equal partnership in decision-making with us’.

‘While there have been early positive signs in our work with the WA Government, we cannot slip back into the business as usual approaches that reinforce a legacy of disempowerment of our people, and prevent us from determining a path forward for our communities is not acceptable. Efforts on behalf of all governments to embrace the recommendations of the Productivity Commission, and share power and decision making with our people must now be the priority’.

‘Sharing decision making with governments about policies and programs to improve outcomes for Aboriginal people must be shared by Aboriginal Community-Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) with expertise in their service areas’.

Ms O’Donnell went on to say, ‘WA has a strong and diverse ACCO sector with long histories and deep connections to communities, lands and cultures. The Report not only highlights the authority of ACCOs to act on behalf of their communities, but asserts that Governments must treat ACCOs as essential partners in program and service design and delivery’.

The Report also calls for immediate actions to develop an independent mechanism to monitor and evaluate the accountability of Australian Governments in enacting the transformational changes required by the National Agreement. CASWA and AHCWA have called on the WA Government to continue to work with us and redouble all efforts to close the gap.

Mr Christian said, ‘WA Government representatives have broadly worked collaboratively and in good-faith with WA’s Aboriginal community-controlled sector led peak bodies, AHCWA and
CASWA, in the first few years of the National Agreement’s implementation. We must use therelease of the Productivity Commission’s report to refocus our efforts and, in WA, build upon
the principles of self-determination, empowerment and walking together which we have also agreed with the WA Government under the Aboriginal Empowerment Strategy’.

Ms O’Donnell said ‘AHCWA and CASWA are committed to building on the foundations of cooperation with our key partners in the WA Government to harness the opportunities brought by the Productivity Commission’s report to realise enduring improvements in outcomes for Aboriginal people’.

Read the “Review of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap” report here.

Media Contacts:
Ms Vicki O’Donnell OAM – Chairperson, Aboriginal Health Council of Western Australia
Phone: 0429 110 440
Mr James Christian PSM – Chief Executive Officer, Council of Aboriginal Services WA
Phone: 0461 346 468

Artwork: The artwork titled Yindyamarra ‘Connection’ was created for the Productivity Commission’s visual identity for the first review of progress under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. The artwork was created by Aboriginal artist Lani Balzan to represent all Australians and Torres Strait Islander people and the lands together. Building and making decisions together to help Close the Gap between our cultures.