Boosting Support for Aboriginal Organisations the Key to Closing the Gap 

Mar 20, 2024

National Closing the Gap Day is stark reminder that the advent of the two Closing the Gap Agreements over 15 years deliver minimal change unless they are held up by meaningful investment in self-determination and Aboriginal-led approaches.

Despite the best intentions of many, a glaring life-expectancy gap continues to exist between Aboriginal and non-Indigenous people.

According to the latest release of Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data (2023), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women have a life expectancy of 8.1 years lower than non-Indigenous women, whilst for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men it’s 8.8 years.

The Productivity Commissions scathing Review of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap underscored the ongoing failure of governments to prioritise having Aboriginal health in Aboriginal hands. The report revealed a troubling lack of progress in implementing crucial reforms describing progress against priority reforms as “slow, uncoordinated and piecemeal.”

The review also noted that governments continue to undervalue the pivotal role played by Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, with their failure to empower ACCOs hindering their capacity to address the specific needs and priorities of their communities.

The Productivity Commission’s first recommendation is that power needs to be shared – which is why Treaty will be critical to closing the gap in Victoria.

Transformative health and wellbeing outcomes are achieved when Aboriginal Communities are empowered to be in the driver’s seat, and actively involved in developing and delivering services at a local level. The success of this approach has been evident through the vital work ACCOs carry out to enhance the health and wellbeing of Communities.

VACCHO CEO Jill Gallagher AO implores all levels of government to ramp up their levels of support for Aboriginal organisations so that they aren’t just helping Communities survive – but empowering them to thrive.

“The key to closing the gap lies with the dedicated and determined teams at ACCOs who apply Aboriginal knowledge, culture, and innovation to strengthen families and transform lives.”

“There has been plenty of goodwill from governments since the first Closing the Gap statement of intent was signed back in 2008. Despite the best intentions of many, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities continue to suffer, experiencing disproportionately poorer health compared to non-Indigenous people.”

“ACCOs provide holistic, wrap around care from birth right through to Dreaming. These organisations and their incredible people are healers, life extenders, and life savers.”

“It’s time for governments to release the shackles, share power through a Treaty and create transformative policies that empower ACCOs, and their dedicated staff to continue to apply Aboriginal ways of being, knowing, and doing to support thriving, healthy Communities.”

Artwork credit: Journey Together – Close the Gap.

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VACCHO is the peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing in Victoria – the only one of its kind – with 33 Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations as Members. VACCHO Members support over 65,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Victoria, and combined are the largest employers of Aboriginal people in the state.