8 July 2020

Last week, the government’s new Closing the Gap targets were leaked, including parity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous incarceration rates by 2093 — not so much a target as a threat. It was dropped after an outcry. Megan Davis points out that the new goals reflect a bureaucratic status quo: “A feature the government was happier claiming was that the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap was a deal between it and the Coalition of Peaks, the many organisations that make up our Aboriginal service delivery sector, who would deliver on its aims. This innovation is ostensibly ‘self-determination’. It is anything but. The peaks are a triumph and a testament to the peerless activism of pioneers in the health and services sector … [b]ut the peaks are contracted service providers. The peaks rely on government funds to run their organisations and these monies are pegged to the governments’ outcomes, not ours. Government can defund service deliverers and dismiss them with a wave of a pen or defund them when it so chooses. … True self-determination is beyond the scope and function of providers of essential services. We need structural reform that will give Indigenous Australians some power over all decisions that are made about us. The peaks treat the symptoms, but a protected Voice in the constitution is about treating the causes of illness, of incarceration, of early death, unemployment and poor education outcomes.”