NIAA Data and Reporting Team
Better life outcomes are achieved when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a genuine say in the design and delivery of services that affect them. Structural change in the way governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is a key foundational element of the latest National Agreement on Closing the Gap (CtG), signed in July 2020.
As part of the Agreement, all Australian Governments are now sharing decision-making with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. They are represented by community-controlled peak organisations on Closing the Gap, the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (Coalition of Peaks). This is an unprecedented shift in the way governments work, encompassing shared decision-making on the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programs to improve life outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
In the past, agreements involved 8-10 targets, which were identified and prioritised by government and then reported on annually. The latest agreement, developed and negotiated in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, has 17 socioeconomic outcome areas, as well as 4 overarching priority reforms.
The Agreement sets out a commitment to real and tangible measures to improve outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, families, and communities. The Commonwealth Closing the Gap Implementation Plan, released on 5 August 2021, sets out the agreed actions to achieve the commitments in the National Agreement.
The Minister for Indigenous Australians and the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA), has the lead responsibility for coordinating implementation of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap. The Minister and a representative nominated by the Coalition of the Peaks co-chair the Joint Council which has an ongoing role in monitoring the performance against the jointly agreed framework and targets.
The four priority reforms underpinning the Agreement outline how government will engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. This includes delivery of direct policy and program responsibilities, and commits government to broader systemic and behavioural change.
The role of NIAA and its Closing the Gap Data and Reporting Team
The NIAA’s approach in coordinating this shift for the Commonwealth focuses on the four priority reforms in the National Agreement: working in partnership; building the community-controlled sector; transforming mainstream institutions; and sharing regional data practices.
The Closing the Gap landscape is ever evolving, with a real thirst for data to inform the negotiation and agreement of the refreshed socioeconomic outcomes. Developing data to track progress on the Priority Reforms is another area of focus. The team support the Joint Council to identify and formalise agreed outcomes relating to data. In doing this, the team has set their sights on new ways to address unmet data needs and other components of the Agreement.
Under Clause 87 of the Agreement, the team has supported data development on the Family Violence and the Access to Information targets, as well as continuing development and finalisation of two new socioeconomic outcomes (Inland Waters and Community Infrastructure). This involved consultation and collaboration with the Coalition of Peaks, data custodians and representatives of every state and territory jurisdiction as well as the Australian Local Government Association to identify the outcomes and define the information needs.
Working in partnership with the Coalition of Peaks, policy agencies and custodians of data, the team is also coordinating the first CtG Data Development Plan. The plan is expected to provide overarching guiding principles for data development prioritisation, as well as a list of prioritised data development items under each socioeconomic outcome. The DDP will ensure that each outcome has a richer array of high-quality data sources attached to it over the life of the National Agreement. This work is in preparation ahead of Joint Council agreement by mid-2022.
Aligned with Priority Reforms about access to, and control of information for community, are the Community Data projects. Working with all Parties to the National Agreement, the team are coordinating improved community access to data, and the ability to use data through the CtG Community Data project. This involves the use of the Regional Insights for Indigenous Communities (RIFIC) tool and the establishment of up to six pilot projects, led by participating communities to choose issues that are important to them, to identify connected factors and unlock the information needed to empower informed decisions. The team also manages the separate research focused Indigenous Data Network (IDN) Community Data project, through the University of Melbourne. This project involves working with participating organisations in three Indigenous communities across urban, regional and remote locations to support community access to, collection of, and use of data they need to plan and determine their own development.
With a view to bridge data capability and access challenges experienced by many communities, the projects will be reviewed to examine how the model can be further expanded.
The National Agreement on Closing the Gap is a whole-of-government priority that requires commitment, accountability and action from all Commonwealth employees. A key change is the commitment to working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, communities and organisations. For Commonwealth employees it means continuously developing cultural competencies, attitudinal change, flexibility, transparency and innovation.
Ask yourself, “How am I contributing towards improving outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people? Is my work considering, or generating, the data needed to affect change?”