The Joint Council on Closing the Gap has given its in principle agreement to the first two Sector Strengthening Plans, to improve the early childhood care and development sector and the health sector as part of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap.
The Early Childhood Care and Development and Health Sector Strengthening Plans are a key enabler of Priority Reform 2 of the National Agreement. They were developed by dedicated working groups, co-chaired by the Department of Education, Skills and Employment and SNAICC, and the Department of Health and NACCHO, respectively.
The plans outline high level priorities to guide joint national effort and targeted jurisdictional actions to build a strong and sustainable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled sector.
Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM MP, said the plans demonstrate a more joined-up approach for how all Australian Governments are working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations play critical leadership and service delivery roles across the country,” Minister Wyatt said.
“Jurisdictions will use the plans to develop specific actions to address issues relevant to their context and will report on these, including funding commitments, in their annual updates to their Closing the Gap Implementation Plans.”
Acting Minister for Education and Youth, the Hon Stuart Robert MP, said: “The early childhood care and development plan will guide all levels of government, peaks and the community-controlled sector to support the education, safety, wellbeing, health and development of children in their early years.
“The plan sets out 36 key areas of action to guide collaboration between the community-controlled sector and governments to improve service quality, develop the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce and expand Indigenous-led service delivery.”
Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, said the Health-SSP was an ambitious plan that will respond to key challenges identified by the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector.
“For the health sector, the strengthening plan has identified 17 transformative actions that will support a more holistic approach to care and that seek to maximise the benefits of funding, including by integrating services that have become siloed,” Minister Hunt said.
“We are all responsible for building strong community-controlled sectors to deliver Closing the Gap services and programs. The Health-SSP will help to guide these efforts.”
Pat Turner, Lead Convenor of the Coalition of Peaks, said the development of the plans is a manifestation of the new way of working.
“The plans provide a way forward for governments to work in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations,” Ms Turner said.
“The process for developing the sector strengthening plans has ensured that the voices of community-controlled organisations have been heard and the needs of the sectors are addressed.”
In presenting the health plan to the Joint Council, Deputy CEO of NACCHO and co-chair of the health working group, Dr Dawn Casey, said “The COVID-19 pandemic response has demonstrated how an equal partnership between the community-controlled sector and governments can work when everyone is on the same page and the community is supported to deliver the services they need.”
Catherine Liddle, CEO of SNAICC and co-chair of the early childhood working group, noted that the plans are not meant to be read in isolation, pointing to the “intersection of these services with other priority sectors for strengthening to be addressed in other plans, including health, housing and disability.”
These are the first Sector Strengthening Plans agreed in-principle by the Joint Council. Disability and housing plans will be considered at the Council’s next meeting in April 2022.
The Plans will be published on the Closing the Gap website https://www.closingthegap.gov.au/