ABC 7:30

Release Date: 
30 July 2020

Topics: National Agreement on Closing the Gap

Leigh Sales: Ken Wyatt, thanks for your time today.

Ken Wyatt: It's good to be with you, Leigh.

Leigh Sales: The previous Closing the Gap scheme failed to meet its targets. What do you think will make a difference with this one?

Ken Wyatt: I think the difference is it's been co-designed with Aboriginal key people within peak organisations. But more importantly, the accountability that state and territory governments and the Commonwealth and the peak organisations will have. Instead of just the Prime Minister presenting a report in the Australian Parliament, the states and territories have agreed to table a report in their own parliaments on their success with the targets at the jurisdictional level. And the Peaks will provide a report on what they have achieved against the targets that they are responsible for. So I think that accountability makes the difference.

Leigh Sales: On the point about accountability, isn't putting responsibility on local Indigenous organisations a way, though for future governments to blame shift if targets aren't met. That is to say, oh well, those outcomes, it was partly the responsibility of local Indigenous leaders, and that's a question for them.

Ken Wyatt: Well Leigh, I would hope that would never happen, because I think the reality is we are all responsible.

Leigh Sales: The number of targets in this plan are double the last one. The gaps exist in every aspect of life, mortality, chronic disease, disability, incarceration, education, wealth, employment, you name it, and yet the government is putting no additional money towards this. Doesn't that send a clear message about priorities and commitment?

Ken Wyatt: Well, I think the thing that we're doing first is to look at the implementation plans that now need to be developed for each of the targets, identify what existing resources are there, and then identify what are the additional resources. Now certainly, we have provided support to the peaks, but we will have ongoing discussions and further announcements will be made in the near future, Leigh on this matter.

Leigh Sales: So there should be more resourcing going to it, there will be more resourcing going into it?

Ken Wyatt: The Commonwealth will stump up, as we indicated in the negotiations, and I was reminded by Pat today of that obligation, and we are committed to working very closely with the peaks. It's not just the peaks, its Aboriginal communities as well, it's right across. There are other organisations that state and territory governments have as well.

Leigh Sales: One of the targets, just to use one for an example, is to dramatically lower the number of Indigenous children in out-of-home care. Isn't there a risk that vulnerable children will be left in dangerous situations just so bureaucrats can say we met the targets?

Ken Wyatt: No, because the discussions we had at the last meeting before we endorsed the strategy was the need to do further work to look at the front end indicators of how we prevent children going into out-of-home care. And if they do, what [are] the outcomes that we hope to achieve in that interim period in which they go into a safe environment? There's certainly kinship structures that exist at the community level where they are very effective. It's just applying that uniformly across Australia so that we get better outcomes, but we will not reconcile from the safety of children because it is important we keep children safe.

Leigh Sales: Is there any one of all of those areas of need that I mentioned that you see as more pressing than any of the others?

Ken Wyatt: So the one I see as the most pressing are the early years of life, and that's why there are three targets around early years, early childhood, and around the opportunities of creating a better pathway for children with a solid foundation. Because what we do know from research, and Fiona Stanley's works, Steve Zubrick, Sven Silburn and the Menzies Institute show that when you give children a better foundation, they are less likely to end up in incarceration. They have better educational outcomes and better pathways into careers that will give them a real job.

Leigh Sales: Minister, thanks for your time.

Ken Wyatt: Thank you, Lee.