Closing the Gap 2021

In August 2021, the Commonwealth Government released its first Closing the Gap Implementation Plan. The $1bn Implementation Plan provides an overview of the Commonwealth’s existing actions that contribute to Closing the Gap, as well as new investment and areas of future work. It is a whole-of-government plan, developed across the Commonwealth in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partners.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council (NATSICC) is the peak advisory body to the Australian Catholic Bishops on issues relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholics. NATSICC has provided an in-depth response to this Implementation Plan, with these reforms being described as a “glimpse of a new approach that acknowledges and utilises the knowledge and expertise of Australia’s First Peoples – Australia’s first scientists and diplomats and custodians of the world’s oldest continuing culture.”

The Catholic Social Justice Principle of Subsidiarity teaches us that all people have the right to participate in decisions that affect their lives. Subsidiarity requires that decisions be made by the people closest and most affected by the issues and concerns of the community. For many years NATSICC has called for the Catholic Social Teaching of Subsidiarity to be employed, not only in relation to the Closing the Gap Policy, but in all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Policy. In its response to the August update, NATSICC has called for increased empowerment and funding of locally run Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, as well as urgent policy based changes to address the widening chasms between First Nations and non-Indigenous Peoples.

Summary of the NATSICC Response:

  • The Government’s renewed focus on developing partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Organisations in reaching the new targets is appropriate;
  • We welcome the Stolen Generations Redress Scheme for the ACT, NT and Jervis Bay territory in NSW, but call for QLD and WA to introduce similar Schemes as a matter of urgency;
  • Longer term funding arrangements would empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led Organisations to create long term plans and develop Programs with greater lifespans;
  • The age of criminal responsibility must be raised to 14 years of age;
  • Government should move away from ‘deficit’ language when describing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities;
  • NATSICC calls on the Government to adopt the key pillars of the Uluru Statement – Truth Telling, a Voice to Parliament and Constitutional Reform; and
  • The education of mainstream Australia to the cultural gifts and genuine need of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is imperative to Closing the Gap.

You can read NATSICC’s full response here.

Our Diocese

In this year’s Social Justice Statement, Cry of the Earth, Cry of the Poor, Pope Francis reminds us that the encounter, dialogue, and listening with an open heart enables God’s transforming love to move more powerfully in the world.

To enable us to participate more fully in discussions about our First Nation People they need a seat at the table. The Catholic Church is called to stand in solidarity with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on Closing the Gap and caring for our country at its Plenary Council.

The Diocese is holding Plenary Council Conversations with our diocesan Plenary Council Members each Thursday night from 7pm to 8.30pm via Zoom. Please consider coming along by booking via the Eventbrite Online Registration Link

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