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Historic new Closing the Gap targets aim at achieving parity for all Australians

“We are making history,” Ms Turner said. “A real game changer for this next phase of Closing the Gap is that the expertise and experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on what works and what is needed is at the centre.”

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She said the new agreed targets, to be released later this year, would help to monitor progress in improving the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people following a decade of failings to make serious inroads into the original 2008 targets.

The targets are built around four new priority reforms aimed at transforming the way governments work with and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in order to improve outcomes.

That means including Indigenous Australians in shared decision-making at the national, state and local or regional level and embedding ownership, responsibility and expertise to help close the gap.

It also identifies the need to ensure mainstream government agencies and institutions undertake “systemic and structural transformation” to improve accountability and better respond to the needs of Indigenous Australians.

Ms Turner said there was a consensus on ensuring Indigenous Australians achieved parity with non-Indigenous Australians but conceded it was “a long way off”.

She said the key to achieving the targets, such as lowering incarceration rates, and employment, health and education levels, was structural reform across government.

“As far as the Coalition of Peaks is concerned, nothing less than parity with other Australians will be satisfactory, and that is going to be the measure of the effort that is put in,” she told ABC TV.

“It’s the structural reforms that are included in the priority reforms that will drive the
change.”

Amid the growing Black Lives Matter movement in Australia, justice campaigners want to bring down the rates of Indigenous Australians behind bars.

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Groups including the Human Rights Law Centre have restated calls for an end to mandatory sentencing rules and for the criminal age of responsibility to be raised from 10 to 14 years.

Ahead of the meeting, Indigenous Australians Minister Ken Wyatt slammed earlier leaked proposals for parity in rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in jails by 2093, saying targets set so long in the future would not deliver real change.

He praised moves to lower Indigenous incarceration rates around the country, including state-based legislation that would end jail time for outstanding fines.

“What we’re looking at is how can we reduce incarceration rates where they are unnecessary,” Mr Wyatt said.

“For example, Western Australia just done a superb piece of legislation that if you default on fines, you no longer will be automatically incarcerated … that will bring the numbers down substantially.

“Victoria is looking at another measure that will change the behaviour towards this particular matter.”

The Council of Attorneys-General will meet to discuss the potential change this month, with national figures showing about 70 per cent of imprisoned children are Indigenous.

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