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Leaders to focus on Indigenous wellbeing

Governments have set an ambitious target of closing the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians by 2031.

A new Closing the Gap agreement, which also covers children’s health and jail rates, has the support of Australia’s local, territory, state and federal government leaders.

Non-Indigenous men live 8.6 years longer than their Indigenous counterparts, while the gap is 7.8 years for women.

It’s the first time the agreement has been developed with Indigenous groups and ensures the states and territories are also responsible.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Ken Wyatt says the announcement deliberately comes with no new funding.

“Because we want to set out the targets and the priority policy areas that are still yet to be finalised,” he told the ABC.

“Already there are resources allocated to the targeted areas. But where we require additional resources, then we’ll ensure that that occurs.”

The agreement comes into effect on Thursday.

The 16 specific national targets cover a range of measures, most of which have a 2031 target date.

Among them are increasing the proportion of babies with a healthy birth weight to 91 per cent, driving up the year 12 attainment rate to 96 per cent and cutting the jail rate for adults by at least 15 per cent.

Within five years, 95 per cent of Indigenous children would be enrolled in early childhood education a year before full-time schooling.

As well, the leaders have committed to a “significant and sustained” reduction in violence against women and children.

Ms Turner said Indigenous people wanted to have a direct say on how things should be working in their communities.

“If the priority reforms are implemented in full by governments and through shared decision making with First Nations people, we should see changes over time to the lives and experiences of our people,” she said.

An initial five policy partnerships will cover justice, mental health, housing, early childhood and Indigenous languages.

Six place-based partnerships are proposed within the first 12 months.

The Productivity Commission will deliver a progress report every three years and there will be an Indigenous-led review of how changes are impacting communities.

Annual reports on actions taken by all parties will be published and tabled in parliaments.

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