Tasmanian Government’s lack of progress on Close the Gap reforms.
Media Release, Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania
Today [26 July 2023] the Australian Productivity Commission handed down its findings and recommendations about the national implementation of the Close the Gap reforms. [ see here: Draft Report – Review of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap – Productivity Commission (pc.gov.au) ]
The Productivity Commission’s first review of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap shows that governments are not adequately delivering on their commitments to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Further finding that State and Territory governments have been slow to implement Close the Gap initiatives, with steps taken referred to as ‘weak’ with governments preferring a ‘business-as-usual approach’ [page: 2].
Rebecca Digney, Manager of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania, commented that the report is worrying on all fronts, but that it reflected particularly poorly on the Tasmanian Government.
‘In attempting to assess how well the Tasmanian Government have been tracking in meeting their Close the Gap targets, the report revealed that the Tasmanian Government failed to respond to written requests for information from the Australian Productivity Commission’ [page: 26].
‘It is incredibly disappointing that written requests for information from the independent watchdog appointed to assess the national Close the Gap agreement appear to have been ignored by the Tasmanian Government’. Ms Digney said.
‘Is it any wonder the State of Tasmania opted to ignore requests for information? In recent years, we’ve seen a concentrated effort to wind back Aboriginal advancement in this state. We’ve endured successive state governments who have watered down Aboriginal rights, and currently we are enduring a protracted and deliberate attack on land rights and land return in this State. This is despite a national Close the Gap target which aims to increase Aboriginal land holdings by 15 per cent by 2030’ she said.
‘One of the other key priority areas identified nationally in the Close the Gap agreement was data-sovereignty, which despite being identified nationally as an area worthy of priority reform was not addressed at all by the Tasmanian Government in its Close the Gap implementation plan.’
‘Essentially, data sovereignty is about recognising that Aboriginal people own the data and information pertaining to and recorded about us and our culture, and while the report found that most Australian jurisdictions were making slow progress in this area, it also found that the State of Tasmania had failed to acknowledge this area of priority reform at all.’
Ms Digney indicated that failure to acknowledge data sovereignty had most recently manifested itself when the Tasmanian Government refused to release information regarding the Minister for Parks permitting the destruction of Aboriginal cultural material in contrast to the recommendations of the Aboriginal Heritage Advisory body, which he himself appointed.
‘Despite our attempts to access information which relates to Aboriginal cultural material and is important for Aboriginal people to know, the Land Council were redirected to the costly and timely Right to Information process. This is clearly unacceptable.’ Ms Digney said.
‘As Aboriginal people we continue to assert our right to own our land and waters, and to access information held by government about ourselves, our heritage and cultural items. We expect the Tasmanian Government to honour its commitment to recognising Close the Gap the targets and call on the Tasmanian Government to do more.’