We are committed to implementing the Government’s policies and programs to provide the greatest benefit to all First Nations peoples. Our priorities are informed by the Government’s commitment to work in genuine partnership with First Nations peoples for better outcomes.
We support the Minister and Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians, as well as the Special Envoy for Reconciliation and the Implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. Over the reporting period, our key priorities are to:
- continue to embed initiatives and Priority Reforms to Close the Gap
- implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart
- reduce incarceration of First Nations adults and youth
- strengthen First Nations peoples economic and job opportunities
- deliver the Territories Stolen Generations Redress Scheme
- assist First Nations peoples to care for and connect with Country
- continue to champion reconciliation throughout Australia.
National Agreement on Closing the Gap
The Australian Government’s Closing the Gap Implementation Plan (the Implementation Plan) sets out the actions it is taking to drive and embed the 4 Priority Reforms and contribute to the 17 socio-economic outcomes and commitments in the National Agreement on Closing the Gap (the National Agreement). In August 2021, all parties completed their respective Closing the Gap implementation plans. The Implementation Plan enables a clear line of sight between Australian Government actions and the contributions to achieving the Closing the Gap targets.
Between 2022 and 2026, the NIAA will continue to work across Australian Government agencies, in partnership with the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations, to implement the Australian Government’s commitments as outlined in its Implementation Plan, which will be updated post the tabling of the Australian Government’s first Closing the Gap Annual Report due later in 2022.
We play a key influencing role in supporting the Minister for Indigenous Australians on the Joint Council on Closing the Gap, and representing the Australian Government in the Partnership Working Group to drive the implementation of the National Agreement. We will continue to work with other Australian Government agencies, particularly central agencies including the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, to embed the 4 Priority Reforms across government and change how we work. We will also work with data agencies and the Productivity Commission to continue to build the data and evidence base to support outcomes under Closing the Gap.
"We will continue to work with other Australian Government agencies to embed the 4 Priority Reforms across government and change how we work."
Uluru Statement from the Heart – Voice, Treaty, Truth
The Uluru Statement from the Heart (the Uluru Statement) calls for a First Nations’ Voice to Parliament enshrined in Australia’s Constitution, and the appointment of the Makarrata Commission charged with overseeing truth-telling and agreement-making. The Government is committed to implementing the 2017 Uluru Statement in full. The Uluru Statement follows a decade of consideration on appropriate forms of recognition by First Nations leaders, constitutional experts, Parliamentary committees and First Nations communities.
The Government will hold a referendum to enshrine a First Nations’ voice in the Constitution as a matter of priority. Enshrinement of a First Nations Voice will include our First Nations in the founding document of our country. It addresses the injustice of their past exclusion, provides healing for the future, and a richer understanding of our nationhood for all Australians. It is a practical model that provides a systematic process for First Nations peoples to provide advice to the Australian Parliament and Australian Government, allowing First Nations peoples to have a say in decisions that impact their lives. It will be a Voice for First Nations peoples, run by First Nations peoples.
As part of its commitment to the Uluru Statement, the Government will also establish the Makarrata Commission. ‘Makarrata’ is a Yolngu Matha term, meaning to ‘come together after a struggle’. The Makarrata Commission will be established as an independent entity to support local models of truth-telling in partnership with First Nations communities and other levels of government. It will also develop a national framework for agreement-making, taking into account existing state and territory processes. Once established, the commission will work with a First Nations Voice to Parliament.
Throughout the reporting period, the NIAA will work with Australian Government agencies, First Nations leaders and communities, as well as other stakeholders to prepare for a referendum and achieve the Government’s commitment to implement the Uluru Statement.
Addressing incarceration rates of adults and youth
First Nations adults and youth are over represented in the criminal justice system. Over the next 4 years, the NIAA will partner with First Nations peak bodies and communities, and our Australian Government and jurisdiction partners, to coordinate and focus effort on addressing the drivers of contact with the criminal justice system. This includes strengths-based, trauma aware and healing informed approaches, funded through the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, such as adult and youth through-care programs, reducing alcohol and substance misuse, and improving social and emotional wellbeing through connection to land, culture and Country.
The NIAA and the Attorney-General’s Department will continue to lead the Australian Government in the Justice Policy Partnership. We broker relationships and work with our collective evidence and experience to embed the Closing the Gap Priority Reforms and achieve progress towards targets 10 and 11.
Remote Jobs Program
Employment is critical to the economic prosperity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The NIAA will continue to prioritise strengthening First Nations economic and job opportunities throughout the reporting period. We will design and implement a new remote jobs program to increase opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in remote communities. Our focus will be on continuing to champion First Nations employment in the Australian Public Service and working in cooperation with key partners across the national, state, and local governments to improve economic outcomes for First Nations peoples.
Communities in remote Australia will determine local projects that support economic development and improved employment outcomes. Programs and policies will be community led with local decision-making. This will advance greater self-determination for remote communities.
Territories Stolen Generations Redress Scheme
The implementation and delivery of the Territories Stolen Generations Redress Scheme is a high priority for the NIAA and will continue to be a focus for this reporting period.
The scheme was announced in 2021 and seeks to recognise the harm and trauma experienced by Stolen Generations survivors who were removed from their families or communities in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory (prior to self-government), as well as in the Jervis Bay Territory. The scheme operates on the basis of trauma-informed service delivery and design, and cultural competency and safety for all individuals involved.
In line with the commitments set out in the National Agreement to engage fully and transparently on significant policy change that primarily impacts on First Nations peoples, a Territories Stolen Generations Redress Scheme External Advisory Board (Board) has been established. The Board comprises Stolen Generations organisations, survivors and trauma specialists. The Board assisted with the design, implementation and evaluation of the scheme and will continue to ensure it operates to best meet the needs of Stolen Generations survivors and their families.
"The implementation and delivery of the Territories Stolen Generations Redress Scheme is a high priority for the NIAA and will continue to be a focus for this reporting period."
Caring for Country
The Australian Government is investing in programs that assist First Nations peoples to care for and connect with Country. These programs maintain or support traditional obligations while also providing communities with important opportunities for employment, economic development and environmental improvement. Through the management and stewardship of land and waters, these programs produce significant benefits for the protection of Australia’s natural environment and cultural heritage, whilst helping Australia meet international treaty obligations to conserve biodiversity.
The Indigenous Rangers and Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA) programs are two very successful Australian Government caring for Country initiatives with 128 ranger groups operating nationally and 81 dedicated IPAs comprising nearly 50% of Australia’s National Reserve System.
Over the next 4 years we will continue to work with ranger provider organisations to deliver the $746 million awarded in grants to existing projects under the Indigenous Rangers Program for 2021–2028. We will also be expanding the program further by delivering on the Government’s commitments to double the number of rangers by the end of the decade.
Delivery of this commitment over the next 4 years will be through competitive grant opportunities for both existing and new ranger provider organisations. The details of these opportunities will be informed by community consultations and feedback on previous grant processes.
We will continue to work with the Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water (DCCEEW) and Traditional Owners to manage 81 dedicated IPAs and achieve dedication status for 19 IPA projects currently in their consultation phase. We will deliver funding agreements to manage 10 Sea Country IPAs and to increase investment in IPAs by $10 million per year. Future investment in IPAs will be in consultation with the DCCEEW.
Increased investment in First Nations environment programs provides the opportunity to achieve valuable cultural and social outcomes in more locations across Australia through working on Country. More ranger jobs and better use of rangers in place will result in more skilled leaders and stronger cultural and community capital. The social determinants of health and wellbeing for First Nations peoples caring for Country are well demonstrated and contribute to our efforts to Close the Gap.
Throughout the reporting period the NIAA will continue to work in close partnership with other Australian Government departments and agencies to deliver First Nations land and water management programs, such the IPA Program, and to encourage the embedding of First Nations principles in all mainstream environmental programs. In addition, the NIAA is developing an Indigenous Rangers Sector Strategy, supported by a national implementation plan, that explores opportunities for cross-agency, Australian Government, jurisdictional and non-government sector partnerships to identify and action initiatives that will support and further strengthen the Indigenous land and water management/ranger sector.
At the NIAA, our vision for reconciliation is for Australians to work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. A reconciled nation respects the living cultures, stories and histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We champion the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Program delivered by Reconciliation Australia, using our influence to raise awareness, drive change, inspire and enable all Australians to contribute to the reconciliation of the nation.
We understand the importance of embedding reconciliation initiatives throughout the NIAA. The Reconciliation Action Plan Working Group was established in 2022 and comprises representatives across our Agency. All staff are responsible for implementing our Stretch RAP 2022–2025, supported by the NIAA RAP Working Group. We are ambitious for change and see the RAP as complementary to our implementation of the Commonwealth Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Workforce Strategy 2020–2024, both key levers for Closing the Gap Priority Reform 3, Transforming government organisations. The NIAA is also a signatory to the Australian Human Rights Commission’s RACISM. It Stops With Me campaign.
As part of the governance process, the RAP Working Group regularly reports achievements against the RAP to the People and Culture Committee and the Executive Board. The RAP Working Group will also participate in the Australian Reconciliation Barometer, a national research study looking at the relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.
"A reconciled nation respects the living cultures, stories and histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples."
Next Steps and transformation
To deliver on the Government’s commitments, the NIAA Next Steps program has been established to make sure our functions and resources are appropriately aligned to provide the greatest benefit for First Nations peoples. We have sought permission from the Winanggaay Ngunnawal Language Aboriginal Corporation to use the word ‘Galambany’ to represent the implementation of this program. Galambany means ‘you, me, we together’ and represents the importance of partnership, a notion which will be reflected throughout our transformation journey. The Next Steps program will consider, plan and implement the transformation required to deliver on the Government’s significant agenda. The NIAA Next Steps program will build on our strong foundations, and guide the journey that the NIAA must take so that we operate in the best way to deliver the strongest outcomes for First Nations peoples. We will refresh our operating model and develop a roadmap for transformation against six work streams that align with our strategic objectives:
- Our Policy and Strategy — aligning our policies to the Government’s agenda, to deliver in partnership with First Nations peoples.
- Our Investment — prioritising and streamlining our effort and investment to deliver better funding outcomes into the future.
- Our Data and Information — identifying our data needs to support effective policy and engagement.
- Our Engagement — developing the tools for best-practice engagement with our stakeholders.
- Our People — building the capabilities and skills the Agency needs to deliver strong outcomes.
- Our Enabling Services — tailoring our services to meet our business needs, and reduce red tape and duplication.
This will also be an opportunity to review some of the practices, policies and process within the NIAA, and allow all of us all to look at how we do our business. This process will also help us identify and build the relationships we need to achieve better outcomes in the future.
"The Next Steps program will consider, plan and implement the transformation required to deliver on the Government’s significant agenda."