William Tilmouth, Children’s Ground Founding Chair.

Closing The Gap affirms Children’s Ground’s community led approach

Children’s Ground Chair, William Tilmouth, welcomed the revised Closing the Gap targets announced yesterday as an important next step towards a national commitment to address the serious inequities experienced by First Nations people.

“The inclusion of land and sea rights, languages, incarceration, suicide, out of home care, violence and housing measures are important markers for change,” Mr Tilmouth said.

“We now have to reach beyond this specific agreement to ensure that the solutions for change are held by the people. While our political leaders and we as Aboriginal organisations must be accountable to targets, we must ensure that the controls are held by and in our communities,” he said.

“We are simply the agents of the people. It is through our continuing Governance that has sustained our peoples for over 65,000 years that we will find the leadership for the solutions that will allow us reach beyond these targets.”

Jane Vadiveloo, CEO of Children’s Ground said these targets now must be interrogated against standards of human rights and dignity.

“Where our national systems are failing children, young people and families, we need radical change and overhaul,” Ms Vadiveloo said.

“I was heartened to hear Minister Wyatt speak about the policy changes he is navigating with Attorneys-General to reduce the over-representation and capture of adults and young people in jail. Changes in systems of justice, child welfare and education underpin the ability of our nation to close the gaps. It cannot be achieved simply through funding of programs that place a band-aid on systems that are creating damage. We must invest heavily in local communities, while reforming systems to ensure that they are culturally safe and responsive.”

Accompanying the 16 new targets – each dated to be achieved 10 years from now – are four reform principles that align with reasons Children’s Ground was set up in 2011.

  • Strengthening and establishing formal partnerships and shared decision-making
  • Building the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled sector
  • Transforming government organisations so they work better for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Improving and sharing access to data and information to enable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities make informed decisions.

“While I welcome the targets, I would like to see a commitment to prevention and an end to prescribed solutions,” Mr. Tilmouth said.

“Sadly the way the mainstream system works, we always end up being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. One catalyst to real change in communities is moving away from silos.

“At Children’s Ground we deliver in a culturally safe way, all key areas – education, health, employment, businesses – they are interconnected. Aboriginal people don’t separate them. When children are on country, with the right people, they learn their identity, their responsibilities, their language and their stories of that place, they learn art and science and history.

“At Children’s Ground, we focus on early childhood education health and wellbeing as the foundations for life. This is an intergenerational approach. We create an economy around that child where grandfathers and grandmothers, fathers and mothers, are in and around that child, and it is education in culture, identity, language and country, as well as western education.

“Children’s Ground was started by our people as their movement to not simply close the gap but to prevent it ever opening for the next generation of children. Each of the new CTG targets are achievable by implementing systems like Children’s Ground that tackle the key social, cultural and economic determinants for the future of our children.

“Along with the targets announced for housing and land and sea, we believe that this is a formidable combination that can create long term change for our people. The remaining targets are all embedded in the integrated approach of Children’s Ground which begins in early childhood and walks with children through to adult hood establishing the foundations of safety, wellbeing and opportunity in education, health, economy and cultural wellbeing.

“We need substantial State and Federal investment in long-term, place-based and integrated approaches to create a better future for First Nations families.”