Victoria’s first Closing the Gap Implementation Plan
The National Agreement, signed in July 2020, was negotiated between the Commonwealth Government, State and Territory Governments, and the Coalition of Peaks, a representative body of over seventy Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled peak organisations and members.
The National Agreement is structured around four priority reform areas that are the mutually reinforcing enablers for achieving better outcomes for Aboriginal people. The priority reforms also broadly align with the four self-determination enablers in the VAAF (see Figure 1), which has guided the Victorian Government’s efforts to improve outcomes for and with First Peoples since 2018.
The 4 priority reforms
- Priority Reform One: Formal partnerships and shared decision-making
- Priority Reform Two: Building the community-controlled sector
- Priority Reform Three: Transforming government organisations
- Priority Reform Four: Shared access to data and information at a regional level.
The National Agreement also sets out 17 socioeconomic outcome areas and associated targets to measure progress in the outcomes experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Summaries of how Victoria is progressing against the targets for socioeconomic outcome areas are included on the overview page of each relevant VAAF goal.
Victoria’s Implementation Plan outlines the actions Victoria is taking to implement the National Agreement and achieve equity for Aboriginal Victorians. Many of the Victorian actions reported under the priority reforms are progressing as part of Victoria’s commitment to broad self-determination reform.
Victoria’s Closing the Gap Partnership Forum
In 2022, the Victorian Government established a new Partnership Forum on Closing the Gap (Partnership Forum). The Partnership Forum is Victoria’s formal partner for decision-making on Closing the Gap, and ensures implementation is community-led.
The Partnership Forum comprises representatives of Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs), Aboriginal governance forum delegates (Koorie Caucus of the Partnership Forum) and government representatives. As at June 2023, the full Partnership Forum has met twice. The Koorie Caucus of the Partnership Forum has also met independent of government to consider key foundational and governance arrangements.
The Partnership Forum is currently considering and making decisions on a range of key Closing the Gap priorities for 2023.
Annual reporting and updating Victoria’s Implementation Plan
Victoria’s Implementation Plan runs until the end of 2023. It will be crucial that Victoria’s Implementation Plan continues to be reviewed and updated to ensure it remains relevant, transparent and ambitious. The approach to developing Victoria’s next Implementation Plan will be reviewed in the second half of 2023 to ensure alignment with outcomes from Victoria’s Treaty process. This will require consultation with the Partnership Forum and the First Peoples’ Assembly following their State-wide elections.
Victoria's 2021 annual reporting on the National Agreement, embedded in the 2021 VGAAR, was tabled at Joint Council on Closing the Gap (Joint Council) on 16 December 2022.
Priority Reform One: Formal Partnerships and shared decision-making
Outcome: People are empowered to share decision-making authority with governments to accelerate policy and place-based progress on Closing the Gap through formal partnership arrangements.
Target: There will be formal partnership arrangements to support Closing the Gap in place between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and governments in place in each state and territory enshrining agreed joint decision-making roles and responsibilities and where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have chosen their own representatives.
The Victorian Government is committed to building and strengthening structures that empower Aboriginal people and communities to share decision-making authority, as outlined in the National Agreement.
The Victorian Government has a long history of shared decision-making, which continues to develop and evolve to respond to the changing needs and aspirations of communities, including, a firm commitment to negotiate both State-wide Treaty and Traditional Owner treaties.
Policy partnerships are created between all governments and the Coalition of Peaks for the purpose of working more effectively across organisations, reducing gaps and duplication, and improving outcomes under Closing the Gap. Under the National Agreement, parties committed to establishing five policy partnerships by the end of 2022:
- Social and Emotional Wellbeing (SEWB)
- Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD)
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages (Languages).
The Justice Policy Partnership was established in late 2021. The SEWB and the ECCD Policy Partnerships have held their first meetings since establishment in late 2022. The Housing and Languages Policy Partnerships were established in early 2023.
The Victorian Government is committed to actively participating in all policy partnerships, including representation at meetings, to drive community-led outcomes.
Place-based Partnerships are based on a specific region, between government and Aboriginal representatives, and others by agreement, from those specific areas. The purpose of a Place-Based Partnership is to implement the National Agreement through a long-term community development approach that ‘responds to local priorities’.
The National Agreement requires that Joint Council consider the locations for six new place-based partnerships across all jurisdictions, to be established by 2024.
At Joint Council in June 2023, Victoria nominated Gippsland as the location for a Victorian Place-based Partnership and an aligned Community Data Project. This followed the Partnership Forum’s endorsement of Gippsland at its April meeting. Over the next 12 months, the Partnership Forum will scope and endorse a detailed project proposal, which will form the basis of a 2024/25 State Budget submission.
Treaty: Victoria’s Treaty process seeks to reset the relationship between First Peoples, the State and all Victorians. Treaty and treaties will be the primary mechanism for transferring decision-making power and resources to communities in Victoria. It will provide a new foundation and resource base for Aboriginal Victorians to steer issues and decisions that affect their lives.
The First Peoples' Assembly is the democratically elected and statewide body that represents all First Peoples in Victoria in the Treaty process, as the presumptive First Peoples’ Representative Body under the Advancing the Treaty Process with Aboriginal Victorians Act 2018.
Treaty-making in Victoria will include the negotiation of both a Statewide Treaty and local Traditional Owner Treaties. This reflects that self-determination can be exercised by all First Peoples in Victoria collectively, and individually by Traditional Owner groups. As detailed under Domain 6 of this Report, the Treaty process has achieved significant milestones and Victoria is preparing to commence formal negotiations.
Victoria is also progressing the strong partnership elements under the National Agreement through the following actions:
- Closing the Gap Partnership Forum: In 2022, the Victorian Government facilitated a community-based selection process to establish a new Partnership Forum, Victoria’s formal partner for decision-making on Closing the Gap. ACCOs and Traditional Owner groups elected representatives from across 14 sectors to be members of the Partnership Forum, in a process run independently of government. Members of the Partnership Forum regularly engage with their sector to ensure they are representative of, and accountable to, their sectors.
- Statewide Caring for Country Partnership Forum: The Forum met three times in 2022, including an in-person meeting on Country, co-chaired and hosted by Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation. The Traditional Owner Corporations Caucus also supported the establishment and delivery of Regional Caring for Country Partnership Forums in 2022. The shape of the Forum is constantly shifting to respond to Traditional Owner decision-making, leadership and self-governance. An Independent Review of the Statewide Caring for Country Partnership Forum was completed in 2022 to measure progress to date, its alignment to Pupangarli Marnmarnepu and its strengths and opportunities for improvement. The Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action (DEECA) will continue to work with ABSTARR (Traditional Owner Corporation Caucus Secretariat) to explore options for improving the Forum in 2023.
- Assessment of Aboriginal Governance Forums: In 2022, departments and their relevant Aboriginal Governance Forum completed an assessment against the partnership elements in the National Agreement. All governance forums have met, to a high degree, the partnership elements. A complete assessment of Aboriginal Governance Forums was included in the 2021 Closing the Gap Data Table B.
The Victorian Government has well-established formal partnerships with Aboriginal Governance Forums across its respective sectors. These forums are resourced to enable shared decision-making with Aboriginal communities and organisations. See table below.
|Partnership Forums||Summary||Approximate resourcing to support forums in 2021–22|
|Aboriginal Children’s Forum (ACF), DFFH|| |
Established in 2015 to drive the safety and wellbeing of Aboriginal children and young people in, or at risk of entering, out-of-home care.Relevant Strategy: Wungurilwil Gapgapduir: Aboriginal Children and Families Agreement
DFFH provided funding of $200,000 to support the ACF in 2022-23.
|Aboriginal Justice Forum (AJF), DJCS|| |
Established in 2000 to improve Aboriginal justice outcomes, enhance family and community safety, and reduce Aboriginal over-representation in the Victorian criminal justice system.
Relevant Strategy: Burra Lotjpa Dunguludja: Victorian Aboriginal Justice Agreement
DJCS provided funding for 1 x VPS5 (1 FTE), 1 x VPS6 (0.2 FTE) and 1 x VPS4 (0.2 FTE) to support policy and secretariat functions.
In 2022-23, DJCS provided an estimated $120,000 to deliver the AJF meetings. DJCS also funded members an estimated $50,000 in sitting fees to support their participation at approximately 5 in-person and 2 online meetings.
|Aboriginal Strategic Governance Forum (ASGF), DFFH|| |
Established in 2017 as an advisory and decision-making forum used to set DFFH's strategic direction on relevant portfolios.
Relevant Strategies: Aboriginal Governance and Accountability Framework, Korin Korin Balit-Djak: Aboriginal Health, Wellbeing and Safety Strategic Plan 2017–2027
DFFH provided funding for 1 x VPS6 (1 FTE) and 1 x VPS5 (0.5 FTE) to support policy and secretariat functions ($300,000 per year). DFFH funded members to lead/participate in 6 meetings: Chair Koorie Caucus: $10,000; Co-chair Aboriginal Strategic Governance Forum: $10,000; Deputy Chair Koorie Caucus: $7,000; and Member Koorie Caucus: $3,000. DFFH provided $45-$60 per hour for out of session contributions of ASGF Koorie Caucus members (nil spent). An extra $100,000 was transferred to support the secretariat to engage divisional and local governance structures in agreement making conversations.
|Dhelk Dja Partnership Forum, Family Safety Victoria / DFFH|| |
Established in 2005 to address issues of Aboriginal family violence.
Relevant Strategy: Dhelk Dja: Safe Our Way – Strong Culture, Strong Peoples, Strong Families
DFFH provided funding to the Victorian Aboriginal Community Services Association Limited (VACSAL) for an Executive Officer and Policy Officer to support engagement.
|Marrung Central Governance Committee (Marrung), DET|| |
Established in 2016 to ensure all Koorie Victorians achieve their learning aspirations.Relevant Strategy: Marrung: Aboriginal Education Plan 2016–2026
DE supported the Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Incorporated (VAEAI) to participate in Marrung governance mechanisms, including delivery of Koorie Education Roundtables and sitting fees for Local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group Chairs on Marrung governance mechanisms.
|State-wide Caring for Country Partnership Forum (SCfCPF), DELWP|| |
Established in 2020 under Pupangarli Marmarnepu: ‘Owning Our Future’ Aboriginal Self-Determination Strategy 2020–2025 to monitor and evaluate policies and ensure accountability to Aboriginal communities.Relevant Strategy: Pupangarli Marmarnepu: ‘Owning Our Future’ Aboriginal Self-Determination Strategy 2020-2025
DEECA provided funding for 1x VPS (1 FTE) to provide a secretariat role to the SCfCPF.
DEECA provided funding for approximately 1x FTE to the Traditional Owner Corporation Caucus for secretariat support and services to allow for their collective engagement and participation in the SCfCPF.
|Victorian Aboriginal Employment and Economic Council (VAEEC), DJPR|| |
Established in 2020 to improve employment and economic outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians. It provides advice and guidance to government on matters affecting Aboriginal Victorians in business, employment, tourism, culture and broader economic development.Relevant Strategy: Yuma Yirramboi: Invest in Tomorrow - Aboriginal Employment and Economic Strategy
The Yuma Yirramboi Council, Koori Caucus and subsidiary delivery areas are supported by 1x VPS6 and 1x VPS4 to provide secretariat duties.
Remuneration for Koori Caucus members is fixed at $17,000 per annum for the Chair and $10,500 for eligible Caucus members from 3 October 2022.
DJSIR is funded for $274,500 per year for the next two years to hold hybrid meetings and workshops, administer and support Council members.
Victorian Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Partnership Forum (AHWPF), DH
Established in 2021 to enable strategic collaboration between the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector, the mainstream health sector and government.
Relevant Strategy: An Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Partnership Agreement is in development
DH fund the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) to provide secretariat functions.
DH fund the delivery of two meetings, including venue and accommodation support for Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO) member representatives.
In 2022-23 DH provided additional funding to VACCHO in recognition of the extensive work undertaken to support the development of the Victorian Aboriginal Health and Wellbeing Agreement and Action Plan.
|Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework Implementation Working Group, Homes Victoria / DFFH|| |
Established in 2021 to support actions that ensure a resourced and capable housing and homelessness system within Victoria.Relevant Strategy: Mana-na Woorn-Tyeen Maar-Takoort: Every Aboriginal Person has a Home - Victorian Aboriginal Housing and Homelessness Framework
Homes Victoria provided funding to Aboriginal Housing Victoria including 2 x VPS5 equivalent (2 FTE) and 1 x VPS6 equivalent (0.5 FTE) to support policy and secretariat functions.
Priority Reform Two: Building the Aboriginal Community-Controlled Sector
Outcome: There is a strong and sustainable Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled sector delivering high quality services to meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the country.
Target: Increase the amount of government funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs and services going through Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations.
Aboriginal community-controlled services achieve better results, are culturally safe, employ more Aboriginal people and are often preferred over mainstream services. The Victorian Government is committed to building the capacity and capability of ACCOs.
The National Agreement commits parties to establish national sector strengthening plans for the four priority sectors under Priority Reform Two: Health, Early Childhood Care and Development, Disability and Housing. The Health and Early Childhood Care and Development plans were agreed-in-principle by Joint Council in December 2021, and the Housing and Disability plans were agreed-in-principle in August 2022.
The Victorian Government has worked closely with the Coalition of Peaks and the ACCO sector to support the development of these plans, including through our representation in sector strengthening working groups. The finalised plans identify joint national strengthening efforts. Victoria’s implementation approach for these plans will be determined by the Partnership Forum.
Upon signing the National Agreement, Victoria committed $3.3 million over four years in 2020-21 as part of a virtual funding pool to build the capacity of the ACCO sector. Joint Council agreed in April 2021 that this funding be directed towards the priority sectors.
The Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) will continue to work with the Koorie Caucus of the Partnership Forum on allocating funding from Victoria’s contribution to the virtual funding pool. This includes identifying and agreeing the projects to be funded.
Victoria’s Aboriginal Expenditure Review: Victoria is currently reviewing its expenditure on Aboriginal programs and services to identify reprioritisation opportunities.
The Koorie Caucus of the Partnership Forum proposed a two-phased, iterative approach and design principles for Victoria’s Expenditure Review in November 2022, based on the model implemented by New South Wales. In 2022, Government members of the Partnership Forum endorsed this scope, approach, and design principles.
Phase One will analyse Aboriginal-specific funding across government and Phase Two will analyse non-targeted funding in three key areas of government. DPC has engaged Supply Nation certified consultants Inside Policy to assist with the project.
DPC has commenced work on Phase One of the Expenditure Review, in collaboration with the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF) on technical aspects of the project and in consultation with the Koorie Caucus of the Partnership Forum and the First Peoples’ Assembly. All Government departments have provided expenditure data on Aboriginal specific programs to inform Phase One of the project.
Victoria tabled an update on Phase One of Victoria’s Expenditure Review at Joint Council in June 2023, which provided an overview of results on the investigation into Aboriginal-specific expenditure. A final report is expected in late 2023, which will include analysis of non-targeted funding across three areas of government to be informed by the Koorie Caucus of the Partnership Forum and the First Peoples’ Assembly.
The Expenditure Review will enable greater transparency of government spending to support the transfer of resources.
Victoria is progressing other key actions to strengthen the Aboriginal community-controlled sector, including:
- Funding reform for ACCOs: DFFH is supporting Djirra to develop a self-determined outcomes framework and defining next steps towards a single funding agreement. Lessons from this pilot will be key in the development of a department-wide funding reform project.
- Outcomes-based funding: In 2022, the DH worked with VACCHO to trial an outcomes-based approach. All funding to VACCHO was reviewed, with the aim to provide base core funding and transition fixed term funding to ongoing where possible. VACCHO has developed an implementation plan to be reported on through an annual impact statement. With learnings from the VACCHO trial, DH is continuing to work towards a similar arrangement for all ACCHOs. This includes shifting ACCHOs from 1 to 3-year funding cycles from 1 July 2023.
- Aboriginal Workforce Fund (AWF): DFFH and DH continued the implementation and evaluation of the AWF to boost the Aboriginal community, health and family violence workforce as communities recover from the pandemic. The $40 million AWF was split into two tranches: $10 million in 2020/2021 and $30 million across 2021/2022 and 2022/23.
- Aboriginal Community Infrastructure Program (ACIP): ACIP is a grants program that invests in Aboriginal community infrastructure to strengthen the Victorian ACCO sector. In July 2022, the Minister for Treaty and First Peoples approved funding of over $11 million to 21 ACCOs for a mix of repairs and minor works projects; capital works and upgrades projects; and feasibility studies/business cases projects. Alongside ACIP, Aboriginal organisations that own a property where the Minister for Treaty and First Peoples holds a first mortgage can apply to have the first mortgage removed.
For a comprehensive list of actions to strengthen the Aboriginal community-controlled sector, please refer to Closing the Gap Data Table B.
Priority Reform Three: Transforming Government Organisations
Outcome: Improving mainstream institutions: Governments, their organisations and their institutions are accountable for Closing the Gap and are culturally safe and responsive to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, including through the services they fund.
Target: Decrease in the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have experiences of racism.
As the provider or funder of services that benefit the entire community, it is crucial that the Victorian Government ensures its systems, institutions, and services are culturally safe and responsive to the needs of Aboriginal people.
Under the VAAF, SDRF, National Agreement and Victoria’s Implementation Plan, Victoria has committed to structural transformation of government organisations and mainstream service providers.
Victoria’s nation-leading work to implement all elements of the Uluru Statement from the Heart – Voice, Treaty, Truth - are central to the transformation of government and the improvement of outcomes.
The National Agreement requires that by 2023, governments each identify, develop or strengthen an independent mechanism that will support, monitor and report on the transformation of mainstream agencies and institutions. The mechanism must be culturally safe and support mainstream agencies to embed and practice culturally appropriate service offerings.
Victoria’s independent mechanism will be progressed through Victoria’s Treaty process, under which there is an opportunity for a body comprising representatives elected by Aboriginal Victorians to lead or oversee engagement with Aboriginal Victorians in relation to any concerns about mainstream institutions and report publicly on the transformation of mainstream agencies.
In addition, Victoria is currently working with all parties to develop a nationally consistent understanding and approach about how to meet its goal of system level transformation. This requires Victoria’s input into key data development work at the national level to better measure and report on this priority reform, as well as focusing efforts on building shared understanding and evidence of what works in improving mainstream institutions.
Yoorrook Justice Commission (Commission): The Commission is continuing its landmark work investigating historic and ongoing injustices. This includes making recommendations for transformational change, including to support Victoria’s Treaty making process. In June 2022, it released its interim report, Yoorrook with Purpose.
The Commission has heard First Peoples’ experiences and evidence of witnesses before the Commission, including on matters related to systemic injustice in the child protection and criminal justice systems.
Government has responded to information requests, provided submissions and given evidence to support the Commission's lines of inquiry. While some delays have impacted the Commission’s work, Government remains committed to engaging proactively, genuinely and transparently with the Commission to support its truth-telling objectives.
The Commission is due to deliver a critical issues report into systemic injustice within the child protection and criminal justice systems at the end of August 2023. The Commission will run until June 2025 after being granted a 12-month extension. More information is available at .
Victoria is progressing other key actions to improve mainstream organisations, including:
- Cultural safety: Roll out of cultural safety training for staff of government departments, development of cultural safety action plans to embed cultural safety in service delivery, and establishment of cultural safety measures and targets across various sectors.
- Victoria’s Anti-Racism Strategy: Since 2021-22, the development of the Strategy has been guided by expert advice from the Anti-Racism Taskforce, complementing an extensive public community consultation process held in 2021. The Strategy is designed to be a targeted roadmap to oppose and eliminate all forms of racism and discrimination in the Victorian community. Embedding cultural safety is a key principle underpinning many of the initiatives tied to the Strategy. In October 2022, the Taskforce was reappointed for another 12 months. DFFH and DPC are continuing to develop the Strategy to ensure a whole-of-Victorian Government lens is applied, including ensuring alignment with Commission recommendations and the Treaty process.
- Statement of Recognition: Victoria has begun to insert a Statement of Recognition within key pieces of legislation to acknowledge the role of historic and ongoing biases and racism within government service systems. For example, the Children and Health Legislation Amendment (Statement of Recognition, Aboriginal Self-determination and Other Matters) Bill 2023 was introduced to Parliament in February 2023. The Bill expands the role of Aboriginal agencies delivering children and family services to reduce the over-representation of Aboriginal children in care in Victoria.
- Transport Portfolio Aboriginal Self-Determination Plan 2020-2023: This plan aims to transform Victorian transport systems and procedures to enable and empower Aboriginal Victorians to share decision-making authority and accelerate progress against National Agreement outcomes.
Examples of how all departments and agencies are transforming to enable self-determination are included throughout this Report under relevant domains.
For a comprehensive list of actions to transform its institutions and systems, please refer to Closing the Gap Data Table C.
Priority Reform Four: Shared Access to Data and Information at a Regional level
Outcome: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have access to, and the capability to use, locally relevant data and information to set and monitor the implementation of efforts to close the gap, their priorities and drive their own development.
Target: Increase the number of regional data projects to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to make decisions about Closing the Gap and their development.
Victoria is working towards increasing Aboriginal ownership and control of data. This includes shared access to local and disaggregated data and information for Aboriginal communities and organisations.
Resourcing Aboriginal people and organisations to collect, analyse, disseminate and manage data supports self-determination. This is reflected in the work of the Commission, which identified Indigenous Data Sovereignty as one of its strategic priorities in 2022. The Treaty Negotiation Framework also includes Indigenous Data Sovereignty as a potential subject matter for negotiation in Statewide and Traditional Owner treaties.
The quality and quantity of data to measure progress to improve socioeconomic outcomes varies.
The Victorian Government is working collaboratively with other jurisdictions and the Coalition of Peaks to implement the national Data Development Plan to ensure that each socioeconomic outcome has a richer array of high-quality data sources over the life of the National Agreement.
Victoria is participating in a project under the National Data Sharing Work Program that commenced in early 2023 with a focus on Aboriginal community infrastructure (Target 9b in the National Agreement). The project will seek to increase data sharing in relation to discrete Aboriginal communities’ access to essential services (power, water, rubbish removal, wastewater).
Victoria’s Community Data Project
The National Agreement commits parties to establish six Community Data Projects across all jurisdictions by 2023. Community Data Projects aim to enable Aboriginal communities and organisations to access and use location specific data that focuses on the priority reforms and Closing the Gap outcomes.
As highlighted under Priority Reform One, the Minister for Treaty and First Peoples nominated Gippsland as the location for a Victorian Community Data Project and an aligned Place-based Partnership at Joint Council in June 2023. This followed the Partnership Forum’s endorsement of Gippsland at its April meeting.
Victoria is committed to shared access to data and information at a regional level. Examples of key actions include:
- VAAF data dashboard: DPC has worked with data custodians to develop an online user-friendly data dashboard to increase community access to data across the VAAF’s 111 measures. Data is provided and visualised at sub-state level where available.
- Data to support Aboriginal Governance Forums and ACCOs: Victorian Government departments have continued to develop data packs and interactive data visualisations to share with the First Peoples’ Assembly, Aboriginal governance forums and ACCOs to inform their decision making and priorities.
- Shared measurement approaches: Victorian Government departments and Aboriginal Governance Forums have worked together to develop approaches to measuring outcomes including a prototype of a system-level measurement matrix for the Korin Korin Balit-Djak system; the Burra Lotjpa Dunguludja - Aboriginal Justice Agreement Phase 4 Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Framework; and the Dhelk Dja Monitoring, Evaluation and Accountability Plan.
For a comprehensive list of actions to promote shared access to data and information, please refer to Closing the Gap Data Table D.
Reviewed 26 June 2023