Tamworth Regional Council adopts Closing the Gap strategy to tackle Indigenous inequality

Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) has become the first in New South Wales to adopt its own Closing the Gap strategy, which aims to overcome the inequalities faced by indigenous people.

Gomeroi man and adviser Marc Sutherland introduced the motion at Tuesday’s meeting, and it received unanimous support.

Mr Sutherland said it had been a long time and he was proud to be part of the first council in NSW to introduce such a strategy.

“The reality here in Tamworth is that an Indigenous child born today is expected to live ten years less than a non-Indigenous person born at exactly the same time,” he said.

“All forms of government have made it clear that we really need to be intentional in how we deal with this social disadvantage.”

He said the area has strong ties to its indigenous community, which made the decision simple.

“We are also one of only two sites in New South Wales to have a local coalition of Indigenous people and organisations,” Mr Sutherland said.

“It allows for a direct voice from Indigenous peoples in our community to bring this conversation to the federal and state levels.”

Tamworth has an Aboriginal population of over 6,000 people.(ABC New England North West: Clarissa Thorpe)

Funding and additional objectives

The TRC’s plan is designed to reflect the national Closing the Gap agreement, for which a framework was first established in 2008, and will involve changes to council policies.

It would also encompass the 17 socio-economic objectives of the national agreement.

“This will concern education, employment, health and well-being, justice, security, housing, land and waters, languages ​​and digital inclusion”, said the chief executive of TRC , Paul Bennett.

“As the level of government closest to the citizens, local government plays a vital role.”

Once implemented, it will set goals for Indigenous inclusion within the council organization, as well as additional funding for projects and training opportunities.

“The approach was embraced by the community, so it was up to us as a council to take all of that into account and formally commit to something,” Sutherland said.

“Last night was a truly monumental moment.”

Advice for approaching the minister

TRC Mayor Russell Webb hoped his council’s action would inspire others.

“We will now move on to [NSW] Youth and Indigenous Affairs Minister Ben Franklin to discuss how we will align,” he said.

Mr Webb said the Closing the Gap plan had followed similar strategies in the past.

He didn’t offer a deadline for when the community would see any changes.

“Before, the strategy was for local governments to undertake reconciliation action plans,” Webb said.

“To some extent they worked, but I don’t think they achieved what they had planned.

“As you know in public service, nothing gets done quickly, but we will get there.”

Elna M. Lemons