First Nations organisations are demanding governments live up to their promises on Closing the Gap - and one influential foundation has suggested rethinking the GST might help.
The Productivity Commission, on Wednesday, released the first of its three-yearly reviews of the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, recommending that governments move out of a business-as-usual mindset and embrace power-sharing arrangements.
The review found progress to implement the agreement's reforms was weak, and that "disparate actions and ad hoc changes" had not led to noticeable improvements for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Denise Bowden, chief executive of the Yothu Yindi Foundation, based in northeast Arnhem Land, said the findings were depressingly predictable and suggested a major overhaul of GST funding could help address the appalling disadvantage.
"In our submission to the review, Yothu Yindi Foundation warned that without deep structural reform, Aboriginal disadvantage would remain in perpetuity, and the work of the commission in reviewing the Closing the Gap strategy would become endless," she said.
"At what stage are we going to stop analysing this data and start acting?
"Enough is enough, as the commission argues, we need to fundamentally overhaul the way all levels of government address Aboriginal disadvantage, and give Indigenous people agency over the policies and decisions which affect their lives."
The foundation also called for a major infrastructure fund to address overcrowding and homelessness in remote communities in the NT.
Catherine Liddle, chief executive of SNAICC - National Voice for our Children, the organisation that represents Indigenous children in out-of-home care, said they had signed the agreement, along with other members of the Coalition of Peaks, in 2020 in good faith.
"The Productivity Commission was blunt in its assessment that without fundamental change the agreement will fail," she said.
"Australia cannot afford to keep failing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
"It's past time all governments got serious about changing the way they work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and organisations."
Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council acting chief executive Paula Arnol said the findings demonstrated governments were not sharing responsibility or using the skills and knowledge of Indigenous community controlled organisations.
"It's not a 'gap', it's a chasm, we need urgent action now," she said.
"Our communities and services live with real inequity.
"Life expectancy targets aren't on trajectory, and suicide rates amongst our people are climbing."
Victorian independent senator Lidia Thorpe said she believed Closing the Gap was a distraction from the real issues.
"And to Close the Gap we need to deal with the fundamental causes of those areas of concern and that is genocide, that is invasion, and that is the ongoing trauma that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face in this country with incarceration rates, deaths in custody, child removal, destruction of country, the list goes on," she said.
"And I can tell you right now, from the Aboriginal people that I speak to across this country, Close the Gap is a dirty word."
First Nations legal, housing and community organisations also vented their frustration about the way in which governments work.
Maggie Munn, national director of Change the Record, the campaign to reduce the number of Indigenous people in prison, said governments had shown their promises meant very little.
"Their collective failure to progress the priority reforms raises questions about how much political will there is in our governments to confront and redress the genocide and dispossession that has occurred on this continent."
Australian Associated Press