Pat Turner at Members' Conference 2020
8 April, 2022

Pat Turner speaking at launch of King & Wood Mallesons’ Social Impact Strategy


  • Good morning everyone, thank you for inviting me here today to speak with you at the launch of the King & Wood Mallesons’ Social Impact Strategy.
  • My name is Pat Turner, I am the CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, and the Lead Convener of the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations.
  • Foremost, I am an Aboriginal woman, I am the daughter of an Arrente man and a Gurdanji woman.
  • I acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands where we are standing.
  • Canberra is Ngunnawal country. The Ngunnawal are the Aboriginal people of this region and its first inhabitants.
  • It is a harsh climate and difficult country for hunter-gatherer people. To live here required great knowledge of the environment, skillful custodianship of it and close cooperation.
  • It is this knowledge and ways of working that continue to guide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the country in today’s Indigenous policy landscape.
  • As we navigate the changing policy environment, Aboriginal people draw strength from our lands and our customs. And we continue the cooperation amongst our many nations for the betterment of all of us.
  • This is the approach that we take to the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peaks Bodies and our work on Closing the Gap.

Struggle of Closing the Gap:

  • As the refreshed social impact strategy is centred on partnerships and systems change and draws inspiration from the new National Agreement on Closing the Gap, I wanted to use this opportunity to talk about how the Agreement came to be; the partnership arrangements that underpin it; and the transformational change Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are seeking.
  • To begin with, it is important to understand two critical aspects of the new partnership arrangements on Closing the Gap.
  • Firstly, the struggle around Closing the Gap is about more than our peoples achieving the same social and economic opportunities, choices and outcomes as other Australians.
  • This is important of course, and, as a nation, we can not tolerate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples dying early of preventable diseases, living in intolerable conditions and being locked out of economic and education opportunities.
  • However, the struggle of Closing the Gap is also about retaining, rebuilding, protecting and strengthening Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander distinct cultures and languages.
  • We cannot and must not cede our identities as First Peoples of this nation.
  • We need to find a way for policies and programs of Closing the Gap to achieve both, and we can.
  • Secondly, for too long, our peoples struggle has been around ensuring that Aboriginal communities have the power and resources to make decisions that deliver on our aspirations.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have historically been excluded from decision-making on the policies and programs of governments that directly affect them and the communities in which they live.
  • This is despite evidence which demonstrates that the only way to improve our people’s health and wellbeing, whilst retaining our cultural identities, is with our full participation. And despite our collective, repeated calls over many years for full participation in decisions that impact on our lives.

Coalition of Peaks:

  • In late 2018, a group of fourteen Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled peak organisations came together to confront these challenges and re-imagine the approach to the Closing the Gap policy.
  • The proposition from us was simple enough – a new partnership between Australian governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled organisations where there would be shared decision making on policies and programs that had a significant impact on our peoples.
  • And through this partnership, a systems change to the way governments work with our peoples across the country.

National Agreement:

  • Through the partnership structures, the first intergovernmental agreement designed to improve the lives of our peoples was negotiated and agreed between all Australian governments and representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, through the Coalition of Peaks.
  • The National Agreement on Closing the Gap came into effect in July 2020 and sets out a range of socio-economic targets for the improvement of the lives of our peoples that governments and the Coalition of Peaks will work towards over the next ten years.
  • Importantly though, the National Agreement sets the nation on a course of transforming the way governments and other organisations and institutions work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • Like the pillar in the King & Wood Mallesons’ social impact strategy – we have committed ourselves to systems-change.