The deputy chief executive of a newly formed agency said Prime Minister Scott Morrison aims to tackle Indigenous suicide within the next three years through the independent department.
The National Indigenous Agency (NIAA) opened for business on Monday operating as an executive agency within the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C), replacing the previous Indigenous Affairs Group.
The new agency was created following the re-election of the Morrison Government in May this year and will be headed by former Chief of Navy and Vice Chief of the Defence Force, Ray Griggs, who will work to support the newly appointed Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt.
Palawa man and Deputy CEO of NIAA, Professor Ian Anderson, said NIAA's main priority is to work with other public service agencies to make sure they're delivering outcomes for First Nations people.
“[Another priority] is a significant shift in the way we (government bodies) work with Indigenous Australians… looking at how we build in shared decision making,” he said.
In order to achieve these outcomes, Mr Anderson said the agency will be working closely with regional departments, with 1200 of their staff members located across 80 different locations working at community levels.
Twenty-five per cent of their staff are Indigenous along with half of their executives, Mr Anderson said.
Through an executive order signed by Governor-General, Peter Cosgrove, the agency has strict responsibilities set out by the Federal Government.
Mr Morrison has also advised the agency of key areas he expects to see improvements in over the next three years.
“One of them is tackling Indigenous suicide and youth suicide in particular, the other is tackling some of the challenges around making sure our kids have opportunities to get to school and to achieve, the other is around jobs and another is around community safety,” said Mr Anderson.
The agency has now also taken on the responsibility to lead and coordinate the development of the Closing the Gap targets in partnership with the Council of Peaks, which is currently drafting new avenues to reach the targets.
Closing the Gap was previously an initiative of the Indigenous Affairs Group.
My Wyatt said the NIAA was an opportunity for the Government to change the way they engage with Indigenous Australians at all levels.
“Establishing this agency solely dedicated to the advancement of Australia’s First Nations is a significant opportunity for the Government to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the ground,” Minister Wyatt said.