• NACCHO and Coalition of Peaks CEO Pat Turner. (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Indigenous organisations say strong partnerships with government can make a huge difference, and the success in containing coronavirus in our communities shows this.
Ilias Bakalla

13 May 2020 - 5:59 PM  UPDATED 13 May 2020 - 5:59 PM

Patricia Turner, Arrernte woman and CEO of the Coalition of Peaks, told NITV News the coronavirus has been a powerful reminder on how important it is to finalise the new national agreement on Closing the Gap. 

Ms Turner, who is also the CEO of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), said the pandemic exposed the vulnerabilities and inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

One issue, in particular, is overcrowded housing in Indigenous communities. Ms Turner said this would be addressed with the "highest priority" during the next Closing the Gap meeting scheduled in June. 

"Overcrowded housing has caused real difficulties for individuals who have suspect infections that could lead to COVID. Isolation facilities are rarely available in our homes," said Ms Turner.

Poverty, over-reliance on Centrelink, substance abuse and high levels of chronic disease and domestic violence in Indigenous communities are other vulnerabilities highlighted by COVID, Ms Turner added.

Ms Turner said the community has been swift to control the spread of the virus in areas where well-established community organisations have strong relationships with the government.

"However, the absence of a national policy platform for governments to work with us - to address the inequities that too many of our people face - is stark," said Ms Turner.

"We need a strong resource sector at a community level to deal with supporting families dealing with this dysfunction."

The Closing the Gap meeting in June will take into consideration a range of issues that have been researched through speaking with Indigenous communities across the country.

"We've been working with government about what some of these options might be including having a target on land, water and language," said Ms Turner.

"We expect these targets to push governments to do more than what has been done in the past to close the gap."