Why subsidiarity is central to closing the gap
16 Mar 17
"Subsidiarity compels us to realise that the people closest to, and most affected by, the issues are the ones best placed to address them, with the help of the Government." – John Lochowiak, Chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council.
Subsidiarity is a Catholic Social Teaching principle which articulates that the people closest to, and most affected by, the issues are the ones best placed to address them, with the help of the Government.
From L-R: John Lochowiak, NATSICC; Lynda Edwards, CentaCare Wilcannia-Forbes Program Manager; Sascha Costigan, Caritas Australia. Photo: Caritas Australia.
Sadly Subsidiarity is a principle that is painfully lacking in many Government policies involving First Australians. This is despite the fact that, for many years, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders have been calling for their communities to be centrally involved in decision-making, as have many seminal reports on Indigenous Affairs over the past 25 years.
The absence of subsidiarity in policymaking is a fundamental reason why successive governments have failed to ‘close the gap’ between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The latest Closing the Gap report (February 2017) showed that we are still failing to meet six of the seven Closing the Gap targets including those on life expectancy, employment, child mortality and literacy/numeracy.
This statement will be a cornerstone of a whole of community approach to authentic empowerment, determination and the rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to be able to make decisions that ultimately affect their lives and their community.
To highlight the critical importance of subsidiarity, our First Australians Program Partner Organisations and Caritas Australia released a joint statement on subsidiarity as it applies to Indigenous Affairs. We are calling on the Federal, State and Territory governments and all religious institutions, service providers, not-for-profit organisations and businesses that work with and seek the wellbeing of First Australians, to commit to this important principle.
The jointly developed statement recommends that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including Survivors of the Stolen Generations, take the lead in developing and implementing policy that affects them, and that Governments develop formal partnership agreements with Indigenous led and governed organisations, along with appropriate resourcing, capacity support and accountability measures to ensure subsidiarity in decision making for all areas of service delivery that effect the First Australians.
The statement is accompanied by three program case studies which illustrate the effectiveness of subsidiarity in practice, and accompanied by artwork by Djilpin Arts Aboriginal Corporation founder, Tom E. Lewis.