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Professor Ian Anderson’s appointment an important step to Closing the Gap


Aboriginal man with white beard and hair, dressed in blue suit and shirt stands in front of artwork of Indigenous design featuring circles, horseshoe shapes and squiggly lines.
Dr Ian Anderson AO
28 Aug 2017

Born on the northwest coast of Tasmania, Dr Ian Anderson AO is a Palawa man, a Professor of Indigenous higher education and the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s new Deputy Secretary of Indigenous Affairs.

Ian is now the most senior Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander official in the Australian Government. He is responsible for coordinating the Council of Australian Government’s (COAG) response to the refresh of the Closing the Gap (CtG) targets for Indigenous health and social disadvantage.

While many may question his choice to leave academia for such a demanding and possibly thankless role, Ian says the opportunity to re-craft the agenda around Closing the Gap was too good to miss.

“The CtG agenda is extremely important policy and over the last decade we have learnt some vital things that we can use to improve the targets,” Ian said.

“By bringing Indigenous policy to the centre of the Australian policy framework we can determine what changes are needed to refresh the CtG targets and build on its achievements to ensure we are improving outcomes for Indigenous Australians.”

Ian sees his position as an outsider to government as an asset, saying that he can build on what he has learnt in the health sector to improve outcomes by reform policies or program.

“I know we can work more effectively with Indigenous people who are working very hard to establish better services to their communities.

“For example, there are some very good cases of Indigenous community controlled health organisations with an excellent reputation for service delivery that we can learn from,” Ian said.

Much is expected of Ian’s appointment and he knows this is a significant opportunity to set Indigenous policy for the next decade.

“If the outcomes of the refresh resonate with the priorities of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, we will go a long way towards eliminating Indigenous disadvantage.”

Find out more

In 2008, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) set targets aimed at eliminating the gap in outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Ahead of the tenth anniversary of Closing the Gap, Commonwealth, State and Territory governments have agreed to work together with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities, on a refreshed agenda.

All levels of government will work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in genuine partnership over the remainder of 2017 to develop renewed targets that are measurable and meaningful.

Any enquires about the process can be sent to

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