Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health - ongoing commitment from all Australian governments is vital

Date: 
Wednesday 17 April 2013
Image: 

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health must be placed on the agenda for this Friday’s COAG meeting if there is to be any hope of closing the life expectancy gap by 2030, the Close the Gap Campaign said today.

“Five years ago all sides of politics agreed to do something about the national disgrace that sees Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people die more than 10 years younger than the broader Australian community,” Campaign Co- Chair Mick Gooda said.

“While the 2008 COAG meeting saw federal, state and territory governments commit to long term funding for services and programs though the National Partnership Agreement, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is absent from this Friday’s COAG meeting agenda.

“We know that the policies and programs resulting from these 2008 COAG commitments are starting to bear fruit and make a real difference on the ground; for example, mortality rates for under five-year-old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are falling,” Mr Gooda said.

“But the life expectancy gap remains just as unacceptable today as it was back then and I know that most of those attending COAG this Friday agree with me.”

The National Partnership Agreement which has driven efforts to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes is set to expire at the end of June 2013. Despite Federal Government indications that it will continue funding its share of the Agreement, state and territory governments have not yet signed up to the Agreement  leaving some services and programs in real doubt as to whether they can continue to provide badly needed services beyond 30 June.

Campaign Co Chair Jody Broun said governments of all persuasions owed it to the rest of the country to maintain their efforts to close the life expectancy gap by 2030.

“There’s no doubt that nothing short of ongoing funding and commitment to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from all levels of government is what’s needed to keep on track,” Ms Broun said.

“State, territory and federal governments need to continue working together to fund more services and programs that make a real difference to health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“We have to maintain our efforts to improve access to critical chronic disease services and to deliver anti-smoking measures, more affordable medicines and healthy lifestyle programs. We need to support and build capacity in our Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and we need to build on the inroads already made by our child and maternal health services,” she said.

“We need more Aboriginal health workers, allied health professionals, doctors, nurses and health promotion workers.

“A recommitment from state, territory and federal governments at this Friday’s COAG meeting is needed to quite literally save lives.”

For Mick Gooda, please contact Louise McDermott on 0419 258 597
For Jody Broun, please contact Liz Willis on 0457877408

NOTES TO EDITORS:

Clarification of the terms “Close the Gap” and ‘Closing the Gap’:

‘Close the Gap’ was adopted as the name of the human rights based campaign for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality led by the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee in 2006. The term ‘closing the gap’ entered the policy lexicon as a result of Campaign’s activities and has since been used to tag COAG and Australian Government Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy-specific initiatives aimed at reducing disadvantage – from the COAG Closing the Gap Targets to the National Partnership
Agreement to Closing the Gap on Indigenous Health Outcomes.

As a general rule, any initiative with ‘closing the gap’ in the title is an Australian Government or COAG initiative. There is a very important difference in the meaning and intention between ‘close the gap’ and ‘closing the gap’ and it is important to note that closing the gap does not necessarily reflect the human rights-based approach of the Close the Gap Campaign, nor does the use of the term reflect an endorsement of them by the Campaign Steering Committee.

 

The Close the Gap Campaign Coalition:
Co-chairs

  • Ms Jody Broun, Co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples
  • Mr Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission

Members
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation; Australian Indigenous Doctors' Association; Australian Indigenous Psychologists' Association; Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses; Indigenous Allied Health Australia Inc.; Indigenous Dentists' Association of Australia; National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation; National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers' Association*; National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Physiotherapists; National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples; National Coordinator — Tackling Indigenous Smoking (Dr Tom Calma AO — Campaign founder and former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner); National Indigenous Drug and Alcohol Committee; The Lowitja Institute; Torres Strait Island Regional Authority; Australian College of Nursing; Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council; ANTaR; Australian Human Rights Commission (Secretariat); Australian Medical Association; Australian Medicare Local Alliance; The Fred Hollows Foundation; Heart Foundation Australia; Menzies School of Health Research; Oxfam Australia; Palliative Care Australia; Royal Australasian College of Physicians; Royal Australian College of General Practitioners; Professor Ian Ring (expert adviser).