Date: 
Thursday 19 March 2015

More than 150,000 Australians will declare their support today for ending health inequality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other Australians, with a record number of schools, community groups, health services, businesses and government offices hosting over 1,548 events around the country to mark National Close the Gap Day on 19 March 2015.

Locations for National Close the Gap Day events include Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide, Coffs Harbour, Mount Isa, Normanton, Darwin, Mt Gambier and Newcastle.

Close The Gap Campaign Co-Chairs Kirstie Parker and Mick Gooda described the groundswell of support for National Close the Gap Day as a powerful expression of the desire by Australians from all walks of life to be part of the generation that closes the health gap.

Ms Parker and Commissioner Gooda said the show of support for Close the Gap also sends a powerful message to Government at a time when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers face great uncertainty and remote communities face closure.

“There is a strong body of evidence in Australia that supports the link between land, culture and wellbeing. Being on country is more than a lifestyle choice. It is the essence of life itself.

“We urge the West Australian Government and the Federal Government to properly assess the health and wellbeing impacts of closing remote communities. The decisions that are being made about remote communities, without consultation, are premature and damaging.”

Ms Parker and Commissioner Gooda said insecurity around funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander service providers compounds the anxiety experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and diminishes trust in the Government.

“The anxiety and uncertainty experienced by our communities because of recent funding cuts and misjudged rhetoric can only be addressed if governments work constructively with our people on long-term initiatives. Real and sustained engagement with our communities is one of the critical success factors,” Ms Paker and Commissioner Gooda said.

Ms Parker, who is also Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can expect to live approximately 10 years less than non-Indigenous Australians. She said this was due in part to the high level of undetected chronic conditions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the significant impact chronic conditions such as diabetes have on life expectancy.

“We have a real opportunity to make relatively large health and life expectancy gains in relatively short periods of time by focusing on increasing access to health services to detect and treat these chronic conditions. There is no room for complacency,” Ms Parker said.

The Close the Gap campaign is Australia’s biggest public movement for health equality. It is a coalition of leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous health and human rights organisations.

Media contacts: Mahala Strohfeldt for Ms Parker on 0457 877 408. Dominic O’Grady or Angela Dorizas for Commissioner Gooda. M: 0419 258 597.  Photos available at: http://wordsandpictures.oxfam.org.au/?c=14392&k=f6c9d94e8d

Photo: Binning kids and Children’s Ground participants from Jabiru NT, playing at the town pool to cool down in the heat and have a run around. Credit/Copyright: Jason Malouin/OxfamAUS