Speech by Mick Gooda, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commissioner and Kirstie Parker, National Congress of Australia's First Peoples

Mick Gooda: Today is momentous because as this parliament reconvenes for 2014 we are seeing parliament and our politicians at their best. We are seeing politics put aside as we unite in the national effort to close the gap. I’m highly optimistic that if we work together, politicians with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples supported by the Australian public, we can achieve the goal of closing the health and life expectancy gap by 2030. The welcome from Mr Ken Wyatt and Senator Nova Peris perfectly encapsulated the united vision that is needed to achieve this. So today as we, the Close the Gap Campaign, release our progress and priorities report and as the Prime Minister continues a welcome non-partisan tradition of reporting to parliament on efforts to close the gap, I am optimistic that together we will achieve our common goal.

Kirstie Parker: Evidence demonstrates that health is so critical to efforts to close the gap. In many ways the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector is leading the way. In this room today we have all the relevant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations and leadership who are supported by non-Indigenous or mainstream organisations. We come together to form the Close the Gap Steering Committee. And when it comes to the national effort to close the gap, we speak with one united voice. And our voice is supported by the over 200,000 Australians who have asked governments to join us and make this issue a matter of national priority. I look around this room and I see a room full of committed politicians, of bureaucrats, of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander advocates and stakeholders. And in our presence here I see we are united in the common belief that we are the generation to close the health and life expectancy gap.

Mick Gooda: And we are seeing improvements on the ground. We are seeing reductions in smoking rates and improvements in maternal and child health. With 16 years to go, we need to build on these successes. Of critical importance we must see the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan implemented in partnership with our peoples and we must secure coordinated national funding for our efforts. And the best mechanism to achieve this is the through the renewal of the National Partnership Agreements. In our report we call on the Australian Government to take a leadership role in this regard.

Kirstie Parker: Health inequality is a stark reminder of a great divide in our nation across education, income, housing and more. It is a stain on our nation. Health is intimately linked with these outcomes. And the health sector demonstrates how they all interconnected. For example in employment, the health sector is the single biggest employer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Investing in health is investing in jobs and training.

Mick Gooda: The message from the Close the Gap Campaign is clear. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health inequality is an issue of national importance. We are here to work across the parliament to achieve our united goal. We know that together we can be the generation that closes the gap. I’d now like to invite the Prime Minister on stage to say a few words. Prime Minister on behalf of the Close the Gap Campaign I thank you for your determination to make our efforts to close the gap a central issue for your government. Prime Minister we look forward to working with you on the national effort to close the gap.