Thursday 16 March 2017

“A month ago, when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gave his Closing the Gap Report to Parliament, he stated that only one out of the seven headline targets for closing the health gap between Australia's First Peoples and non-Indigenous Australians are on track to be met by 2031.

"In fact, child mortality, which was considered on-track to close the gap by 2031, is no longer on-track. This is not good enough.” 

Close the Gap Campaign co-chair Pat Turner delivered a clear message at the Close the Gap Campaign 2017 Progress and Priorities report launch.

Ms Turner, who is chief executive of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, together with Close the Gap Campaign co-chair Jackie Huggins, released the report in Sydney on 16 March to mark National Close the Gap Day.

The report urges state, territory and federal governments to commit to closing the health gap by implementing co-ordinated partnerships with the Commonwealth.

The report also calls on governments to take account of the social and cultural determinants of health, and asks the Federal Government to initiate a national inquiry into racism in hospitals and other health care settings to identify and counter racism’s impact on health care.

The Close the Gap Campaign’s 2017 Progress and Priorities Report is a starting point for Government to hear and understand our priorities," Ms Turner said.

“We seek a new relationship with Government, with regular and meaningful engagement that is based on equal partnership. In addition, we continue to call for a National Inquiry into the impacts of institutional racism in our health system.

“Governments at all levels must do more to join the dots between education, housing, and employment. These are social and cultural determinants that significantly improve health outcomes for our people,” Ms Turner said.

Campaign co-chair Jackie Huggins, who is also co-chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, highlighted the resilience of Indigenous people and cautioned against feeling disheartened by the slow pace of change. 

“When Tom Calma started the Close the Gap Campaign in 2006, he set a 25-year goal to achieve health equality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous peoples,” Dr Huggins said.

“This was an intentionally ambitious time frame. Nevertheless, Tom and the other early Campaign members knew that every inch the gap closed between First Australians and non-Indigenous Australians translated into lives saved and lives improved.

“The Australian community agreed. Since then more than 220,000 Australians have signed the close the gap pledge for change.

“Despite the significant challenges we face to make health equality a reality in this country, it is the commitment of the hundreds of thousands of people that have pledged their support to closing the gap that give us courage and strength to press on.

“In communities across Australia we are seeing more and more of our people rising above the obstacles of institutional racism, generational trauma and low expectations to become nurses, doctors, social workers, youth workers, health workers, administrators, teachers and community leaders.

“Our people, with the support of the many non-Indigenous people committed to health equality, are best placed to lead the changes needed today, tomorrow and over the next decade,” Dr Huggins said.

Australia’s peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous health bodies, health professional bodies and human rights organisations operate the Close the Gap Campaign. The Campaign’s goal is to raise the health and life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to that of the non-Indigenous population within a generation.

Close the Gap Campaign members include the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation, the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of New South Wales, the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, and ANTaR.

Other members include the Australian College of Midwives, the Australian College of Nursing, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, Oxfam Australia, Reconciliation Australia, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and the Lowitja Institute.

Photo: National Congress of Australia's First Peoples volunteers Kevin Lee (left) and Dickson Luo; Congress and Close the Gap Campaign co-chair Jackie Huggins; volunteers Isabel Hernandez and Cliantha Dawit-Dessay; and Congress CEO Gary Oliver.

> Read the report

> Click here for photos