This report affirms the need to stay the course with the Closing the Gap Strategy and to be patient for improvements sought to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and life expectancy – progress which many indicators suggest will be seen in time. It should not be forgotten that the Closing the Gap Strategy commenced in July 2009 and that intergenerational change cannot be expected in less than four years. Processes and programmes require courage and leadership to ensure that their full potential and impact is realised.
The Campaign Steering Committee recognises the value in the new Indigenous Affairs priorities of the Australian Government – improving employment, education outcomes and community safety –and believes the IAS should be better connected to the national, COAG Closing the Gap Strategy that already addresses these areas.
Articulating and strengthening links between the IAS and the Closing the Gap Strategy will strengthen both policies and also ensure that health remains a priority at the national level. It is clear from the evidence that positive health outcomes are connected to achieving the goals of the IAS.
The Campaign Steering Committee remains steadfast in its belief that the road to closing the health gap is embodied in the principles of the Close the Gap Statement of Intent. That is, in effective planning and the use of targets, and maintaining the course through long-term policy approaches such as the Closing the Gap Strategy.
It is also critical that Australian governments continue to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders and stakeholders to deliver the most effective and efficient health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, so that the health gap closes within a generation.
In particular, this requires a new focus on the importance of enabling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to access appropriate health services, particularly primary health care services. The release of the NATSIHMS in 2014 highlights the burden of undetected chronic disease in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Detecting and properly treating and managing these hitherto ‘hidden’ conditions could significantly contribute to closing the health gap.
The Campaign Steering Committee believes that effectively implementing the Health Plan could drive significant, rapid and progressive inroads into the health and life expectancy gaps.