Why it’s important that we Close the Gap

Campaigning for change article written on the 18 Mar 2013

This time next week, thousands of people just like you will sit down with their friends, colleagues and neighbours for National Close the Gap Day.

You may have already planned your own small get-together in your workplace or home – and your efforts will send a powerful message to government that the community wants on-going action to end the Indigenous health crisis.

If you’re yet to organise your own event, it’s not too late!

I’d just like to spend five minutes telling you why this is something that Oxfam and I personally have been campaigning on for years, with your support.

At Geraldton Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (GRAMS) in Western Australia, extra government funds secured as a result of the Close the Gap campaign allowed them to dramatically increase medical staffing capacity.

  • Five young recruits were trained to become Aboriginal Health Workers, two specializing in mental first aid.  This constitutes a double benefit to the community in terms of both health and employment.
  • Greater participation in well funded maternal health programs have led to significant improvements in the health and birth weights for babies.
  • The rates of some chronic diseases among Indigenous people have reduced thanks to better access to information and health care.

At Bunbury South West Aboriginal Medical Service, the extra-funding has positively impacted Indigenous people health.

  • Three healing circles were created for youth, women and men. Through a successful healing process, Aboriginal people are more likely to actively engage in their own health care, enjoy a better life quality, to find employment and to be positive role models for the rest of the community.
  • The introduction of technologies such as Skype has made it considerably easier for remote health care providers to access distant specialists improving the range and quality of care they can offer to their community.

These are just two examples of the positive impact that has resulted from increased funding to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services.But these great stories of change will only continue if that funding is renewed.

The additional $1.6 billion Indigenous health funding committed by the Council of Australian Governments in 2009 is due to expire in mid-2013. By running a simple gathering on March 21st for National Close the Gap Day, you’ll be helping to ensure that health services like GRAMS in Geraldton can continue their great work towards closing the gap. It’s rewarding. It’s fun. We support you with information and great resources.

Looking at those achievements, it’s clear that a strong commitment of funds, human resources and long-term focus is essential to Close the Gap.

Join us on March 21st to Close the Gap

Thank you
Tom Widdup – Close the Gap campaign lead, Oxfam Australia

PS
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Twitter – @closethegapoz #closethegap
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