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Ian Thorpe asks Australian governments not to forget Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health

The following letter from Ian Thorpe appeared in The Australian newspaper on Thursday 18th April 2013:

Dear state, territory and federal government leaders,

I got behind the Close the Gap campaign because I believed it’s totally unacceptable that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples die 10–17 years younger than non-Indigenous Australians.

I believed that long-term commitments to programs and services will dramatically improve people’s health outcomes and quite literally save lives.

Thankfully all sides of politics agreed and fi ve years ago the commitment of federal, state and territory governments through COAG to close the life expectancy gap by 2030 was a watershed moment for the nation.

So as the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) prepares to meet tomorrow, I urge all state and territory governments to commit to continuing to invest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

The policies behind the commitments made by COAG in 2008 are just starting to have an impact, with mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples aged less than five years starting to fall.

But the fuel that is driving efforts to close the gap — the National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes — is due to expire this June.

The Federal Government has indicated that it will continue funding its share of the agreement.

We now need all state and territory governments to contribute their fair share and commit to renewing the ‘National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes’.

The continued funding is required to:

  • provide access to critical chronic disease services;
  • further develop child and maternal health services;
  • develop and implement healthy lifestyle programs and education;
  • improve access to smoking programs;
  • provide better resourced, more accessible and relevant health services;
  • provide more affordable medicines;
  • support Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations; and
  • train more Aboriginal health workers, allied health professionals, doctors, nurses and health promotion workers.

Australia can’t afford to delay. Continued investment is essential if the nation is to build upon the work of the last four years.

I have seen the need and I have seen the impact that quality services can bring. I believe that we can be the generation to end the national disgrace that sees Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples die more than 10 years younger than the broader Australian community.

Ian Thorpe, Close the Gap Campaign Patron

You can ask your State or Territory leaders to recommit funding to Close the Gap