This weekend in the SANFL Round 18, Sturt and the Woodville-West Torrens Football Club are joining forces in support of their Aboriginal players and promoting the Close the Gap campaign, which aims to close the 17-year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Sturt and the Eagles have had a strong history of Aboriginal footballers with such players as Kevin Hill (Eagles) and the great Michael Graham (Sturt). Presently Sturt and the Eagles are graced with a number of outstanding players such Josh Cubillo and Charlie Sharples from Sturt, and Jared Petrenko and Byron Sumner from the Eagles.
With such history, Sturt and the Eagles believe it is important to show support to their past and present Aboriginal players, their families and communities by supporting the Close the Gap campaign to ensure better health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here in South Australia and nationally. We also call on the South Australian football fraternity to throw their support behind this important campaign.
For more than a century, the SANFL has been an essential part of the Aussie Rules landscape in South Australia, with each weekend showcasing an entertaining round for the football-loving South Australian crowds, featuring mesmerizing feats of skill and courage.
Integral to the thrills and spills of this mighty competition, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander players have played a central role in bringing great passion and flair to the game over the years, with such greats as the previously mentioned Michael Graham (Sturt), Wilbur Wilson (Centrals) and Gilbert McAdam (North Adelaide). We have also seen many great SANFL players move to AFL with the likes of Michael Long (Eagles) and Andrew McLeod (Port Adelaide) both whom have already shown their support for the Close the Gap campaign by signing the petition.
Close the Gap is a national campaign, launched in March 2007 by Cathy Freeman and Ian Thorpe and supported by 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, and non- Indigenous organisations such as the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC), the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), Oxfam Australia and the Fred Hollows Foundation.
The Close the Gap campaign is calling on all Australian governments to take action to achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders within 25 years through:
• Increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders’ access to health services
• Addressing critical social issues such as poor housing, nutrition and education
• Building Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander control and participation in the delivery of health and other services
It is important to realise that this is not an unsolvable situation and that this gap can be closed by working with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. All around Australia these communities are taking action to improve the health of their people.
Here in South Australia, through the 28 local Aboriginal community controlled health organisations such as Nunkuwarrin Yunti in Adelaide and Pika Wiya Heath Services at Pt Augusta, there is great work happening; the success stories show that by working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders the health crisis can be solved.
As CEOs of local football teams, we may be rivals on the pitch, but we are united in calling on:
• South Australian leaders to get behind the Close the Gap campaign,
• The South Australian Government to follow their Federal Parliament counterparts and the Queensland State Parliament, and sign the Close the Gap Statement of Intent (an agreement between the government and Indigenous Australians to work in partnership to achieve equality in health status and life expectancy),
• For the football-loving community of South Australia to support this important campaign.
So, join with Sturt and the Eagles at 2pm on Sunday August 3 at Sturt’s home ground, House Brothers Oval, Unley and show your support for the Close the Gap campaign by signing the petition.
Chief Executive Officer of The Eagles
Chief Executive Officer of Sturt
This opinion editorial was published in the Adelaide Advertiser on Friday 1 August, 2008.