ACT Chief Minister commits to closing the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality

Posted: 29 APR 10 Written by: Oxfam

The Close the Gap campaign today welcomed ACT Chief Minister Jon Stanhope’s public commitment to end Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health inequality in the ACT.

Mr Stanhope today signed a ‘Statement of Intent’ at a ceremony at Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service in Canberra, committing his government and future ACT Governments to improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal people in the ACT.

Close the Gap campaign steering committee co-chair Tom Calma and Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service CEO Julie Tongs joined the Chief Minister in signing the nine-point Statement of Intent to improve the lives of Aboriginal people in the ACT. 

ACT Shadow Minister for Health and Indigenous Affairs Jeremy Hanson was present to show the Opposition’s support; Opposition Leader Zed Seselja will sign the Statement of Intent in the near future.

The Statement of Intent, also signed by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and then Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson in March 2008, is a commitment between the ACT Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to work together to achieve equality in health status and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians by 2030.  It commits all parties to a plan that includes:

  • Developing a comprehensive long-term plan of action to achieve equality of health and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians by 2030;
  • Ensuring full participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in addressing their health needs;
  • Working together to address the social determinants that impact health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples;
  • Supporting and developing Aboriginal Community Controlled Health services.

The ACT is the fourth state or territory government to sign up, after Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia.

Mr Calma said real commitment from governments at all levels to partner with Indigenous peoples was essential if the gap was to be closed.

“Today’s formal commitment between the ACT government and local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples enables us to build on the significant progress we’ve already made, as governments around the country have come to realise that true partnership is the only way to Close the Gap,” Mr Calma said. 

“Developing and implementing a national action plan is the next step in bringing about true health equality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.”

Ms Tongs welcomed the Chief Minister’s willingness to commit to ending the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health gap in the ACT.

“It is fitting that Mr Stanhope is the one to sign, due to his long-term commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues in the ACT,” Ms Tongs said. 

“The signing of the Statement of Intent is relatively easy; it’s the work that needs to be done to close the gap in Aboriginal health that will need to stand the test of time, and we look forward to working with Mr Stanhope and his government to achieve the best outcomes possible for our clients.”

Winnunga Nimmityjah is an award-winning, holistic community controlled Aboriginal health service that has become integral to the overall health system in the ACT and surrounding NSW, seeing 3500 patients each year.

Close the Gap is a coalition of Australia’s leading health, human rights and Aboriginal organisations.  The campaign was launched in April 2007.

For information or interviews, please contact Laurelle Keough on 0409 960 100 or laurellek@oxfam.org.au