Thousands take part in National Close the Gap Day

Posted: 22 MAR 12 Written by: Oxfam Australia Media

More than 120,000 people across Australia today are reminding our political leaders of their commitments to achieve health equality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians by 2030.

Today is the sixth annual National Close the Gap Day, with more than 830 events in homes, schools, workplaces, community halls, churches, public spaces, government departments and Aboriginal and mainstream health services to raise awareness about Indigenous health and urge further action by government.

Since the campaign was launched in 2007, it has called on the government to work in genuine partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and the development of a long-term plan to close the gap in health equality.

 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples die more than 10 years earlier than non-Indigenous Australians, and Indigenous babies are more than twice as likely as other Australian babies to die before their fifth birthday.

 Close the Gap co-chair Mick Gooda said National Close the Gap day had become a national event providing an opportunity to draw the community’s and decision-makers’ attention to the unacceptable health equality gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

 “This is a national issue on which the government must continue to focus – the public plays a critical role in maintaining the momentum to Close the Gap,” Mr Gooda said.

 “Closing the life expectancy gap has support from all major political parties, $1.6 billion in funding and the government has agreed to work on a national plan to close the gap, in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, through the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.

“We urge the government to ensure that this partnership is a genuine one, as only when Indigenous people are involved in designing and delivering policies will the health gap be closed.”

Close the Gap co-chair Jody Broun said one of the challenges in Indigenous health was getting the approach right at the local level. 

“Real partnership is listening to the different needs in local areas; it’s not about having one size fits all,” Ms Broun said.  “Today’s events send a clear reminder to government that closing the gap must remain one of its top priorities.”

National Close the Gap Day events range from hundreds of school children spelling out ‘Close the Gap’ on their oval, to hospitals hosting Aboriginal performances, food and markets.

The Close the Gap campaign consists of health, human rights and community organisations under the leadership of peak Indigenous health organisations.  It also is calling for continued funding of the government’s ‘closing the gap’ programs past 2013, when they currently expire. 

Members of the rock band Eskimo Joe also have just announced that they will be official ambassadors of the Close the Gap campaign. 

Go to http://www.oxfam.org.au for information about events.

For further information or interviews please contact Laurelle Keough at Oxfam Australia on 0409 960 100 or laurellek@oxfam.org.au

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