The record numbers of Australians showing their support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality send a clear message that the community expects Indigenous health to remain a national priority in the lead-up to the federal budget, the Close the Gap Campaign said today.
Close the Gap co-chairs Mick Gooda and Kirstie Parker said the expected 150,000 people across Australia participating in a record 1250 events on National Close the Gap Day showed the government they wanted continued investment in Closing the Gap health programs.
The eighth annual National Close the Gap Day reminds political leaders of their commitment to achieve health equality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians by 2030.
Mr Gooda said any cuts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health at the federal, state or territory level would undermine the improvements just starting to emerge in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
“As government considers the Commission of Audit and prepares for the forthcoming budget, it’s imperative that government continues to invest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health programs so that progress can continue to be made,” Mr Gooda said.
“Since all parties came together seven years ago to commit to ending the disgrace that sees an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person die up to 17 years younger than other Australians, we’ve seen unprecedented funding and coordinated efforts by federal, state and territory governments that have led to an improvement in child mortality and a reduction in smoking rates.
“Smoking is one of the most common causes of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, accounting for 12 per cent of the disease and mortality gap.
“These improvements are a cause for optimism, but we still have a long way to go to; now is not the time to take the foot off the pedal.”
Ms Parker said that with last year’s expiration of the National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes – which underpinned all closing the gap health programs – the Close the Gap Campaign now was looking to the Federal Government to take a leadership role and forge a new nationally coordinated approach to funding with states and territories.
“It is absolutely critical that not only does funding remain the same, but government efforts across the country be coordinated so as to avoid duplication and overlap of services,” Ms Parker said.
“The Prime Minister has stated his strong commitment to Close the Gap, and we seek his leadership to drive this through.
“The fact that so many Australians are united in support of the Close the Gap Campaign today clearly demonstrates that this remains an issue of national importance. People expect action.”
Community groups, health services, businesses, schools, universities, government offices and individuals around Australia are holding or taking part in Close the Gap event in homes, workplaces, schools and communities.
The Close the Gap campaign is Australia’s biggest public movement for health equality. It is a coalition of Australia’s leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous health and human rights organisations.
For interviews, please contact: Aaron Ross at National Congress for Australia’s First Peoples (for Kirstie Parker): 0419 434 498, or Dominic O’Grady at the Australian Human Rights Commission (for Mick Gooda): 0419 258 597.