Thousands of people around the country are calling for governments to make health equality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians an urgent priority.
Today is National Close the Gap Day, and tens of thousands of people attending more than 800 registered events will mark the day across the country – from the Torres Strait Islands to Tasmania, from Geraldton to the Gold Coast – as part of a grassroots campaign to see the end to stark health inequality in Australia.
On average, an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person will die a full decade younger than a non-Indigenous Australian. Rather than shrinking, the gap in life expectancy has been widening, while the Indigenous child mortality rate is more than double that of other children.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said National Close The Gap Day continued to highlight how important these issues were to many communities around the country, despite successive governments over the past decade having not made enough progress to close the gap.
“A widening gap is a national shame, but we’re looking forward to a future where we don’t need a national annual day to acknowledge our country’s appalling lack of progress when it comes to improving the health of First Nation’s Peoples. Until then, we still have a lot of work to do,” she said.
“Yet rather than being discouraged by this lack of progress, supporters of the Close the Gap campaign, including Oxfam Australia, can show the government in our coming together today that our resolve to close the gap is not wavering. We are not complacent with this business-as-usual approach, and we will work harder to see health equality in our country.
“National Close the Gap Day is about making sure our voices in the wider community continue to be heard – everyone deserves a right to a healthy future, and the life expectancy gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is not reflecting that.”
In February, the Close the Gap campaign, led by more than 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous health and human rights bodies, called on state and territory governments to do more than just commit to the Federal Government’s proposed ‘refresh’ of Closing The Gap targets.
The campaign’s 10-year review of Federal Governments’ Closing the Gap Strategy revealed a lack of coordinated national leadership had contributed to the growing gap and highlighted the need for a complete reset of the strategy.
“Supporters of health equality have heeded the message from Indigenous leaders in February, and this is the same message that brings people together in large numbers today,” Dr Szoke said.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples need to lead the resetting of the original Close the Gap strategy. Oxfam supports calls for giving Indigenous leaders a seat at the table when it comes to working with federal, state and territory governments on the refresh process – this is the last chance to get government policy right to achieve the goal of health equality by 2030.”
“Together we can keep up the pressure on all governments and tell them this failure to show national leadership is simply not good enough.”
Oxfam Australia is a founding member of the Close the Gap Campaign. For more information on National Close the Gap Day visit www.oxfam.org.au/nctgd, for interviews please contact Renee Thompson on 0418 873 782 or firstname.lastname@example.org