Thursday, 21st March 2013 at 11:18 am
More than 900 events are taking place across Australia today, to mark the seventh annual National Close the Gap Day and raise awareness about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
Said to be Australia’s largest campaign to improve Indigenous health, the Close the Gap coalition is calling on governments to take action to achieve Indigenous health equality within 25 years
International aid organisation Oxfam Australia says that more than 140,000 people across the nation will remind political leaders of their commitment to close the gap in health inequality, as critical Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health funding is due to expire.
Community events are scheduled to take place in schools, universities, workplaces, community halls and public spaces.
Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chair Mick Gooda said the growing movement of people concerned about the appalling health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and other Australians could not come at a more critical time.
“The $1.6 billion funding package underpinning current Closing the Gap health programs expires in June, and we’ve had no solid commitment that it will be renewed,” Gooda said.
“This COAG funding, from Federal, State and Territory Governments, is making a real difference to people’s lives, and must continue.”
Gooda said under-five mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were starting to fall, and smoking and chronic disease initiatives were beginning to have an impact.
The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, and the Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, congratulated those taking part in a community event.
“Today’s events held in schools, workplaces, shopping centres and community parks across the country show how committed Australians are to eliminating Indigenous disadvantage,” Macklin said.
Macklin said the Government has set six ambitious Closing the Gap targets that relate to life expectancy, child mortality, education and employment.
“The Closing the Gap Prime Minister’s Report 2013 tabled in Parliament in February shows strong progress being made towards the target of halving the gap for Year 12 attainment,” Macklin said.
Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chair Jody Broun said the COAG health funding had a strong focus on chronic disease and had led to more Aboriginal health workers, more affordable medicines, as well as better access to smoking programs by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“Continued investment is essential if we are to build on this excellent work and be the generation to end the national disgrace that sees Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples die more than 10 years younger than the broader Australian community,” Broun said.
“This is a national issue on which all sides of politics must continue to focus – and today is a reminder that the public plays a critical role in maintaining the momentum to Close the Gap.”