Facts to Close the Gap
15 March 2017 at 5:04 pm
Oxfam Australia has issued 10 “shameful facts that will make you want to close the gap” ahead of National Close the Gap Day.
The annual awareness event, which takes place on Thursday, aims to share information and encourage meaningful action in support of achieving Indigenous health equality by 2030.
Currently Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can expect to live up to between 10 and 17 years less than non-Indigenous Australians.
Oxfam Australia national manager of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People’s program Justin McCaul told Pro Bono News that National Close the Gap Day was “necessary” to shine a light on the issue.
“It has become a day in which tens of thousands of people bring attention to the ongoing gap in life expectancy and poor quality of life experienced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” McCaul said.
“Close the Gap started when then social justice commissioner Tom Calma made this statement: ‘It is not credible to suggest that one of the wealthiest nations of the world cannot solve a health crisis affecting less than 3 per cent of its citizens.’
“Until this challenge is address, it will remain necessary to maintain National Close the Gap Day to remind policymakers and the public that Indigenous people continue to experience poorer health in relation to other Australians.”
In a bid to demonstrate just how big the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is, Oxfam has highlighted 10 “shameful facts”:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples have been living on the land now known as Australia for a minimum of 50,000 years, making Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture one of the world’s oldest surviving cultures.
- Thirty per cent of adults in Indigenous communities are living with Type 2 diabetes (that’s more than three times higher than non-Indigenous communities).
- Indigenous people are 64 times more likely than non-Indigenous people to have rheumatic heart disease, and eight times more likely to be hospitalised because of it. In fact it’s been said that when it comes to rheumatic heart disease, it’s unlikely that such a stark contrast between two populations living within the same national barriers exists for any other disease on any other continent in the world.
- Ninety-five per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in Australia are affected by a suicide.
- The ratio of Indigenous doctors to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is 1:5,360 (compared to 1:372 for non-Indigenous Australians).
- Indigenous people are 60 per cent more likely than non-Indigenous people to die from cancer.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are three times more likely than non-Indigenous adults to experience high or very high levels of psychological distress.
- Ninety per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people surveyed said they felt happy some, most, or all of the time.
- The gap in infant mortality rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous babies has narrowed 83 per cent since the period 1998 to 2012.
- Seventy per cent of people think improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community living conditions should be a high or very high priority for the Australian government. That’s over 16 million people.
While some of the facts show progress is being made, Oxfam said it is happening too slowly.
McCaul said there were two things that need to happen.
“Firstly, from a policy and funding perspective what needs to happen has been repeatedly communicated by Indigenous leaders and organisations for many years,” he said.
“Governments need to listen to the advice of Indigenous policy experts, they need to consult with communities and help to shape local solutions to health problems, they need to fund Indigenous organisations adequately enough to address the various health issues affecting Indigenous people.
“Recent funding cuts have set back progress on meeting Close the Gap targets.
“Secondly and most importantly, governments must begin listening to Indigenous groups.
“Each year we hear political leaders talk about doing better and learning lesson. We need them to act not just talk.”
McCaul said public support was critical.
“Already thousands of Australians – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – show their support for Close the Gap,” he said.
“But certainly more people can show their support and we’d encourage people to do just that.
“Public support is critical as it shows the government that this is a public policy issue that has wide public support.
“Government act when they know an issue is important to people.”