On United Nations Day for Indigenous people, pediatrician and former Australian of the Year Professor Fiona Stanley added her name to a petition signed by more than 75,000 Australians calling on governments to close the 17 year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within 25 years.
Huge gains have been made in life expectancy for Indigenous people in New Zealand, Canada and the USA over the last ten years, with the life expectancy gap falling to six to seven years. However, Australia has failed to make similar progress on Indigenous health, which is currently the worst in the developed world.
Professor Stanley said, "The difference is that these countries have well-funded health services and effective long-term partnerships with Indigenous people. In Australia, Indigenous children are dying at three times the rate of non-Indigenous children; this demands not only resources for child health but for the whole community as well as increasing the Aboriginal workforce. Aboriginal medical services are already doing great work all over Australia, but basic primary health care is still missing in many communities."
The Close the Gap campaign – involving more than 40 Aboriginal, medical, human rights and development agencies – is planning to hold events in every major capital around Australia for the National Close the Gap Day (Tuesday 18 September 2007). More than 40 events around the country are also being planned by private citizens.