80,000 Australians join Cathy Freeman, Ian Thorpe and Michael Long calling on nation’s leaders to narrow 17-year life gap between Aboriginal and other Australians

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 17 Sep 2007

Campaigners alarmed at the 17-year life gap between Aboriginal and other Australians have called on the nation’s leaders to heed a petition signed by over 80,000 Australians unveiled today to mark Australia’s first ever National Close The Gap Day.
The petition is the largest ever of its kind and contains the signatures of many high profile Australians such as AFL legend Michael Long, Olympic Champions Cathy Freeman and Ian Thorpe, musicians Missy Higgins and John Butler as well as 2003 Australian of the Year, Professor Fiona Stanley. Together they are joined by tens of thousands of less well known Australians who have pledged their support for the largest ever campaign in Australia’s history to narrow the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
‘This National Close The Gap Day 80,000 Australians have sent a powerful message to our nation’s leaders that we all want the health of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders to be Australia’s number one priority,’ said Close The Gap spokesperson, Dea Thiele.
The call comes as new market research commissioned by Oxfam Australia found that Australians believe that Aboriginal people should have equal access to health care whether they live in remote or urban Australia. The research, undertaken in Melbourne, Sydney and Townsville, tested the attitudes of the Australian community towards the health inequality that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The findings include:

  • improving Aboriginal health was universally rated as a high priority for Australian governments
  • Indigenous Australians should have access to the sorts of health services other Australians take for granted – irrespective of whether they live in remote or urban areas
  • a call for more education, both in schools and in the community, about Aboriginal culture and the issues affecting Aborigines today

To mark National Close The Gap Day, over 250 Australia-wide events have been organised and will be attended by thousands of Australians to urge State and Federal Government to commit to achieve health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders within 25 years. Some of the locations for events are a long way from just about anywhere such as Mt Sheridan in the Gulf of Carpentaria and Kununurra in Western Australia. Other events will take place in less remote parts of Australia like Wagga Wagga in New South Wales and Bendigo in Victoria.
Major events will take place today in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane at which members of the public will be joined by Aboriginal health, community workers and leaders including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma. Didgeridoo players William Barton and Adam Hill as well as performers like the Stiff Gins, Kutcha Edwards and Lou Bennett will also be making appearances.
‘We urge Australians everywhere to participate in National Close The Gap Day. The events are fun and for all the family. But there’s a serious side too,’ said Ms Thiele. ‘The sad fact is Aboriginal Australians have not shared in the health gains enjoyed by other Australians over the past two decades. We want to see the 17-year gap in life expectancy closed within a generation. It is a challenge Australia can meet. It’s time to close the gap.’
For a full list of Australia-wide events this National Close The Gap Day or to watch the Close The Gap DVD visit www.oxfam.org.au
For more information or to arrange an interview with Dea Thiele call Ian Woolverton on 0409 181 454