National Close the Gap Day (April 22) met with overwhelming public support, with 637 community events held everywhere from Mornington Island, QLD to Geraldton, WA to raise awareness about the need to close the 17-year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and other Australians.
Tens of thousands of Australians hosted or attended events, urging State and Federal governments to address the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health crisis, and provide health equality for Indigenous Australians.
These events took place in workplaces, schools, universities, restaurants and homes across the country.
Sydney University medicine student Leigh Archer organised a barbeque where the university’s medical students pledged their support in achieving health equality for Indigenous and other Australians.
“You don’t need to be a medicine student to see that there is a problem when three per cent of the population live 17 years less than the rest,” Mr. Archer said.
“Yet as the next generation of Australian doctors, we do know that our actions now can help reverse this health crisis.”
Vice-Chancellor and President of RMIT Margaret Gardner AO pledged her support to closing the gap at an information luncheon at the RMIT City Campus, Melbourne.
Singer Katie Noonan performed at a Bands and Bingo evening hosted by Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR) in Brisbane.
The events came as Indigenous health organisations called on the Federal Government to back up its commitment to closing the gap in Indigenous life expectancy with commensurate funding in the upcoming Federal Budget.
This follows the decision by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to sign a nine-point statement of intent to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders at the Indigenous Health Equality Summit in Canberra on March 20.
More than 40 organisations launched the Close the Gap health campaign in April 2007, and in one year the campaign has attracted immense public support.
More than 115 000 Australians have signed the Close the Gap pledge, calling on governments to increase annual Indigenous primary health funding by $460 million, ensure equal access to health services and Indigenous participation in their delivery, and take action on social determinants such as housing and education that are leading contributors to the poor health of Indigenous people.
Oxfam Australia Executive Director Andrew Hewett said that the response by Australians to hold events on National Close the Gap Day and sign the campaign pledge was inspiring.
“If we keep it up, we can be the generation that closes the gap and achieves Indigenous health equality.”
To find National Close the Gap Day Events held in your area, go to www.oxfam.org.au/events/close-the-gap-day/events.php
About Close the Gap:
Close the Gap is Australia’s largest ever campaign to improve Indigenous health.
Supported by more than 40 Indigenous and non-Indigenous organisations, including Oxfam Australia, the campaign calls on federal, state and territory governments to commit to closing the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation.
For more information or to interview Andrew Hewett, please contact Sunita Bose, Media Liaison Co-ordinator Oxfam Australia on 0407 555 960