Victorian Premier commits to Closing the Gap in Aboriginal health

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 19 Aug 2008

The Close the Gap coalition today welcomed Victorian Premier John Brumby’s public commitment to end Aboriginal health inequality in Victoria.
Mr Brumby today signed a ‘Statement of Intent’ with Aboriginal leaders at a ceremony at Parliament House in Melbourne that commits his government and future Victorian Governments to improving the health and wellbeing of the more than 30,000 Aboriginal Victorians.
Victoria was the first state to recognize Aboriginal people as the original custodians of the land, and the first Australian state to enact a Charter of Human Rights.
Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma and Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (VACCHO) Chair Justin Mohamed joined the Premier in signing the nine-point Statement of Intent to improve the lives of Aboriginal Victorians. Opposition Leader Ted Baillieu was present to show his support.
The Statement of Intent, also signed by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in March, is a commitment between the Victorian Government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to work together to achieve equality in health status and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians by 2030. It commits all parties to a plan that includes:
• Developing a comprehensive long-term plan of action to achieve equality of health and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and other Australians by 2030;
• Ensuring full participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in addressing their health needs;
• Working together to address the social determinants that impact health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Premier Brumby is the second Premier to sign up to the Statement of Intent, after Queensland’s Anna Bligh in April.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma said working in partnership was vital. "Only by all governments working in partnership with Indigenous peoples can we close the gap,” he said. “Today’s formal commitment from such a wide variety of groups is a very significant occasion for all Victorians."
VACCHO chair Justin Mohamed said progress had already been made to improve Aboriginal health in the state, particularly with the Victorian Advisory Council on Koori Health, and the Victorian Indigenous Affairs Framework – which sets out the government’s strategy on Aboriginal disadvantage and strengthening communities.

“But there is still more to be done to close the 17 year gap between the life expectancy of an Aboriginal person and a non-Aboriginal person. The fact is that a the gap in Aboriginal life expectancy is the same in Fitzroy as it is in Fitzroy Crossing, “ Mr Mohamed said.

The Council of Australian Governments issued a communiqué in December stating it would close the 17-year life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians within a generation, and halve the mortality gap for children under five within a decade. In July, the Close the Gap coalition presented the Federal Government and Opposition with a set of National Indigenous Health Equality Targets to address the 17-year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Oxfam Australia Policy Director James Ensor said the inequality in health was an issue for all Australians. “With the momentum generated from a partnership between state governments, the federal government and the Aboriginal people, we can be the generation that finally closed the gap,” he said.
Close the Gap is a coalition of Australia’s leading health, human rights and Aboriginal organisations. The campaign was launched in April 2007.
For more information or photos from the event, please contact Laurelle Keough on 0409 960 100,