Actions must match rhetoric to Close the Gap

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 02 Oct 2008

The Close the Gap coalition will today remind Federal and State government leaders meeting in Perth to match their rhetoric with actions to close the 17-year life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation.
Supporters will hold up the large CLOSE THE GAP letters at 9am outside the entrance of the building where the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) is meeting, calling on the Prime Minister, the Labor Premiers and the new Liberal premier Colin Barnett to start taking real action on the issue.
This comes hot on the heels of a Parliamentary Library report which found that the Rudd Government had funded Indigenous services to a level ‘not very different’ to the previous government, and that ‘there has been no real growth in Indigenous specific spending since the 1990s’.
Aboriginal Health Council of WA CEO Darryl Kickett said that last December, COAG agreed to a partnership between all levels of government to work with Indigenous communities to achieve the targets of closing the 17-year life expectancy gap within a generation and halving the mortality rate of Indigenous children within ten years.
“This was the first time Australian governments had agreed to be accountable for reaching this goal by placing its achievement within a timeframe,” Mr Kickett said. “But actions speak louder than words. Unless the government commits to significant funding to end Indigenous disadvantage we will not close the gap; indeed it may widen.”
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma said that, as set out in the National Indigenous Health Equality Targets handed to the Federal Government in July, the Close the Gap coalition requested that governments take a strategic, staged approach to funding, commencing with an additional $150m to Aboriginal primary health and community controlled services in the first year, scaling up to $500m over five years.
“This needs to happen if we are to seriously tackle the inequality gap,” Mr Calma said.
“Furthermore, the Rudd Government will be judged on how seriously it is taking this issue in its 2008-2009 Budget. The Close the Gap coalition is represented here to remind governments that closing the gap is still on the national agenda – we expect action.”
Thursday 2 October

Front entrance of the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre, 21 Mounts Bay Road
Darryl Kickett, CEO of The Aboriginal Health Council of WA (AHCWA), Professor Ted Wilkes of Curtin University, and Oxfam Indigenous Rights Advocacy Coordinator Paddy Cullen, with supporters holding letters spelling out CLOSE THE GAP
Further information:
Paddy Cullen, Oxfam Australia (Perth office), 0431 925 494,
Laurelle Keough, Oxfam Australia, on 0409 960 100,