The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Mr Anand Grover, has raised concerns that efforts to close the gap in Indigenous health are still not supported by a comprehensive national Indigenous health plan.
Welcoming Mr Grover’s report on health in Australia released today, Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chair, Dr Tom Calma, said developing a national action plan was also a long-standing commitment of Australian governments through the Close the Gap Statement of Intent.
“The Australian Government and the Opposition signed the Close the Gap Statement of Intent in March 2008 where they committed to developing a ‘comprehensive, long-term plan of action that is targeted to need, evidence-based and capable of addressing the existing inequities in health services,” Dr Calma said.
Close the Gap Campaign fellow Co-Chair and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Social Justice Commissioner, Mick Gooda, said the Rapporteur’s report reinforced the need for action.
“We have urged the Australian Government to deliver on its promise for a national plan for Indigenous health equality for more than two years now, since the Close the Gap Statement of Intent was signed,” Mr Gooda said.
The COAG Reform Council also released its report today into progress against the six closing the gap targets, including a target to achieve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy equality within a generation.
“Both of the reports released today highlight the need for a concerted national effort to plan for Indigenous health equality,” Mr Gooda said. “It is absolutely vital that a plan be developed in partnership with Indigenous Australians as a national priority if both the Close the Gap Statement of Intent commitments and the Council of Australian Governments’ targets are to be met.”
“Indigenous Australians are dying at least 10 years younger than their non-Indigenous counterparts,” Dr Calma said. “Australian governments must show they are serious and work with Indigenous Australians to develop a plan to close the gap in health status and life expectancy once and for all and as soon as possible.”
Dr Calma said the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee met regularly with the Federal Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, to work towards developing an Indigenous health equality plan.
In addition to the Australian Government, State and Territory governments have also signed the Statement of Intent including Queensland, Western Australia, the ACT, Victoria, and NSW.
The Close the Gap Campaign is a coalition of more than 40 of Australia’s leading health, human rights and Aboriginal organisations. The campaign was launched in April 2007.
Media contacts: Louise McDermott – for Mick Gooda – 0419 258 597