The Close the Gap coalition of 40 leading health and human rights organisations today congratulated Prime Minister Gillard on forming a minority Labor Government, and keeping Nicola Roxon as Minister for Health and Ageing, but raised concerns at the dropping of the dedicated Indigenous Health Minister role.
Co-Chair of the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said that he was concerned that the role had been abolished without any clear indication as to how the focus on Indigenous health would be maintained.
“The creation of the Indigenous Health Minister role in 2009 was a welcome signal that there would be dedicated attention to achieving Indigenous health equality by 2030,” Mr Gooda said.
“It is vital that this focus be maintained, as we cannot allow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health to be forgotten in the push to establish the Health and Hospitals Network.”
Mr Gooda also said that the Close the Gap coalition members were concerned that a national plan for achieving Indigenous health equality by 2030 has still not been developed, and that no indication has been given as to when or how such planning will commence.
“While we have seen a bipartisan commitment to close the Indigenous life expectancy gap, a national agreement from COAG, and a down-payment on funding, we now need a plan for how government will see these commitments through,” Mr Gooda said.
“This plan needs to be developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and needs to address existing inequities in health services around the country.”
In 2008, the government and opposition formally committed both sides of politics to close the gap by 2030 through a number of commitments, including:
• Developing a comprehensive, evidence-based, long-term plan of action that can achieve Indigenous health equality by 2030;
• Ensuring the full participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their representative bodies in all aspects of addressing their health needs; and
• Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health services in urban, rural and remote areas.
Mr Gooda said that the campaign will be looking for renewed leadership from Prime Minster Gillard to work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to meet these commitments.
“We will be seeking an early meeting with Prime Minister Gillard, to discuss the way forward to ensure that Indigenous health still remains a key priority for the next term of government, and will also be looking to meet with the Opposition Leader, the Greens and the Independents, to build a strong consensus for action to close the gap,”
Indigenous Australians die on average between 10 and 17 years younger than other Australians. A baby born to an Indigenous mother is still between two and three times more likely to die before the age of 4.
Aboriginal people experience far higher rates of preventable illness such as heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes.
Close the Gap is Australia’s largest ever Indigenous health campaign that aims to close the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and other Australians within a generation.
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