Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s announcement that she will work with the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples was welcomed by the Close the Gap Campaign today.
Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chair Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda also welcomed Minister Warren Snowdon and Minister Nicola Roxon’s agreement to begin developing a long term national plan to close the gap in Indigenous life expectancy by 2030.
“The Australian Government signed the Statement of Intent to close the Indigenous life expectancy gap in March 2008 and today’s announcement is critically important to seeing through that commitment,” Mr Gooda said.
“The agreement to move forward with a long-term action health plan to close the Indigenous life expectancy gap within a generation is a major step.
“The Close the Gap Campaign has been working with the Australian Government to realise its commitment to working in genuine partnership to develop a long term plan of action to close the gap and for us this is an historic day.”
Mr Gooda said the Prime Minister’s recognition of the importance of working with the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and the Close the Gap Steering Committee was a vital step to achieving Indigenous health equality within a generation.
“This morning, thirteen national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health peak bodies and stakeholders from around the country met with the Prime Minister to discuss how best government can work in real partnership to plan together to close the gap in Indigenous health inequality.
“We look forward to continuing to work closely with government in a bipartisan fashion around the development of this plan as it is vitally important that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their representative bodies are involved in all aspects of addressing their health needs.”
Today the Close the Gap campaign has released its Shadow Report, an annual report released since 2009 to coincide with the Prime Minister’s report back to Parliament, that assesses progress toward closing the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.
The Shadow Report explores the critical importance of the full participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their representative bodies in all aspects of addressing their health needs, in particular in the development of a national plan. It provides key pointers that the partnership announced today can take forward.
Mr Gooda also welcomed Opposition Leader Tony Abbott’s wholehearted support of closing the gap and said that the annual statement to Parliament should become a tradition observed by all parties regardless of who is in power.
“Delivering a progress report to Parliament at the start of each Parliamentary year is one way we can be sure to keep on top of where we are succeeding and where we need to improve to achieve Indigenous health equality,” Mr Gooda said.
Close the Gap is a coalition of more than 40 of Australia’s leading health, human rights and Aboriginal organisations. The campaign was launched in April 2007.