‘People Power’ crucial to closing the Indigenous Life Expectancy Gap

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 10 Mar 2011

Co-chairs of the Close the Gap Campaign, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda and National Coordinator for Tackling Indigenous Smoking Dr Tom Calma, will today outline the crucial importance of ‘people power’ to Indigenous health equality.

The comments will be made in a joint address to the National Press Club in Canberra to mark the fifth anniversary of the Close the Gap Campaign which works to close the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians within a generation.

Commissioner Gooda said that in five years the campaign has successfully used people power to lay the foundation for achieving Indigenous life expectancy equality within a generation.

“Since 2006, 150 000 Australians have formally pledged their support for achieving Indigenous health equality and almost every Federal, State and Territory government and opposition party has signed the historic Close the Gap statement of Intent,” he said.

“The first ever Minister for Indigenous Health has been appointed and we have seen almost $5 billion of ‘closing the gap’ branded programs from Australian governments.

“The next crucial chapter is the development of a national plan to close the health and life expectancy gap. With this we hope the next five years will achieve real, sustained health improvements for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples across the country.”

In his part of the address, Dr Tom Calma will explain the impacts faced by Indigenous communities because of the life expectancy gap.

“The 2002 Australia Bureau of Statistics’ social survey asked almost 10,000 Indigenous Australians what the greatest ‘stressors’ were for them over the past year. Almost half – 46 per cent – reported the death of a family member or close friend,” Dr Calma said.

“Every time we unnecessarily lose an Elder, we also lose the source of stability, governance, order and counsel in our communities.

“Every time you hear of an Aboriginal language dying out, remember it is not the language that is dying, it is the people who speak it,” he said.

The National Press Club address will point the way forward to achieving health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within 25 years.

Indigenous Australians die, on average, between 10 to 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 its fourth birthday than a child born to a non-Indigenous Australian mother.

For information or interviews, please contact Sunita Bose at Oxfam Australia on 0407 555 960.