More than 140,000 people across Australia today will remind political leaders of their commitment to close the gap in health inequality, as critical Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health funding is due to expire.
Today is the seventh annual National Close the Gap Day, with a record 950 community events in homes, schools, universities, workplaces, community halls and public spaces to raise awareness about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and urge continued action by government.
Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chair Mick Gooda said the growing movement of people concerned about the appalling health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and other Australians could not come at a more critical time.
“The $1.6 billion funding package underpinning current Closing the Gap health programs expires in June, and we’ve had no solid commitment that it will be renewed,” Mr Gooda said.
“This COAG funding, from Federal, State and Territory Governments, is making a real difference to people’s lives, and must continue.”
Mr Gooda said under-five mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were starting to fall, and smoking and chronic disease initiatives were beginning to have an impact.
Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chair Jody Broun said the COAG health funding had a strong focus on chronic disease and had led to more Aboriginal health workers, doctors, nurses, health promotion workers and healthy lifestyle programs, more affordable medicines, as well as better access to smoking programs by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“Continued investment is essential if we are to build on this excellent work and be the generation to end the national disgrace that sees Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples die more than 10 years younger than the broader Australian community,” Ms Broun said.
“This is a national issue on which all sides of politics must continue to focus – and today is a reminder that the public plays a critical role in maintaining the momentum to Close the Gap.
“This year, we are seeing groups as diverse as the entire NSW Ambulance Service, Port Adelaide Football Club and the Canberra Institute of Technology getting on board for National Close the Gap Day.
“It is absolutely crucial that all state and territory governments join the Federal Government in continuing to invest in a healthy future. It would be a tragedy if we lost momentum just at the time we’ve started to see the possibility of a better future for so many people.”
The Federal Government currently is working on a national plan to close the gap, in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, through the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.
The Close the Gap campaign, Australia’s biggest public movement for health equality, is a coalition of Australia’s leading health and human rights organisations. It launched in 2007.
Go to http://www.oxfam.org.au for information about events.
For interviews, please contact Laurelle Keough at Oxfam Australia on 0425 701 801 or email@example.com