Close the Gap must remain a top priority for incoming government

Campaigns and Advocacy, Indigenous Affairs, Media Releases, News article written on the 28 Aug 2013

Oxfam Australia is urging whoever is elected on September the 7th to ramp up their ambition and build on the long-term commitment to Close the Gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the nation was at a critical juncture in efforts to Close the Gap, and an incoming government must build on the work that had seen child mortality rates drop, more affordable medicines and larger numbers of Aboriginal doctors, nurses and health workers employed.

The call comes as the Close the Gap campaign, of which Oxfam is a founding member, releases ‘Building on the Close the Gap Platform: Commitments for an incoming government’ today.

The platform sets out concrete actions for an incoming government for the first 100 days and beyond.

Dr Szoke said key among them were forging a new National Partnership Agreement with the states on Indigenous Heath, and implementing the newly established National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan.

The plan was developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives through the National Health Leadership Forum (within the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples).

“An incoming government must continue this partnership approach and ensure it works with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to develop an implementation plan,” Dr Szoke said.

“Closing the gap on health equality is one of the few issues on which all parties agree. It must remain a national priority, so that an Australian child born in 2030 – regardless of background – can expect an equal chance at good health and life expectancy.

“Until this gap is closed, we are diminished as a nation and Australia’s first people are left behind.

“It’s vital that the Closing the Gap programs continue past the Federal Election and beyond, as it’s only long-term investment that will see us end the disgrace of an Indigenous baby being more than twice as likely to die as a non-Indigenous baby.”

She said any incoming government must work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, ensuring that communities were empowered to make decisions that affected their lives.

Dr Szoke said it must also must prioritise the delivery of services through Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations, as evidence showed they were achieving excellent outcomes.

“Continuing the Close the Gap approach is an investment in a healthy future for Indigenous Australians, and Australia as a whole,” Dr Szoke said. 

“It is quite literally saving lives.  We can’t stop now.”

Dr Szoke said the Close the Gap campaign was launched with bi-partisan and community support in 2007, and since then more than 188,000 Australians had formally pledged their support for the campaign.

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