Tens of thousands of everyday Australians are participating in National Close the Gap Day today and sending a clear message that the community expects Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health be made a national priority in the lead-up to the federal budget, Oxfam said today.
Oxfam Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Program Manager Justin McCaul said an expected 192,000 people across all states and territories in Australia were participating in more than 1570 events today.
He said this year marked 10 years of the Close the Gap campaign – the nation’s largest public movement for health equality – and Australians from all walks of life, such as community groups, health services, businesses, universities and government offices from all states and territories, were coming together to support it.
“This includes 320 schools, more than 240 ambulance stations across New South Wales and 97 individual Medibank outlets across Australia,” Mr McCaul said.
“This year’s tremendous response to National Close the Gap day shows that everyday Australians are coming together in solidarity with their fellow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians to hold our nation’s leaders account to achieve health equality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians by 2030,” Mr McCaul said.
“People are hosting a wide variety of events, from rap, didgeridoo and dance performances at schools to workplace morning teas and lunches in hospitals and health services, as well as public events in the community such as interactive forums, conferences, community health checks and marches.
“More than 220,000 Australians have pledged their support for the campaign and there is no room for complacency. We need state, territory and federal governments to take real, measurable action. We want all political parties prior to the federal election to make Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and wellbeing a major priority and fund a national plan for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health,” Mr McCaul said.
Among the events planned are two national Close the Gap events taking place in Sydney and Melbourne. In Redfern, an event hosted by ANTaR in partnership with National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and Oxfam Australia, will feature dance performances, speeches, community stalls and a hand art installation. In Melbourne, an Oxfam event will include a smoking ceremony and feature high profile Indigenous academics. Attendees will be invited to place handprints on a banner.
Last year, National Close the Gap Day attracted 150,000 supporters and more than 1,500 events across the country. The campaign is organised by the Close the Gap coalition — a group of more than 40 Indigenous and non-Indigenous health and community organisations and Oxfam is a founding member.
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