• Rod Little and June Oscar AO are Co-Chairs of the Close the Gap (CTG) Campaign. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
ANALYSIS: On the eve of the Prime Minister's next Closing the Gap report on progress, co-chairs June Oscar AO and Rod Little offer a way forward to bring us closer to the success we all hope for.
By
Rod Little, June Oscar AO

13 Feb 2019 - 11:50 AM  UPDATED 13 Feb 2019 - 3:37 PM

Not only are we are the co-chairs of the Close the Gap Campaign, we are also two Aboriginal grandparents with an enormous love for our families.

As such, we want to see all the targeted gaps that we have in our health and well-being, closed.

This needs to happen urgently. It is unacceptable for us to consider that one more generation must bear this burden.

Tomorrow the Prime Minister Scott Morrison will deliver the Government’s Closing the Gap Report to Federal parliament.

It is effectively the government’s report card on the health and well-being of First Nations peoples across the country.

Realistically, it’s unlikely to be any different to previous years; the leader of our country standing on the floor of parliament and reveals the lack of progress we’ve made to address the inequality that continues to exist.

One shocking fact in particular is that the life expectancy gap between our people and non-Indigenous Australians is widening. In 2018, just three of the seven Closing the Gap targets were on track.

Closing the Gap: A decade on, less than half of targets on track
The tenth Closing the Gap report reveals three of seven targets are on track to being met, compared to only one last year.

We cannot continue to return to parliament every year and hear this. As Co-Chairs of the Close the Gap Campaign, a coalition of Indigenous and non-Indigenous health and advocacy organisations, we know what needs to be done.

This year marks 11 years since the signing of the Close the Gap Statement of Intent, an agreement between our peoples and Government to work in partnership and commit to real and sustained change.

However, as the Close the Gap Campaign reported in our 10-year review last year, the Government’s Closing the Gap Strategy has failed to deliver for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

We recommended that the Government’s Closing the Gap Strategy return to the original commitments and put Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the centre.

We recommended that the Government’s Closing the Gap Strategy return to the original commitments and put Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the centre.

We want our people at the planning table to concentrate on ensuring access to health services (particularly Community Controlled Health Services), to build the health infrastructure, and to work collectively across governments to address the social determinants that act as road blocks to good health.  

As we head into the next phase of the refreshed Closing the Gap Strategy, we must have hope for a new approach.

It's critical we get the next phase right. Our people deserve to live a a full and healthy life like every other Australian. Currently we do not.

 

 

We remain encouraged by the decision of Council of Australian Goverments (COAG) leaders last December to commit to a new, genuine and formal partnership with our people on the refreshed Closing the Gap Strategy.

Our people deserve to live a a full and healthy life like every other Australian. Currently we do not.

Indigenous involvement and participation in the co-design of this important national strategy is vital and really is the only way forward.

We know that when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are included in the design and delivery of services that impact our lives, the outcomes are far better.

The Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee includes the most authoritative body of Indigenous health experts and professionals in Australia. No other group can boast this level of leadership, experience and expertise.

This is a critical time for the Government to work with the coalition of Indigenous Peaks on the solutions, to ensure that the future of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and grandchildren is better.

As we head to a Federal election this year, the Close the Gap campaign is calling on political parties to make a commitment to the following;

Support the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak bodies to progress a formal partnership with the Council of Australian Governments on Closing the Gap.

Ensure more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are employed in the health workforce to ensure that primary health care and prevention measures are culturally safe, to avoid avoidable hospital admissions and premature deaths.

Commit a minimum $100 million towards a four-year Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services capacity-building program as seed funding to fill the highest priority service gaps, noting that the amount needed, once fully costed, will be significantly higher and is dependent upon the service gap mapping exercise in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan [Implementation Plan] being undertaken.

Commit to a ‘Good Housing for Good Health’ strategy to improve home health and safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including the ‘Housing for Health’ program to eradicate third world diseases.

Address systemic racism in the mainstream health system by establishing an Aboriginal Health Authority to oversee service delivery, professional training and policy and accreditation processes that impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and health care.

If these informed suggestions can be committed to; fully funded and an implemented policy, we genuinely believe it provide a pathway forward for an incoming Government to achieve tangible improvements in life expectancy and other key health indicators for our people.

 

June Oscar AO is the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner.

Rod Little is Co-Chair National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.

June Oscar and Rod Little are the Co-Chairs of the Close the Gap (CTG) Campaign. The Campaign was launched in 2006 to address the unacceptable gap in life expectancy and other health indicators between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians. The Campaign includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies and non-Indigenous health and advocacy organisations. More than 250,000 Australians have signed a pledge supporting the Campaign.