• Australia is on track to fail again in its Closing the Gap targets. (AAP)Source: AAP
A group of health experts call on federal and state governments to overhaul Closing the Gap targets and introduce a new health justice framework.
Douglas Smith

18 Aug 2020 - 12:04 AM  UPDATED 18 Aug 2020 - 12:04 AM

A group of health experts have called on federal and state governments to overhaul Closing the Gap targets and introduce a new health justice framework, saying the last 10-years has failed to improve the long-term health outcomes of Indigenous Australians. 

The report named, “Now we say Black Lives Matter but … the fact of the matter is, we just Black matter to them”, was co-authored by Munanjahli and South Sea Islander woman, Dr Chelsea Bond, and Torres Strait Islander woman, Dr Lisa Whop. 

On Monday, Ms Whop told NITV News that closing the gap targets were “failing” Indigenous people because they were still subject to "racial violence" within the Australian healthcare system.   

“Those targets don’t reflect the systems that continue to oppress us and I think that’s what’s disappointing," said Ms Whop. 

“For some Australians I’m sure that going to the doctor or going to the hospital when they’re in need, is the safest thing to do, but that’s not how it is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people...they are not inherently safe places."

Ms Whop said the report was inspired by the global Black Lives Matter movement and the current coronavirus pandemic, which she contrasted with the government's response to safeguarding Indigenous communities at the beginning of the pandemic. 

“I would have loved to of seen the same swift movement that’s happened in terms of COVID response from the Australian Government, directed at this ongoing pandemic of racism," she said. 

“For me, what this article talks about is, ‘where is our Black Lives Matter moment’, and I think really... it’s been missed."

Now, Ms Whop and her colleagues say there needs to be a change of direction, due a decade of "policy failure and statistical targets not met."

“We need to accept that [Closing the Gap] hasn’t worked for us, and that’s okay and we’ve learned some lessons, but what really could work is a reimagining what the black body is, and that could work if we were in favour of a health justice framework,” she said. 

As a part of the health justice framework offered in the report, six strategies were included that looked at Indigenous sovereignty within the healthcare system in "all processes of health policy formation". 

Other strategies included a commitment from governments to implement coronial recommendations following Indigenous deaths in custody, and an Indigenous health workforce agenda to address the disparity felt by Indigenous health workers.

"We offer these strategies not as a solution, but as some small steps towards a radical reimagining of the Black body within the Australian health system," Ms Whop and colleagues wrote. 

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