This is what you need to know about National Close the Gap day

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Photo: rawpixel.com, via Pexels

A new report by the Australian Government reveals Indigenous life expectancy targets are not on track to eliminate the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health outcomes by 2031. 

The life expectancy of Indigenous males is at least 8.6 years short of their non-Indigenous counterparts, and female Indigenous life expectancy demonstrates a gap of at least 7.8 years, according to 2015-2017 data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

However, the life expectancy gap can be higher depending on location, remoteness and socio-economic status.

National Close the Gap Day is about raising awareness of the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health outcomes.

Paul Wright, National Director of ANTaR, which runs the Close the Gap campaign, told D*scribe the campaign was important for informing the public on Indigenous health inequality.

“National Close the Gap Day is designed to inspire the broad Australian public to take some time out to think about the life expectancy and health outcome disparities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians,” Wright said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in this report that only two out of the seven targets are on track, in early childhood education and the completion of year 12 or equivalent.

Besides life expectancy targets not on track, the other four targets yet to be reached are eliminating the gap in school attendance, and halving the gap in child mortality rates, employment and reading and numeracy by 2018. 

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Senator Nigel Scullion, said in a press statement that we should not limit discussion of Closing the Gap to a failure to meet targets. 

“Unfortunately, many in our nation will limit their discussion to a snapshot of progress or lack thereof against the targets. An assessment of failure in Indigenous Australia,” he said.

“As Roy Ah See, Chair of the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council, said – we need to move from a deficit discussion to one that acknowledges where more work is needed but celebrates the outstanding contribution Indigenous people make, and the success of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians in every community.’”

A new Closing the Gap Refresh strategy is being developed. The Prime Minister said the new framework would improve on weaknesses in the old strategy.

“We have learned key lessons from the past 10 years which inform the future as we commit to continue our efforts and the efforts of all Australian governments through COAG under the Closing the Gap Refresh,” he said.

Key proposed features of this strategy are an Indigenous community-led approach and a deeper partnership between state and territory governments with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Karen Mundine, CEO of Reconciliation Australia, said in a media release she was hopeful this partnership would lead to improvement in addressing Indigenous inequality. 

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and peak bodies have been demanding a greater say in the policy priorities, and design and implementation of programs around the (Closing the Gap) since its inception over a decade ago,” Mundine said.

“It is simple common sense that people, who live each day with the problems (Closing the Gap) is trying to address, will have the greatest knowledge and understanding of the causes and solutions to these problems.”

Wright said this year’s National Close the Gap Day was important leading up to the federal and NSW state election.

“This is a very important time to be considering the state of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs and particularly the government’s commitment to their health and wellbeing via their policies,” he said.

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Shayannah Beck
Shay Beck is a fourth year Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws student at Deakin, with majors in Anthropology and Journalism. She completed her VCE at Distance Education Centre Victoria. She has been a statistician at the Brisbane International and three Australian Open’s, umpires local football and convenes badminton and table tennis events. She has represented Victoria in tennis and has competed in state and national tennis tournaments. Shay enjoys surfing, hiking and wildwater kayaking, and has paddled on the Mersey River, Snowy River and Goulbourn River in downriver state and national championships. In 2015, she was selected for the Australian Wildwater Team. Shay has six brothers.

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