Closing the Gap

Closing the Gap

This month shines a light on 'Closing the Gap', a health campaign dedicated to educating people on the huge health gaps that exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Closing the Gap Day (18 March) aims to bring awareness to the front of peoples minds, by encouraging people to push towards this great initiative. There is a long way to go, as I will touch on throughout this booklet.

WHAT IS CLOSING THE GAP?

In 2007, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) signed a statement of intent to close key health gaps for Australian Indigenous peoples. This was brought about because of the huge health gaps that existed between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
In 2008, the Rudd government outlined a series of health outcomes they wanted to achieve for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people:
  • To close the life expectancy gap within a generation.
  • To halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade. 
  • To ensure access to early childhood education for all Indigenous four-year-old's in remote communities within five years.
  • To halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievements for children within a decade.
  • To halve the gap for Indigenous students in year 12 attainment rates by 2020.
  • To halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade.

 14 YEARS ON, HOW ARE WE DOING?

It is so saddening to say that we are not looking good, in fact, only two of the initiatives are on track:

  1. Life expectancy rates are not improving.
  2. The Indigenous children death rate is going down but is still double that of non-indigenous children.
  3. Early childhood access to education is increasing.
  4. There was no significant improvement in reading, writing, or numeracy. 
  5. More Indigenous young people are finishing year 12. 
  6. The unemployment gap is increasing.

Looking at these initiatives in colours and numbers is so dehumanising. What it really means is that in a first world country we are failing our most vulnerable and that is far from ok.

Ken Wyatt is the Minister for Indigenous Australians since 2019. Wyatt spoke with The Age about the latest status report on 'Close the Gap' and explained why to-date the initiative has 'failed'.

"We must see the gap from the viewpoint of Indigenous Australians before we can hope to close it, and make a real difference. That is the change we are now making together with Indigenous Australians through this process." Basically, what he is saying is that, 

you cant just decide what you want for people without getting them to lead it and deciding on the importance of what each thing is. Wyatt has said he will lead a different approach, an approach that has allies working with Indigenous people to achieve shared goals. Scott Morrison, however, has decided that these figures are a win and that Wyatt is ignoring the strengths. Luckily the latest Closing the Gap strategy has a number of recommendations to move forward, the first being (in my opinion) the most necessary:

"Recommendation 1: the ‘refreshed’ Closing the Gap Strategy is co-designed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders and includes community consultations. This requires a tripartite negotiation process with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders, and the Federal and State and Territory governments. Time must be allowed for this process. Further, Australian governments must be accountable to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for its effective implementation."

ACTIONS WE CAN TAKE

It can all seem a bit hopeless and that's why we need to take small action in our areas of impact.

  • Identify your area of impact (this could be your family, friendship groups, or workplace).
  • Talk about the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander businesses that are around you that you can buy from.
  • Putting money back into the Indigenous economy will create more opportunities for Indigenous people. (An Indigenous business is more likely to employ other Indigenous people) — continue to support and purchase Dilly Bags!