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Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin
 
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What is the history of Closing the gap?

Social justice report

In 2005, Tom Calma, the then Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, released the Social justice report 2005 [1]. This important report called for the governments of Australia to commit to achieving equality for Indigenous people in the areas of health and life expectancy within 25 years.

Close the gap campaign

In March 2006, the National Indigenous Health Equality Campaign (which used Close the gap for its public awareness campaign) was developed by:

A Steering Committee was established to help guide the campaign. Indigenous and non-Indigenous health organisations and human rights organisations became involved in the campaign which was committed to bringing Indigenous health inequality to an end.

The Close the gap campaign was formally launched in Sydney in April 2007. This public awareness campaign, organised by NACCHO, ANTAR and Oxfam Australia, united the voices of more than 40 organisations urging the state, territory and federal governments to commit to closing the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and other Australians within a generation.

COAG and Closing the gap

On 20 December 2007, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), which includes the leaders of federal, state and territory, and local governments, committed to 'closing the gap' in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Importantly, COAG agreed to be accountable for reaching this goal within a specific timeframe. The strategy initiated at this time by COAG has become known as Closing the gap.

The Statement of intent

The National Indigenous Health Equality Summit was held in Canberra on 18-20 March 2008. The Close the gap Indigenous health equality targets were presented to delegates of the summit and on 20 March 2008 the Indigenous health equality summit statement of intent [2] was signed. The signatories to the Statement of intent were:

The Statement of intent stipulated that the Australian governments and Indigenous peoples would ‘work together to achieve equality in health status and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians by the year 2030'. The Queensland, Victorian, Australian Capital Territory, Western Australian, South Australian and New South Wales governments signed the Statement of intent. Other state and territory governments have made various commitments to improving Indigenous health.

The National Indigenous Health Equality Council

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced at the summit the establishment of the National Indigenous Health Equality Council (NIHEC). NIHEC provides national leadership to help address the gap in Indigenous health status by bringing together representatives from Australian governments and the Indigenous and mainstream health sectors. The NIHEC membership was formally announced by the Minister for Health, the Hon Nicola Roxon MP, on 10 July 2008.

This was the first time that such a high level of commitments had been made by the Australian, state and territory governments and others, raising the possibility of substantial improvement in the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people.

National Indigenous reform agreement

In November 2008, COAG agreed to the National Indigenous reform agreement (NIRA) [3]. This Agreement provides a comprehensive overview of the steps being taken to achieve the Closing the gap targets, including the relevant objectives, outcomes, outputs, performance measures, and benchmarks in the various national partnership agreements (NPAs).
COAG committed $4.6 billion towards Closing the gap in November 2008; the funds were directed to projects in health, housing, early childhood, economic participation, and remote service delivery.

Release of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health plan

In June 2013, the Australian Government released the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health plan (NATSIHP) [4] which provides a long-term, evidence-based policy framework. It aims to deliver policies to eliminate the Indigenous life expectancy gap by 2031. The Australian Government worked in partnership with Indigenous people, Indigenous community groups, and peak bodies to produce the plan.

Renewal of National partnership agreement on closing the gap in Indigenous health outcomes

In April 2013, the Australian Government announced $777 million to fund its share of a renewed National partnership agreement on closing the gap in Indigenous health outcomes for a further three years to 30 June 2016 [5]. The state and territory governments were asked to continue their investment to renew the National partnership agreement. In June 2013, the Western Australian State government announced new funding of $31 million to continue services to improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous West Australians [6].

Prime Minister's reports on Closing the gap

The Prime Minister's reports are released annually in early February. They outline the progress made in the previous year towards meeting the six targets set to close the gap in life expectancy, early childhood, health, education and employment between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The reports provide information on the seven building blocks identified by the Government as addressing specific areas of Indigenous disadvantage.

References

  1. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner (2005) Social justice report 2005. Sydney: Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission
  2. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (2008) Close the gap: Indigenous health equality summit, statement of intent. Canberra: Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
  3. Council of Australian Governments (2009) National Indigenous reform agreement (closing the gap). Canberra: Council of Australian Governments
  4. Australian Department of Health and Ageing (2013) National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023. Canberra: Australian Department of Health and Ageing
  5. Australian Government (2013) $777 million for renewed effort to close the gap in Indigenous health. Retrieved 18 April 2013 from http://www.indigenous.gov.au/777-million-for-renewed-effort-to-close-the-gap-in-indigenous-health/
  6. Government of Western Australia (2013) Closing the Gap funding continues. Retrieved 19 June 2013 from http://www.mediastatements.wa.gov.au/Pages/StatementDetails.aspx?listName=StatementsBarnett&StatId=7496
  7. Department of Families Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (2009) Closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage: the challenge for Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia
  8. Department of Families Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (2010) Closing the gap: Prime Minister's report 2010. Canberra: Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
  9. Department of Families Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (2011) Closing the gap: Prime Minister's report 2011. Canberra: Department of Families, Housing, community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Australia
  10. Department of Families Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (2012) Closing the gap: Prime Minister's report 2012. Canberra: Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
  11. Department of Families Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (2013) Closing the gap: Prime Minister's report 2013. Canberra: Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
 
Last updated: 10 December 2013
 
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