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Australian Indigenous HealthBulletin
 
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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 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the areas of health and life expectancy within 25 years.

Close the Gap campaign

Close the Gap is a social justice campaign that aims to achieve health equality (measured as life expectancy equality) for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by 2030 [2]. The campaign began as the National Indigenous Health Equality Campaign, which was formed in March 2006 by these organisations:

A steering committee was established to help guide the development of the campaign [3]. A coalition of more than 40 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous health organisations and human rights organisations became involved in the campaign.

The Close the Gap campaign is the 'public face' of the National Indigenous Health Equality Campaign [3]. This public awareness campaign was formally launched in Sydney in April 2007 and is organised by the NACCHO, ANTaR and Oxfam Australia. It united the voices of more than 40 organisations urging the state, territory and federal governments to commit to closing the health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 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 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 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.

Statement of intent

The National Indigenous Health Equality Summit was held in Canberra on 18-20 March 2008. At this Summit, the Close the Gap Indigenous health equality targets were presented to delegates. The  Indigenous health equality summit statement of intent [4] was signed on 20 March 2008. The signatories to the Statement of intent were:

The Statement of intent stipulated that the Australian governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 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' [4].

Various state and territory governments have signed the Statement of intent since 2008:

Other state and territory governments have made various commitments to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

National Indigenous Health Equality Council

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced the establishment of the National Indigenous Health Equality Council (NIHEC) at the 2008 National Indigenous Health Equality Summit. NIHEC provides national leadership to help address the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health status by bringing together representatives from Australian governments and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 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 commitment had been made by the Australian, state and territory governments and others, raising the possibility of substantial improvement in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

National Indigenous reform agreement

In November 2008, COAG agreed to the National Indigenous reform agreement (NIRA) [5]. 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 [5][6].

National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples

The National Congress of Australia's First Peoples is the national representative voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The Congress was developed through consultation and submissions to a steering committee, assisted by the Australian Human Rights Commission. The first board of the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples was appointed in April 2010.

With respect to Closing the Gap, the Congress contributes by:

National Health Leadership Forum

In 2011, the National Health Leadership Forum (NHLF) was established [2]. The NHLF is made up of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak health organisations and the Close the Gap Steering Committee. It is the national representative body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations that provides advice to, and works with, the Australian Government to improve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes.

National Congress of Australia's First Peoples calls for justice target

In March 2012, the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples (the national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representative organisation) suggested a new target relating to justice be added to existing Closing the Gap targets which are monitored by Australian governments [8]. This target aimed to tackle the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the criminal justice system.

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) [9]. NATSIHP provides a long-term, evidence-based policy framework. It aims to deliver policies to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy by 2031. The Australian Government worked in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander 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 [10]. The state and territory governments were asked to continue their investment to renew the National partnership agreement.

Implementation plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health plan

In July 2013, the Australian Government released the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health plan 2013–2023 [11]. The implementation plan focused on the Government's role in ensuring the health system is flexible to respond to needs identified by the community, is able to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to make healthy choices, provides culturally safe access to quality early intervention and treatment services and integrated clinical services, and is free of racism.

Redfern Statement

In June 2016, a group of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations released the Redfern Statement [12] calling on the Federal Government to retain and establish national representation to facilitate meaningful engagement, and improve in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander outcomes in health and justice.

Specifically, the Redfern Statement urges the government to:

References

  1. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner (2005) Social justice report 2005. Sydney: Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission
  2. Holland C (2016) Close the Gap: progress and priorities report 2016. Canberra: Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee
  3. Dick D, Holland C, Harrison B (2008) Closing the gap: national Indigenous health equality targets: outcomes from the National Indigenous Health Equality Summit. Canberra: Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
  4. Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (2008) Close the gap: Indigenous health equality summit, statement of intent. Canberra: Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
  5. Council of Australian Governments (2009) National Indigenous reform agreement (closing the gap). Canberra: Council of Australian Governments
  6. Department of Families Housing Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (2009) Closing the gap on Indigenous disadvantage: the challenge for Australia. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia
  7. Australian Human Rights Commission (2009) Our future in our hands: creating a sustainable National Representative Body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Canberra: Australian Human Rights Commission
  8. National Congress of Australia's First Peoples (2013) National justice policy. Sydney: National Congress of Australia's First Peoples
  9. Australian Department of Health and Ageing (2013) National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023. Canberra: Australian Department of Health and Ageing
  10. 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/
  11. Australian Government Department of Health (2015) Implementation plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023. Canberra: Australian Government Department of Health
  12. National Congress of Australia's First Peoples (2016) The Redfern statement: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations unite. Sydney: National Congress of Australia's First Peoples
 
Last updated: 15 November 2016
 
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