Skip to content
In 2005, Tom Calma, the then Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, released the Social justice report 2005 . 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.
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.
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 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  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 (see state and territory Close the gap commitments).
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.
In November 2008, COAG agreed to the National Indigenous reform agreement (NIRA) . 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.
The Prime Minister's reports are released annually in early February. They outline the progress made in the previous year towards meeting the 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 key building blocks identified by the Government as addressing specific areas of Indigenous disadvantage.