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The health status of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continues to improve slowly. However, it is clear from this Overview that Indigenous people remain the least healthy sub-population in Australia. Being a 'snapshot' of the most recent indicators of health status – with limited attention to trends – the Overview doesn't, however, fully reflect the evidence for improvements in key closing the gap targets.
With respect to life expectancy, while there has been a decrease in overall death rates between 1998 and 2013 of 16%, this apparent good news is tempered by the fact that there has been no significant decrease between 2006 and 2013 . The most recent estimates, in 2010-12, of life expectancy at birth for Indigenous people, indicate a life expectancy of 69.1 years for males and 73.7 years for females. This represents an absolute gain from 2005-2007 to 2010-2012. While these absolute gains are ameliorated somewhat by the relative gains by non-Indigenous people the Closing the Gap Steering Committee welcomed the gains as an ‘on the ground’ improvement that has tangible meaning for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and communities (, p.7).
There appears to have been sustainable improvements in the target to halving the gap in mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children by 2018 .
A number of key initiatives and commitments offer promise of contributing to continued efforts to close the gap. There is increased acknowledgement of the importance of strong cultural foundations to sustainable improvements in health and well-being . As noted earlier in this Overview, a shift in the discourse about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health from deficit to strengths based approaches is a powerful and empowering development . An increased focus on ‘what works’ provides tangible signposts for positive pathways forward. In this respect the recognition of the importance of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community controlled health sector will be crucial . On the national stage, constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples has been linked to positive health and wellbeing outcomes . Integrated, holistic, systemic changes such as these are essential to the long term future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as identity strengthening and empowering strategies to improve health outcomes.