March 20 marks Tweed Shire’s annual Close the Gap event. I will be attending.
Close the Gap is a human rights movement, whereas Closing the Gap is a whole-of-government approach to addressing the discrepancies in health, education and employment status between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian citizens.
- Tom Calma’s Social Justice Report 2005 proposed committing to “achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality within a generation” (page 9).
- The National Indigenous Health Equality Campaign launched its ‘Close the Gap’ campaign in April 2007, demanding Australian governments commit to ending Indigenous health inequality .
- COAG developed ‘Closing the Gap’ targets in the wake of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008. The initiative focused on disparities in life expectancy, infant mortality, and education and employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
- to close the gap in life expectancy within a generation;
- to halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade;
- to ensure all Indigenous four-year olds in remote communities have access to early childhood education within five years;
- to halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievements for Indigenous children within a decade;
- to halve the gap for Indigenous students in year 12 equivalent attainment by 2020; and
- to halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian within a decade.
Despite the reports of progress being made under the Closing the Gap initiatives, large disparities between Indigenous and non-Indigenous health remain, some seemingly intractable. Perhaps it is time that the Australian Government revisit their approach of ‘reacting’ and ‘managing’ — ‘responding’ in political spin — when it comes to Indigenous problems and, instead, begin to support the development of programs which foster the long term capacity of diverse Indigenous Australian communities to solve their own health and social problems through culturally appropriate, locally initiated, sustainable measures.