Close the Gap

A couple of weeks ago I attended the launch of the Close the Gap campaign – to eliminate the gap between the life expectancy and opportunities for Indigenous Australians and the rest of our nation.

It was held at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney, and there was a big media contingent there in part due to the presence of Olympic champions Cathy Freeman and Ian Thorpe, who were both lending their strong support to the campaign.

The speech by Australia’s Social Justice Commissioner, Tom Calma, nailed the key points – a summary of it is reproduced at Online Opinion.

Governments cannot guarantee that their citizens will be healthy – that involves individual choice and freedom. But they can guarantee that every opportunity has been provided to facilitate this outcome.

This is not a level playing field – an Indigenous child born today does not have the same life chance as a non-Indigenous child.

Let’s stop being disappointed at our lack of achievement on Indigenous health and dare to dream about a positive future for all Australians. To do so is not a pipedream. For we know that overcoming Indigenous inequality in health status is achievable.

There are examples of rapid gains in health status being made with focused, deliberate steps being taken. Steps that are backed with resources and driven by timelines. This is the lesson from countries like Canada and the US. And it is the lesson from various trials conducted within Australia……..

In my Social Justice Report 2005 to the Australian Parliament, I called for a campaign to achieve Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality within a generation. That is how long it will take if we act now and with determination……….

Since I released the Social Justice Report last year, I have been working with a growing coalition of organisations who are determined to make a difference on Indigenous health. Thirty of these organisations signed an open letter to governments in December last year highlighting the Indigenous health crisis…………

Our primary message is not to simply scream “crisis”. Our message, and our goal, is to champion hope and to focus on solutions. This crisis is not insurmountable. We can triumph. We are making steps, but they are too slow and not broadly focused enough. It will require additional funds, although this alone is not the solution.

You can read more details of the campaign and event at the website of Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation.

Ian Thorpe and Cathy Freeman are indisputably very impressive athletes, but the way they presented themselves on that day showed them to be very impressive people. The event occured around the same time as a media frenzy about Ian Thorpe and leaks regarding a sporting drug test. None of the many media people present at the event dared directly sully the main media conference about the crucial national issue of the unequal life expectancy and opportunities of a specific group of Australians by asking direct questions about sports gossip – but when I watched a commercial TV news broadcast that night, the only story they ran about the whole event was the sports drug test gossip. It made me sick to watch trivia triumph over substance in such a blatant way – I can only imagine how angry the Indigenous and other organisations behind the campaign, and Ian Thorpe himself, felt about it.

Having said that, many media did run with the main story, which will hopefully widen public awareness and political interest in doing more to address it.

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9 Comments

  1. “Governments cannot guarantee that their citizens will be healthy – that involves individual choice and freedom. But they can guarantee that every opportunity has been provided to facilitate this outcome.”

    This is a great opening statement. Where opinions differ is on how to facilitate those opportunities. The freehold title debate is one such example. I’m not convinced the “communal” style of living helps too much with regards to individual choice and freedom.

    There was a post over at ALS about this some time ago:

    http://alsblog.wordpress.com/2007/03/24/aboriginal-health/

    Are race based laws ever a good idea?

  2. I can’t see the difference between how people are wanted to live ,and being promoted and pushed on the public as in the case of cluster housing in the city and communal living.If those pigeon hole lofts in the city are’nt communal living, i don’t know what is.These people are much better at extended family living than we are. Conditions aside ,it is very common for children from upset family’s and orphans to be taken in by relatives or others whatever the hardship.Would you like to be taken from you’re enviorenment and surroundings and be placed in a foreign community? They seek a touch of togetherness no different than what we do except that they are better at it.If so many system acclimatised and system serviced Australians were wanting, things would be better a lot quicker.Not ignored.There are special circumstances and needs as is the case with the debilatating claustrophobia suffered by interned indigenous.Often a death sentence for petty offences compiled with hopeless circumstance and depression.I take my hat off to Ian Thorpe for standing for change and any concern he has but like many i’m tiring of retiring sport figures chasing the self promoting limelight for the better brand name appeal.If he gets too good at representing the downtrodden or special needs cases the “dogs of war” will deal to him through the press.As long as the hearts there Ian.One other ex chasing politics has as much appeal as a vacuum cleaner salesman.

  3. Growing up I was always patriotically proud pf Australia’s long life-expectancy. It seems to me that there’s not many things you can easily measure a country’s greatness on, but four factors spring to mind:
    – wealth per person
    – space per person
    – literacy rate
    – life-expectancy

    And Australia is pretty much kick-arse on all of these. Only Japan really rivals us for life-expectancy, and their quality of life is significantly lower in the final ten years of life. So if we were able to equalise Aboriginal life-expectancy to somewhere near non-Aboriginal we could truly claim victory over Japan, our main rivals in the life-expectancy stakes.

    Surely if you disagree with the whole supposed “special rights for Aborigines” thing, then surely the national spirit of competition is enough to make you want to close the gap.

  4. Senator.There are some errata in my last post that are unforgiveable,and I wonder how I overlooked them.Felonies can be committed on land which has been designated Aboriginal,as one errata.The other mistakes do not seem mine.Could you please remove the posting please,and if that is ever queried ,this correction in part will determine why.The real purpose of the previous post was to point out that it was erroneous to insist that laws pertaining to aboriginal matters were raced based,simply they are not..maybe a lawyer could do a better job of delineating the fundamental difference between aspects of culture,genetics and legal exceptions.

  5. The most comprehesnive information on this and related issues is “SCRGSP (Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision) 2007, Report on Government Services 2007, Indigenous Compendium, Productivity Commission,
    Canberra.” recently released by the Producitivty Commission.

    Sadly the most revelaing finding of that erport is the table right at the beginning that identifeis areas where the data is eiethr not collected or not supplied.

    Notwithstadning, well worht the effort if you want a spare 273 paegs to read some time.

  6. What bugs me about this issue is to achieve a result that equates with improvements in individual lives the use of high profile citizens is always apparent,which means a level of over exposure which isnt the same as individual lives,if that is going to be depicted by the prominent.Whilst it is always good seeing real champions supporting the not so,all the endless numbers of non champions remain concerned,but,often in no circumstance to change circumstances.I think we need a new type of parent who are highly advantaged and love their kids,and out of a sort of parental rage,look at these matters and remain disgusted.And us singles like everyone else recognise goodwill isnt the durable answer.Having time to be disgusted with results for others not dependent on self allows the energies not to be dissipated.Sadly the political class think they represent a balanced view.and.we are all diminished in their sense of right.Australias problems are now stacking up and overflowing.I think we are in a deep emergency,and the blowhards blow for themselves as the cheapest option.

  7. Well said Phillip.There are also ploys-endless ploys- to placate. People rot behind the covers and all the public sees is flowers and success.That air that all is being attended to.If your good at playing along with it, promoting that air, you too can be on TV all the time and make a life for yourself while the cull continues.That’s the way things have been and now we have that air that it’s a different world all of a sudden.Again.Time will tell, but the toll amongst that time has always been horrendus.Thorpe being taken up on his drug test? No advertising is bad advertising.

  8. An exasperation of reply needs ammending here for topics clouded and perhaps misunderstood. Cathy Freeman’S Heart is unquestionable and nor would she stand beside or tolerate a fool.Show us Ian, what we are already supposed to know.

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