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Issue #1774      April 26, 2017

Government is told of “failure”

The Close the Gap Campaign steering committee has delivered a stark message to government: Your approach is failing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. In delivering its response to the federal government’s 2017 Close the Gap report – which showed that only one of the seven Close the Gap targets is on track – the steering committee called on all levels of government to do more than repeat empty platitudes.

“After 10 years and despite bipartisan support for closing the gap, Australian governments at all levels are failing Australia’s First Peoples,” the steering committee said.

The Close the Gap Campaign steering committee, chaired by National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples co-chair Jackie Huggins and National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) chief executive Pat Turner, delivered its progress and priorities report on Close the Gap Day, March 16.

It calls on governments to take a more holistic approach to Indigenous health, including consideration of social and cultural determinants and to initiate a national inquiry into racism in hospitals and other health care settings.

And, as in previous years, the report says all governments must work with and listen to Indigenous people and peak bodies, instead of continuing their historic “imposed, unengaged and often rushed service delivery”.

“Treating people”

“At the moment, what we call ‘health’ in the health system is about treating people who aren’t well,” Ms Turner told the Koori Mail. “As Aboriginal people we look at our cultural approach to health as holistic. So you have to have your identity, know your mob, your cultural grounding. Your relationship with your family, community and country is as important as your spiritual fulfilment and happiness, so your mental health, all of those things fit together and things occur within our society and they relate to what we call nowadays the societal and cultural determinants of health.”

Ms Turner said that meant taking into consideration housing, education, racism and a range of other factors that affect Indigenous people’s health, as well as their physical wellbeing.

Dr Huggins and Ms Turner called on the federal government to renew the relationship with First Nations peoples by engaging with Indigenous peak bodies and leaders, restoring funding to Congress and holding a national summit with First Nations leaders this year.

They echoed demands from the Redfern Statement – a blueprint for a better approach to Indigenous affairs delivered by a broad range of First Nations organisations during last year’s federal election campaign – that government needs to listen to Indigenous people and start doing things differently.

“The reality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is that we have a life expectancy at least 10 years shorter than non-Indigenous Australians. We need urgent action,” Dr Huggins said.

Koori Mail

Next article – Book Review – Alphonse Mucha

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