Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can expect to live approximately 10 years less than non-Indigenous Australians. Oxfam Australia is encouraging all Australians to look for some practical steps so we can change this.
National Close the Gap Day is an occasion when Australians can tell the nation's leaders they want progress on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality.
Close the Gap Campaign Co-Chairs Kirstie Parker and Mick Gooda are urging Australians from all walks of life to take part in National Close the Gap Day on Thursday 19 March, calling for an end to health inequality.
According to Gooda, who is also Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, new research into the high level of undetected chronic conditions in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people demonstrates the significant impact chronic conditions have on life expectancy.
Oxfam Australia's recent media release quotes Gooda as saying:
We have a real opportunity to make relatively large health and life expectancy gains in relatively short periods of time if we detect and treat these chronic conditions. There is no room for complacency. Funding for anti-smoking initiatives must continue and we need to fund new initiatives that target chronic conditions such as diabetes, otherwise momentum will be lost.
The Close the Gap campaign is Australia's biggest public movement for health equality. It is a coalition of Australia's leading Indigenous and non-Indigenous health and human rights organisations.
By registering to host an activity on March 19, Oxfam will send you a range of resources to help you promote your activity. The resource pack will also help those you work with or mix with to learn more about this crisis, take action, and demonstrate how we can all work together to Close the Gap.
Some possible activities Oxfam suggest you run include:
- A morning or afternoon tea at your workplace – an activity like this demonstrates your organisation's core values and delivers a positive health message to its workforce and the sector in which you work
- Register your school and head to the list of student-led event ideas at https://www.oxfam.org.au/act/resources-for-teachers/close-the-gap-student-kit/
- Playing a sport? Oxfam suggests considering holding a National Close the Gap Day competition or round
Love to cook? Why not host a dinner party or afternoon tea?
Having spent four years living, playing football with and working with Indigenous Australians in Alice Springs, it is imperative we all become aware of the issues and be supporters of change. Challenging our leaders to look for effective, long-term strategies rather than monetary quick fixes is vital.
Supporting church and NGO initiatives through practical or monetary means, praying for our indigenous brothers and sisters, and ultimately being agents of reconciliation and restoration would allow our nation to heal the hurts of the past and forge new partnerships for the future.
Kevin Rudd's National Apology on 13 February 2008 was the beginning of a spiritual breakthrough in our nation's history. We all need to maintain the momentum and support National Close the Gap Day, Sorry Day (in recognition of the apology) and the constitutional recognition of our first Australians if our nation is to truly heal and move forward together as one.
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin's archive of previous article can be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html