(NRL / Facebook)
Kevin Rudd’s National Apology on 13 February 2008 was the beginning of a spiritual and moral breakthrough in our nation’s history.
What would you think if you were told you are expected to live 20 years less than your neighbour?
You have the knowledge that this is not just your fate, but also the fate of your spouse and the rest of your family.
Give up hope? Live your life fast, hard and do what ever you want? Would you bother going to work anymore? Would you care about the legacy you were going to leave your family?
Many of us would not accept this news. No one should.
But in reality, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can expect to live approximately 10-17 years less than non-Indigenous Australians. More than 200 years of dispossession, racism and discrimination have left Indigenous Australians with some of the lowest levels of education, highest levels of unemployment, poorest health and most appalling housing conditions.
Why is there a health gap for Indigenous Australians?
I wish there was an easy answer, but there isn’t.
Oxfam revealed a 2007 report by the Australian Medical Association uncovered evidence of inherent discrimination in our health system. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders do not benefit from mainstream health services to the same extent as other Australians because:
Health services are not accessible to many, and particularly remote, Aboriginal communities.
Mainstream health services often lack cultural sensitivity and remain unwelcoming places for many Indigenous peoples.
It fails to address other root causes.
Successful Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health programs have been those that have recognised and addressed these factors in consultation with the Indigenous community.
What needs to be done now?
Oxfam Australia suggests three solutions:
1. Work in consultation with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
Working in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is a critical success factor. Indigenous Australians need to be consulted, empowered, resourced and supported to address the health issues facing their communities.
2. Secure adequate funding for the long-term
Achieving Indigenous health equality will require investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health care, health education, improved nutrition, maternal and child health and the prevention and management of disease.
3. Strengthen the movement to Close the Gap
The inadequacy in infrastructure and service delivery to Indigenous people is now extreme; but the strong and sustained public support for action has put Indigenous health equality on the agenda of State and Federal Governments.
What is National Close the Gap Day?
National Close the Gap Day is an occasion when Australians can tell the nation’s leaders that they want progress on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality.
Last year, more than 150,000 people took part in 1596 separate National Close the Gap Day events across the country.
The aim? To bring people together, to share information — and most importantly — to take meaningful action in support of achieving Indigenous health equality by 2030.
With events ranging from workplace morning teas, to sports days, school events and public events in hospitals and offices around the country — anyone can take part and make a difference.
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 16, 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 is one activity you could hold. 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 Oxfam 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.
I believe an essential part of reconciliation is recognition in the Australian Constitution. Constitutional recognition is the right thing to do and can ensure our Constitution reflects modern Australian values and formally recognises the unique place of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples in the history of this country.
We all need to maintain the momentum and support National Close the Gap Day, Sorry Day (May 26 - in recognition of the apology) and the constitutional recognition of our first Australians. I feel this is a necessary action 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