Australian Human Rights Commission
Sunday, 30 November 2008
The Close The Gap coalition has congratulated the Council of Australian Governments on taking substantial steps towards making health equality for Indigenous Australians a reality.
At this weekend’s COAG meeting, the Federal government committed an additional $806 million over 4 years, with the states and territories also contributing matched funds of $772 million totalling $1.6 billion.
The Federal and state governments’ announcement constitutes the biggest single injection of new funding by a government to improve Indigenous health outcomes.
Chair of the Close The Gap steering committee and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma – whose 2005 Social Justice Report laid the groundwork for the Close The Gap campaign – said the funding for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer would more than dent the surface in the chronic disease crisis dogging Indigenous communities around the country.
“This is a watershed moment in our efforts to close the life expectancy gap. Never have we seen such concentrated and determined effort from all governments working together. We applaud the emphasis from COAG on preventative health and access to primary care,” Mr Calma said.
“For some time the Indigenous led steering committee has been saying that all governments throughout Australia need to lay down the money so that their commitments can be achieved.
“I hope that will be a galvanising moment where we can all come together to achieve our shared ambition to close the gap. We look forward to all State and territory governments now signing the Statement of Intent to Close The Gap which was signed by the Prime Minister on behalf of the Commonwealth earlier this year.”
“We need to consolidate this effort through new partnerships with Indigenous peoples, the health sector and governments to develop and implement a National Action Plan so that we can ensure equality in health status and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians by 2030,” Mr Calma said.
Dr Mick Adams, chair of NACCHO, the peak body for Aboriginal Medical Services also welcomed the COAG initiatives.
“The COAG package for Aboriginal health is a very significant step towards providing the services needed to close the gap on health inequality,” he said.
James Ensor, Oxfam Australia’s Director of Policy, said the commitment was an encouraging sign that the Rudd Government is taking this issue seriously.
“This is a great down-payment for an urgent nation-building effort in Closing the Gap in indigenous health, and further funding will be required in the coming years.
“The priority should be supporting community controlled services which have been demonstrated to have the greatest impact.
The National Director of Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation (ANTaR), David Cooper, said the COAG commitment was an essential step.
“The COAG commitment to expand primary care, particularly around chronic disease management and prevention, is an essential and welcome step towards achieving the Close The Gap targets,” Mr Cooper said.
Mr Calma also welcomed an investment of this magnitude at this time of global economic uncertainty.
“It is an investment in human dignity and in social justice,” he said.
Close The Gap is a coalition of Australia’s leading health, human rights and Aboriginal organisations. The campaign was launched in April 2007.