In his 2005 Social Justice Report, the then Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Professor Tom Calma reported the unacceptable 17-year life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians and set the challenge to close this gap by 2030 through a human rights based approach to health.
A coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health peak bodies and leaders, mainstream national health organisations and human rights organisations launched the Close the Gap campaign to close the health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians within a generation.
In the past 10 years there has been a significant 16% decline in the mortality rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and a 15% narrowing of the gap with non-Indigenous people between 1998 and 2013, 40% decline in the circulatory disease mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples between 1998 and 2012, a decline of 31% in child mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and a significant 35% narrowing of the gap with non-Indigenous children between 1998 and 2013.
However there is still tremendous effort and resources needed if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy equality is to be achieved by 2030.
Life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is still 10 years less than non indigenous people, they also are 3 times more likely to die from heart disease, 1.5 times more likely to die from cancer and 5.4 times to die from diabetes related causes.
The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan and its implementation plan developed in partnership with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Leadership Forum lays out a robust plan for addressing this health crisis.
Specifically the plan makes note of the essential role of the Community Controlled Health Sector and the ongoing need to ensure the strength of this sector as a key player in closing the life expectancy gap and the need for a health system free of racism.
What needs to happen
ANTaR NSW is calling for the NSW Government to play a leading role on the Council of Australian Governments to ensure that the effort to close the life expectancy gap remains a national priority.
In addition, the NSW Government should report to the NSW Parliament on their contribution to ‘closing the gap’ in Indigenous disadvantage.
Our Campaign Work
In 2015 ANTaR NSW called on the NSW Government to commit to making NSW’s progress on Closing the Gap more transparent through a state-level annual Closing the Gap progress report to NSW Parliament.
In 2016, the Parliament supported a motion by Jan Barham MP calling on the Premier to implement a NSW Close the Gap Strategy for New South Wales to collect meaningful data on incarceration rates, community safety, child removal and disability-related issues.