Photo by Jason Maloin

Local community group Micah Projects is teaming up with Oxfam to conduct a special Close the Gap Day event in the small park in Boundary Street, West End, as Australians speak up for Indigenous health equality, on Thursday 19 March.

Oxfam Australia’s Indigenous policy advisor Dr Peter Lewis said more than 150,000 people took part in 1298 separate National Close the Gap Day events across the country last year, and this year was expected to be even bigger.

“Community groups, health services, businesses, schools, universities, government offices and individuals around Australia are registering online to hold a Close the Gap event in homes, workplaces, schools and communities,” Dr Lewis said.

He said the entire NSW Ambulance Service was taking part for the third year in a row, which reflected the undeniable groundswell of support from Australians expecting governments to keep their promise to invest in Indigenous health.

“Equal access to health care is a basic human right, and in Australia, we should expect it,” Dr Lewis said.

“But despite some gains in child and maternal health and smoking rates since all political parties promised to end Indigenous health inequality seven years ago, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people access health care in far fewer numbers than non-Indigenous Australians, and can still expect to live about ten years less than others.

“This gap in life expectancy remains a national disgrace. Health equality is everyone’s business, and individuals, organisations, communities and governments must continue to work together to ensure Indigenous health equality.

Dr Lewis said National Close the Gap Day was a way for all Australians to join together and remind our political leaders of their commitments to close the life expectancy gap by 2030.

“The growing support for National Close the Gap Day shows it’s clear that Australians care about this issue and expect our political leaders to act, but we must continue to remind them that continued investment is vital,” Dr Lewis said.

“With the Prime Minister’s annual Closing the Gap address to Parliament on 11 February and the Federal Budget in May, all eyes are on Tony Abbott, to ensure he continues to commit to invest in Indigenous health and protect it from any further budget cuts.

“Last year’s cut of $160 million from Indigenous health must not be repeated if we are to be the generation that ends the dire situation that sees babies born to Indigenous mothers die at more than twice the rate of other Australian babies.”

Oxfam is part of the Close the Gap campaign, 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.

National Close the Gap day launched in 2007. Go to oxfam.org.au/closethegapday for more information or to register.