More than 100,000 Australians will hold or attend a record number of events around the country next Thursday (20 March) to remind politicians of their commitment to close the gap on health inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
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.
Oxfam Australia’s Indigenous Rights Policy Advisor Andrew Meehan said registered events had now hit a record 1060; this showed an undeniable groundswell of support from everyday Australians expecting governments to keep their promise to invest in Indigenous health.
“Just as parliamentarians on all sides put aside their differences and came together last month in Canberra, next Thursday Australians will come together as one in support of ending the disgrace that sees Indigenous people die up to 17 years earlier than their non-Indigenous counterparts,” Mr Meehan said.
He said the diverse range of events ranged from a school in Nowra creating a mural wall and running a photobooth for students to record their hopes for closing the gap, to the NSW Ambulance Service running events at all of their sites throughout the state.
Meanwhile, politicians in WA will create hand prints on a banner outside Parliament House, a public event in Sydney’s Alfred Park will include a bush tucker picnic, music and speakers, and Aboriginal community controlled health services are hosting events throughout the country.
Oxfam is inviting high school students to take part in a Photo Challenge on Instagram from 17 – 21 March for a chance to win prizes including a signed football and poster from Australian of the Year Adam Goodes. “It’s clear that Australians care about this issue and expect our leaders to act,” Mr Meehan said. “Progress is starting to be made on Indigenous health, as outlined by Prime Minister Tony Abbott last month in his closing the gap speech to Parliament. “The target to halve the gap in child mortality within a decade is on track to be met, and smoking rates amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are going down. “But there’s still a long way to go, which is why we need Federal and State Governments to take a coordinated approach and continue funding Indigenous health initiatives in order to build on the progress already made.” 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 2008. Each year has seen it grow even bigger, with 970 events held last year. Go to oxfam.org.au for more information or to register.