As Australia commemorates National Close the Gap Day, an Aboriginal advisor at Uniting VicTas believes Australia still has a long way to go to achieve health equality for First Peoples.
Ron Briggs works at one of Uniting’s Alcohol and Other Drug services.
“The reality is, we’re still 10 years behind,” he said.
Uniting’s Yangan Nalu project aims to improve employment opportunities for First Peoples in the Gippsland region. Local councils, health and community service bodies work in partnership with Aboriginal elders to offer a pathway for Indigenous people to enter the workforce.
Poverty reduction, mental health services and education all play a significant role in improving life expectancy and health outcomes.
However, this year’s Close the Gap report revealed that Australia is not on track to meet its targets on life expectancy, literacy and numeracy, school attendance and employment.
On average, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people die 10 years younger than other Australians. There has also been no meaningful improvement in Indigenous educational attendance rates across any of the states and territories.
New data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) on Wednesday showed that Indigenous Australians remain over-represented in Australia’s homeless population.
Indigenous Australians make up 2.8 per cent of the Australian population but the ABS recorded 23,437 homeless Indigenous Australians on the most recent Census night – equivalent to 22 per cent of the recorded homeless.
This year’s Close the Gap report found that extensive funding cuts and a revolving door of Prime Ministers have halted any significant progress in Indigenous health.
It recommended resetting the Close the Gap strategy with greater input from Indigenous health leaders to co-design and implement the policy.
“Given the dreadful record of the trajectory towards closing the gap, 2018 is a critical year for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs,” the report said.
“We have quite simply reached a fork in the road for how Australia tackles the entrenched inequalities and disparities in health and wellbeing for First Peoples.”
Image: Rusty Stewart/Flickr