Decade on and gap not yet closed
This year marks 10 years since the Close the Gap campaign was launched with the aim to improve health and raise the life expectancy of indigenous people.
The recently released Progress against Closing the Gap Western Australia 2016 report shows the campaign has seen many successes, but identifies many issues that still need to be addressed.
Aboriginal elder Tootsie Daniel said while she had seen some improvements, the gap was “not even close” to being closed.
Ms Daniel said the biggest problems were within remote communities.
She called for more counselling services as suicide rates among the indigenous population continue to be higher than the non-indigenous population.
Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Peter Collier said WA had seen positive signs in closing the gap between household income, reading and numeracy, early childhood education, and child mortality rates, which had lowered nationally.
But he agreed there was still more work to be done in areas including the rate of suicide.
“Governments still have much work to do to realise a brighter future for Aboriginal Australians, including the disproportionate rate of suicide, employment, imprisonment and detention and the number of Aboriginal children in State care,” he said.
Close the Gap campaign cochairman Mick Gooda said the 10year anniversary marked many years of hard work and achievement.
“We have seen some encouraging improvements over that time, but without concerted effort across governments and respectful engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, we as a nation will fail to close the gap,” he said. “Health inequality has been a stain on our nation for far too long, but this generation has the opportunity to remove the stain and deliver health equality.”
Close the Gap aims to improve health and raise the life expectancy of the country’s indigenous population by the year 2030.