Written by Claire Langenbach-Wood
This Thursday, the 16th of March, is National Close the Gap Day. Close the Gap Day was put in motion to campaign for Indigenous health equality by 2030. This Thursday is about informing yourself and those around you about the health inequality that faces Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people.
The impetus for all action and change is knowledge. By giving you some of the facts, we hope that we can empower you to enact real change, by promoting Indigenous issues in your community, with the goal to create mass pressure on our government to implement a National Action Plan in cooperation with Indigenous people. If you are a non-Indigenous person then you are in a position in which you have the power to use your privilege to make Indigenous voices heard. The health problems facing Indigenous Australians are not isolated issues. They are a national problem that we are all a part of. Australia always was, and always will be Aboriginal land. It’s more than time to start respecting Australia’s First Nations people as equal members of Australian society, and as the forbearers of our nations history and culture.
I think the best way to understand the health implications that come with being Indigenous in Australia is by looking at the factors that effect Indigenous people in this country every day. To start with, if you are an Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islander person, you are not recognised in the Australian Constitution. This exclusion is blatant discrimination, and the silencing of Indigenous people in Australia’s integral legal document prefaces the silencing and racism they face in broader society. Australia’s history of colonisation and genocide is present in this silence. Each day, Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people endure 200 years worth of intergenerational trauma, reflected in many Indigenous peoples poor levels of education, health, high incarceration rates, high unemployment rates and poverty.
If you are an Indigenous Australian you are likely to experience discrimination in Australia’s health system and find it more difficult to access health services, especially if you live in a remote community. If you do access health services, they are likely run by someone who is not a fellow Indigenous person, it is likely the services will not not take into consideration your culture, or the racism your people have experience since colonisation. If you are an Indigenous or Torres Straight Islander person, your life expectancy is 10-17 years less than other Australians. The death rate of your baby is twice that of a non-Indigenous child. Among 25 to 50 year olds, the likelihood of you getting type 2 diabetes is 10 times higher than that of Australians with European decent. Your likelihood of having another preventable illness, such as kidney disease, is also much higher. If you are in the youth age bracket, death from self-harm is higher for your people than it is for the whole of Australia’s population of youth.
If you want to close the gap, here’s how you can start. You can register to hold an activity to promote Close the Gap, uniting people around you in the sharing of information and support for Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people. Organise an event at your school, university, workplace or amongst friends and family. Register here: https://my.oxfam.org.au/ctg
Make this Thursday about starting the conversation about closing the gap with a friend, family member or colleague. Use your social media platforms to advocate Close the Gap. You can sign the petition to Close the Gap, demanding the Australian government invest in Indigenous health equality. Share it online and tell a friend. Here’s the link: https://act.oxfam.org/australia/close-the-gap-pledge