A ‘Closing the Gap Stakeholder Forum’ in the G21 region on 21 March 2012 aims to support the Aboriginal community in improving their health outcomes by increasing the cultural capacity of regional health and community services.
The Forum, which is held in conjunction with the annual National Close the Gap Day, will be hosted by a partnership of local organisations, including G21 – Geelong Region Alliance, Barwon Medicare Local, Wathaurong Aboriginal Cooperative, Barwon Health and the Department of Health (BSW).
Closing the Gap is a commitment by all Australian governments to work towards a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It aims to close the gap of Aboriginal disadvantage in areas such as health, housing, education and employment.
G21 – Geelong Region Alliance CEO Elaine Carbines said the Closing the Gap Stakeholder Forum would focus on the specific health needs of the Aboriginal community in the G21 region.
“Some very ambitious targets around early childhood, schooling, health and leadership have been set to reduce Aboriginal inequality, and as a region we want to be meeting these targets,” Ms Carbines said.
“The goal of Closing the Gap is to achieve equality in health status and life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians. The difference in life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal men is nearly 12 years and in women almost 10 years, while Aboriginal maternal mortality rates are almost three times as high as non-Aboriginal rates. Aboriginal people also experience higher rates of preventable diseases such as kidney disease, heart disease and diabetes,” she said.
The highlight of the Forum will be the key note address from Dr Tom Calma, the Australian Government’s National Coordinator for Tackling Indigenous Smoking. Formerly an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, and current Co-Chair of Reconciliation Australia, Dr Calma in 2005 called for the life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal people to be closed within a generation in his Social Justice Report.
The Geelong Cats will feature as a part of the Forum with the club CEO Brian Cook to announce, as part of the Gforce Cats in the Community program, all five of the club’s Aboriginal players; Mathew Stokes, Allen Christensen, Travis Varcoe, Steven Motlop and rookie Joel Hamling as Closing the Gap Ambassadors.
AFL National Community Development Manager Jason Mifsud will also present on the work of the AFL National Indigenous Programs. Jason has recently spoken publicly about his concern with the low representation of Aboriginal people within the AFL and clubs at board and management levels.
NOTE: The term “Aboriginal” is used within but also refers to “Torres Strait Islander” people.
In 2008 Council of Australian Governments (COAG) set specific and ambitious targets for Closing the Gap:
• To close the life-expectancy gap within a generation
• To halve the gap in mortality rates for Aboriginal children under five within a decade
• To ensure access to early childhood education for all Aboriginal four years olds in remote communities within five years
• To halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievements for children within a decade
• To halve the gap for Aboriginal students in Year 12 (or equivalent) attainment rates by 2020
• To halve the gap in employment outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians within a decade.
For general information on the national Closing the Gap initiative click here.