Close the Gap is an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led campaign which aims to achieve health equality within a generation
The RACGP is a member of the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee along with Australia’s peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous health bodies.
In March 2008, the then Australian Government, Opposition and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations signed the Close the Gap Statement of Intent committing to closing the health equality gap by 2030.
What is the aim of Close the Gap?
The Campaign’s goal is to raise the health and life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, built on evidence that shows significant improvements in the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can be achieved within short time frames.
Close the Gap is a multi-decade commitment that will span policy cycles, funding agreements and governments. Consequently the Campaign Steering Committee places a great significance on securing multi-party support for achieving health equality.
What is the difference between Close the Gap and Closing the Gap?
Close the Gap is an independent, campaign led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations, first initiated by the Social Justice Report 2005, that aims to achieve health equality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation.
RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health form part of the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee along with a number of other Indigenous and non-Indigenous health and community organisations.
Closing the Gap is the name given to a series of whole of government initiatives aimed at reducing disadvantage among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in respect to a number of stated areas, including life expectancy and child mortality.
Closing the Gap was developed in response to the Social Justice Report 2005 and the Close the Gap social justice campaign. The Prime Minister delivers an annual address and report to Parliament on progress against the seven national Closing the Gap targets in health, education and employment. In 2018, four of the seven targets will expire. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has agreed to refresh the Closing the Gap Strategy. From a health perspective, the current national framework for closing the gap is encapsulated in the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023.
The Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee release their own annual report, most recently a review of the past decade of the Closing the Gap Strategy: A ten-year review: the Closing the Gap Strategy and Recommendations for Reset.
Has Close the Gap seen any progress?
The recent release of A ten-year review: the Closing the Gap Strategy and Recommendations for Reset provides insight into the lack of progress in closing the health gap to date and the key determinants of health in meeting the Close the Gap objectives.
In this most recent report, the following key findings and recommendations were made:
- Instead of closing the gap, recent Federal government data reveals that the gap in life expectancy for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people has again begun to widen, while the Indigenous child mortality rate is now more than double that of other children.
- The Strategy has returned to the fragmented, jurisdictional, non-equality focused and unsystematic approaches of the pre-2008 era.
- The Strategy—a 25-year program—was effectively abandoned after five-years and so cannot be said to have been anything but partially implemented in itself.
- The Strategy has lacked a systematic focus on building primary health service capacity according to need. The COAG should prioritise the Aboriginal Community-Controlled organisations in this expansion.
- A new Strategy must be co-designed with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders and be underpinned by agreements negotiated between Federal, State and Territory governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health leaders.
- The building blocks of a new strategy must include national funding agreements, implementation plans and clear accountability.
- Maternal and infant health programs and a focus on addressing chronic disease must be retained and expanded.
- Strategy targets must be retained and inputs for good health must be measured. State and Territory governments should also report on targets in relation to their jurisdiction.
- The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan Implementation Plan should be fully costed, funded and implemented – and focus on identifying and filling health service gaps.
- The Strategy should work to an overarching health infrastructure and housing plan that works to build the right physical environment for health to flourish.
What can you do to help Close the Gap?
The benefit general practice holds in the provision of preventive healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is well known, however, social and cultural determinants of health including education and employment have significant impacts on health outcomes.
Our profession holds a large role in tackling these Close the Gap outcomes. Not only will an investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health work towards curbing health disparities, but it is also an investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employment. Currently social and healthcare sector employ 15% of the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce, the highest rate of any sector.
Register or support a local Close the Gap event
National Close the Gap day registered events take place all across the country, not just capital cities – find your nearest event or register to host your own event.
Sign the petition
Join the RACGP in demanding Indigenous health equality by signing the Close the Gap pledge now.
Sign the petition to Close the Gap