Close the Gap Campaign says governments not listening

Posted March 16, 2017 12:49:21

The Close the Gap Campaign has expressed frustration in the nation's inability to effectively tackle Indigenous disadvantage in Australia.

Key points:

  • "Stop-start" approach of successive governments criticised
  • 15 recommendations, including call for national summit this year
  • Dr Huggins says Indigenous health practitioners are crucial

The Campaign, which has support from Oxfam and the Human Rights Commission, used its ninth annual report to slam the current progress.

It came less than a month after the Federal Government's own report card on Closing the Gap revealed just one of its seven targets was still on track.

Jackie Huggins, the campaign's co-chair and co-chair for the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples, said each year she expected to see improvements, "yet we're going backwards".

"So it's extremely disappointing from my point of view," she said.

The campaign's 2017 Progress and Priorities report criticised the "stop-start" approaches of successive governments.

It said the Federal Government had, "failed to listen or act on the recommendations of the Close the Gap Steering Committee".

The report listed 15 recommendations, including a call for a national summit between federal, state and territory politicians and community leaders this year.

"We really do need to take the bull by the horns to stop it, to affect change," Dr Huggins said.

"And we can only do that by working with each other and crossing partnerships.

"I said to the Prime Minister last time we met … we have the car but we don't have the wheels. And I think that's the case for a lot of our organisations that are attempting to get into those issues."

Indigenous health workers 'crucial'

Dr Huggins said Indigenous health was a strong focus of this year's report, with specific recommendations around workforce targets and funding.

"I think it's imperative … our people who are health practitioners in their own fields and communities are able to transcend the barriers and do the most culturally appropriate work," Dr Huggins said.

"The more we see our people in the workforce doing these health initiatives the better."

Banok Rind said her story showed how the Close the Gap campaign was working in some areas, and failing in others.

Two months away from graduating as a registered nurse, the 22-year-old Yamatji-Badimia woman said she experienced discrimination too many times to count.

"[In high school] I dealt with a fair amount of racism from a teacher who didn't think I would amount to anything because of my Aboriginality," she said.

"Dealing with that was really difficult, because at the back of your head you have so many doubts of you thinking you won't be able to make it because you're Aboriginal."

She said increasing the number of trained Aboriginal health professionals was key to getting Close the Gap targets back on track.

"Aboriginal people are quite spiritual people," she said.

"To give an example, when [my uncle] went into a health service he was so happy that there was an Indigenous doctor there, he said, 'my spirit is healing already from just entering that health service and seeing an Indigenous doctor there'.

"So having Indigenous health workers in a health organisation isn't just something that we want, it's something that we need."

Topics:community-and-society, indigenous-aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander, indigenous-culture, indigenous-policy, turnbull-malcolm, federal-government, government-and-politics, health, doctors-and-medical-professionals, australia

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