In his 2005 Social Justice Report, the then Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Professor Tom Calma reported the unacceptable 17year life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians and set the challenge to close this gap by 2030 through a human rights based approach to health.
A coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health peak bodies and leaders, mainstream national health organisations and human rights organisations launched the Close the Gap campaign to close the health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians within a generation.
We called for a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health plan with ambitious yet realistic targets supported by a partnership between government and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
In 2009 the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments committed to the following targets
- close the life expectancy gap within a generation (by 2031)
- halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade (by 2018)
- ensure access to early childhood education for all Indigenous four year olds in remote communities within five years (by 2013)
- halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievements for children within a decade (by 2018)
- halve the gap for Indigenous students in year 12 attainment rates (by 2020)
- halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade (by 2018).
The Close the Gap campaign continues to hold the the governments of Australia to account on achieving these targets and advocating for increased efforts in order to achieve health equality within a generation.
Closing the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy gap is everyone's business: it is a national issue in which every individual, organisation and group in Australia can play a role.
In 2016 the Close the Gap coalition is calling on governments to:
- Increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ access to health services and removing institutional racism from the health care setting
- Prioritise funding to the health models and services outlined in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Implementation Plan
- Committ to Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations as a preferred model
- Address critical social issues such as poor housing, nutrition, employment and education; and
- Promote real and meaningful partnerships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous communities and health services.