Messages of Hope

Close the Gap 2021

Published / by Sandy

Close The Gap is held on the third Thursday in March each year and is an opportunity to send a clear message that Australians value health equality as a fundamental right for all, and urge meaningful action to be taken in support of achieving health equality for First Nations Peoples by 2032.

The 2021 theme is, Leadership and legacy through crises: keeping our mob safe‘.

The 2021 Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee report was prepared by the Lowitja Institute, Australia’s community controlled national institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research. (Click here to download the document).

In introducing the report, the co-Chairs of Closing the Gap write:

“We remain steadfast and persistent in the expectation that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ways of knowing, being and doing will be respected and understood. The time for governments to deliver has long passed. We invite our readers to connect with the strengths-based examples of our peoples, professionals and communities managing the most complex of challenges such as climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic and suicide prevention”.

“There are countless individual and community level success stories in Indigenous-led health policy, service delivery and human rights sectors. We chose a small section of these case studies for presentation here to demonstrate that investment in the programs that have been designed and led by our people is the most effective way to achieve better health outcomes. Self-determination is critical and to ensure that change occurs, our voices must be heard by governments at every level of society. We perpetually recommend the same approach: to involve us, to listen, to reform and invest. Be it in systemic reform, policy design, service delivery, evaluation or agreeing upon funding, “nothing about us, without us” will be the only successful approach”.

“There is considerable work to do. We remain the only country in the Western world that has failed to eliminate trachoma (preventable blindness) – an international embarrassment. The Indigenous youth suicide rate remains four times that of other Australian youth. We are greatly in need of finishing the unfinished business all Australians deserve: that of health equality. We should start by grasping the opportunity of the Uluru Statement from the Heart – with its full implementation of a constitutional voice, treaty and truth-telling processes. Over the past 12 months, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and allies have embraced the Black Lives Matter movement that helped inform many on the prevalence of systemic racism and the preventable deaths in custody of so many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”.

“At times of crises true leadership steps up. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders moved rapidly to safeguard communities when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. Their actions were decisive and designed with each local community in mind and avoided a potential catastrophe. Some of our homelands, once threatened with closure by governments in the past, became some of the safest places in Australia. We know what is best for our people and we are delighted to summarise some of this remarkable and ongoing work herein”.

“This report presents the voices of our youth – our future generations. Our young leaders are showing the way in matters of huge importance such as climate change. In the words of Seed Mob, as sea levels are rising globally, so too First Nations peoples are rising and demanding genuine action on climate change. Climate change is suffocatingly real yet our governments’ responses to the hottest of issues, the survival of all Australians and our planet, are tepid responses at best. Our northern homelands are disappearing under rising sea-levels, to the despair of Torres Strait Islander peoples attempting to sustain their communities as they have done for millennia”.

“In 2020 our leaders finally sat with government, negotiated and co-signed the New National Agreement on Closing the Gap as partners. The investment for health equity is relatively small but must be relative to a burden of disease 2.3 times that of other Australians. As repeated often, a country as ’great’ and wealthy as Australia is capable of delivering health equity for and with its First Nations peoples – just 3% of the population”.

“We present the passionate and wise voices of youth protecting Country and examples of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership successfully protecting communities. We have faith that leadership within governments can and will deliver Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander equity through partnership. We offer clear recommendations. Finally, as Campaign Co-Chairs, we would like to thank the wider Australian public and our members for their ongoing support and commitment to equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples”.

Ms June Oscar AO, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner; Mr Karl Briscoe, CEO, National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners
Co-Chairs, Close the Gap Campaign

A prayer for Closing the Gap (by Dr Maleika Selwyn, a GP who is passionate about working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. She lives and works in NSW on the land of the Dharuk and Wiradjuri nations).

Dear Lord,
We thank you for this land of Australia. We thank you for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters who you placed as the original custodians and stewards of this precious land. We pray that as we begin to acknowledge the truth of past hurt it is the start of a deep healing in our nation.
We pray that the gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and Non-Indigenous Australians will be closed. We pray for all health professionals – doctors, nurses, carers, dentists, administration staff in health facilities – may these health professionals be filled with compassion, understanding, and love as they see their frontline role in helping to Close the Gap. We pray Australia will Close The Gap!
We pray for greater cultural understanding and improved access to health services. Show us how we can each, individually, be a part of making this a reality. Teach us how to love each other and journey together in this process of reconciliation and true friendship.
We pray for those that feel hopeless that they will find their hope in You. We pray especially for the families and communities of Aboriginal people who have committed suicide this year. We pray that you fill the families and communities each with a peace that surpasses all human understanding; that they will know that they are not alone in their grief, that You walk beside them and there is a community around them that loves, supports and cares for them.
We thank you for each of our Aboriginal Elders who have journeyed with their communities through much sickness, hardship, and grief. Fill them afresh with your strength and wisdom and courage.
As we pray for these Stolen Lives, we pray that we may be the agents of your healing, in Jesus name.