The Fred Hollows Foundation has supported calls for Closing the Gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians to be a key priority for the next federal government.

The Foundation, which is a member of the Close the Gap Steering Committee, has also called on bipartisan support for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan.

In a briefing paper released today, the Committee says that within its first 100 days a new government should:
  • Reaffirm the commitment for the Prime Minister to report annually at the beginning of Parliament on progress towards closing the gap
  • Secure a new COAG National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health outcomes with a minimum Commonwealth investment of $777 million over the next three years
  • Begin to implement the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan in partnership with the people and their representatives.

Campaign spokesperson and Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Justin Mohamed, said that Closing the Gap is a life and death issue.

“We’re only at the beginning of the journey to close the gap in life expectancy by 2030. We can’t turn back now because Closing the Gap needs long-term commitment and policy continuity. Having Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in our hands is making an impact. We must keep supporting our people to deliver their own health results,” Mr Mohamed said.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said that both Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott have been strong supporters of Close the Gap.

He said that Mr Abbott gave the campaign encouragement in its early days when he was Health Minister and Mr Rudd committed to the targets and deadlines proposed and secured the first National Partnership Agreement through COAG.

“It’s important that momentum towards Closing the Gap is maintained regardless of who wins the election. It’s a generational effort and we are beginning to see signs of progress,” Dr Hambelton said.

Lowitja Institute Chair, Pat Anderson, said the Close the Gap Steering Committee welcomed the attention given to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education and employment in the election campaign.

“Along with racism, education and employment are key social determinants of health. But action on these needs to proceed at the same time as action on health because kids can’t study and parents can’t hold down a job if they have poor health,” Ms Anderson said.

The Close the Gap Campaign was launched by Olympians Catherine Freeman and Ian Thorpe in April 2007.

Since then almost 200,000 Australians have signed up to the campaign, which has also received multi party support by all Federal, State and Territory governments.

> Download Building on the Close the Gap platform from the Australian Human Rights Commission website.