Closing the gap: who knows?

 John BrumbyThe National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) has expressed grave concerns that the COAG Reform Council responsible for monitoring progress towards close the gap targets will close next week on 30 June.

At the 2014 NACCHO Health Summit in Melbourne today, Chairman of the COAG Reform Council, John Brumby, presented the findings of the Council’s final work on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health monitoring, Healthcare in Australia 2012-13: Comparing outcomes by Indigenous status.

NACCHO chairperson Justin Mohamed thanked John Brumby and his Council staff for their efforts to ensure government policy to close the gap was translated into on-ground improvements for Australia’s First Peoples and their communities.

“It was six years ago that Australian governments took on the significant challenge of closing the gap on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage in health, education, employment and other social areas,” Mr Mohamed said.”

“In that time Mr Brumby and his team have monitored progress on closing the gap, and reported publicly and free of political influence.”

“Today’s report confirms that for all the significant achievement made, including a decrease in the Aboriginal infant mortality rate by 35%, there remains work to be done to improve outcomes in other areas.”

“We are really worried that the millions of dollars being cut from across Aboriginal affairs at the Federal level, plus the introduction of new arrangements in accessing primary health care and changes to unemployment benefits, could potentially push the closing the gap targets even further from reach.”

“It’s now been more than a year since the National Partnership Agreement has lapsed and we still don‚t have any clear advice on how states, territories and the commonwealth plan to coordinate addressing the closing the gap targets.”

“Now there will be no independent umpire able to evaluate progress  ‘or lack of it’ and hold state and territory governments and the Federal Government accountable.”

“The Federal Government must urgently outline how it plans on keeping this priority area of health and social reform on track during the long-term commitment needed to close the gap”, Mr Mohamed said.

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