I rise today to acknowledge the growing success of the annual Closing the Gap Day event here in South Australia. This year, the event was hosted in the Goyder Pavilion at the Wayville Showgrounds. I attended this event, on behalf of the Premier, last Wednesday, the 27th of March 2019.
I think we are all now aware of the significant gap that exists between indigenous and non-indigenous people in terms of health and life expectancy, educational achievement and employment opportunities. The National Closing the Gap Campaign works to address some of these major inequalities and has seen some of Australia's peak Indigenous and non-Indigenous health bodies, NGOs and human rights organisations working together to achieve national health and life expectation equality for Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Sonder, formerly known as Northern Health Network, has reported that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can expect to live between 10-17 years less than non-Indigenous Australians. Perhaps more concerningly, the 2019 Closing the Gap Report has revealed that while progress has been made over the past decade, only two of the program’s ambitious targets are currently on track.
These disappointing figures make it clear that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’s do not benefit from mainstream health services to the same extent that non-indigenous Australian people do. Reasons for this include, health services which are not as accessible to remote Aboriginal communities and that mainstream health services often lack the level of cultural sensitivity required to effectively serve Indigenous peoples. Closing the Gap Day is an important event to raise awareness for these issues and to help Close the Gap by 2030.
Closing the Gap Day is the annual focal point of the National Closing the Gap Campaign. It is a free, all-ages event which seeks to bring people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities together. From this they can share information and take meaningful action in support of achieving Indigenous health equality.
The first National Closing the Gap Day was held in 2007, involving five large state events and more than 300 community events. It has since become an annual occasion in which all Australian states and Territories participate, now being the largest and highest profile Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health event in the country.
Closing the Gap Day here in South Australia is organised and coordinated by Sonder, with the support of the Adelaide PHN, Nunkuwarrin Yunti and SA Health’s Watto Purrunna.
This year the event boasted stalls from over 65 health service providers, sharing valuable information and promoting services to ensure better health outcomes for Aboriginal people and communities.
Former Sydney Swans AFL player and hall of fame member, Michael O’Loughlin, MC’d the event, which showcased a number of talented indigenous performers. These included The Merrg, Vonda Last, the Dusty Feet Mob and Joshua Warrior.
Attendees enjoyed a free lunch and were able to receive free health check, including:
- measurements of blood pressure and blood glucose;
- free immunisations; and
- consults with Traditional Healers.
It was a truly family friendly event with a Yellow Brick Road competition that encouraged people to visit participating stall holders and get involved. There were also plenty of activities for the kids, including a jumping castle, inflatable bumper cars, footy games, a petting zoo and face painting, with prizes for a number of lucky participants.
I had the pleasure of meeting Sonder’s CEO, Mr Sageran Naidoo, who was blown away by the overall community engagement and participation at this years’ event. Mr Naidoo recalled that in previous years the Closing the Gap Day event had attracted only a few hundred attendees. This year however, Sonder has confirmed that there were over 2000 attendees, which exceeded the organiser’s expectations by over 1000 people.