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Concluding comments

Concluding comments

The 13th February, 2017 marked the 9th anniversary of the apology to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Expectations for improvement in the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities were high yet the latest Closing the gap: Prime Minister’s report 2017 [1] suggests that we are still below expectations on most targets. The Redfern Statement [2] states that the challenges facing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remain at the margins of national debate [2] p.2. The national peak bodies that came together to formulate the Redfern Statement have been unequivocal and forthright in their assertion and belief that urgent government action must be underpinned by a firm commitment to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander stewardship and leadership in both the debate and the actions to progress our national aspirations to close the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

As reported in our Overview last year, regrettably it is still clear that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people remain the least healthy sub-population in Australia. However, since last year there has been an even greater shift in the rhetoric from a deficit based narrative towards a fuller appreciation of the importance of focusing on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander led strengths based approaches [2]. The Redfern Statement asserts that ‘it is time that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander voices are heard and respected’ and that its plans for action ‘are acted upon as a matter of national priority and urgency’ (p.6). Both the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and the leader of the opposition Bill Shorten have publicly acknowledged the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leadership and stewardship in pursuit of sustainable solutions. The Prime Minister stated, ‘We are building new ways of working together with Indigenous leaders and their communities to create local solutions - putting Aboriginal and Torres people at the centre of decision making in their regions’ [1], p.4.

The importance of continuing to honour these bipartisan commitments is highlighted by the Closing the gap: Prime Minister’s report 2017 [1] which reported limited success in meeting the targets:

Despite these results, there have been some noticeable and measureable improvements in the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. The following selected statistics indicate that progress is being achieved albeit slowly.

It is important to acknowledge that many challenges remain in our collective efforts to make a positive difference to the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. Our focus on the positive outcomes in these concluding remarks is not intended to obscure or minimise these challenges but to highlight the many positive achievements that form the basis of a better understanding of the importance of strength based approaches. It is hoped that these achievements - coupled with the ongoing and strengthening commitment from governments to the importance of authentically and respectfully engaging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, organisations and communities - offers true promise of closing the health gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

References

  1. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (2017) Closing the Gap Prime Minister's report 2017. Canberra: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
  2. National Congress of Australia's First Peoples (2016) The Redfern statement: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations unite. Sydney: National Congress of Australia's First Peoples
  3. Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (2016) Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage: key indicators 2016 report. Canberra: Productivity Commission
  4. Steering Committee for the Review of Government Service Provision (2014) Overcoming Indigenous disadvantage: key indicators 2014. Canberra: Productivity Commission
  5. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2016) Deaths, Australia, 2015. Retrieved 28 September 2016 from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3302.0?OpenDocument
  6. Leach AJ, Wigger C, Andrews R, Chatfield M, Smith-Vaughan H, Morris PS (2014) Otitis media in children vaccinated during consecutive 7-valent or 10-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccination schedules. BMC Pediatrics; 14: 200 Retrieved 11 August 2014 from http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2431-14-200
  7. Leach AJ, Wigger C, Beissbarth J, Woltring D, Andrews R, Chatfield MD, Smith-Vaughan H, Morris PS (2016) General health, otitis media, nasopharyngeal carriage and middle ear microbiology in Northern Territory Aboriginal children vaccinated during consecutive periods of 10-valent or 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccines. International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology; 86: 224-232
  8. Leach AJ, Wigger C, Hare K, Hampton V, Beissbarth J, Andrews R, Chatfield M, Smith-Vaughan H, Morris PS (2015) Reduced middle ear infection with non-typeable Haemophilus influenzae, but not Streptococcus pneumoniae, after transition to 10-valent pneumococcal non-typeable H. influenzae protein D conjugate vaccine. BMC Pediatrics; 15: 162 Retrieved 19 October 2015 from http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12887-015-0483-8
  9. Australian Bureau of Statistics (2016) National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014-15. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics
 

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