Close the Gap Campaign history

Since 2005 the Close the Gap Campaign has grown

The Close the Gap campaign arose in response to Professor Tom Calma’s Social Justice Report (2005 ) which challenged governments to bring about health equality within a generation.

In Australia, Aboriginal infants die more often than non-Indigenous infants, Aboriginal people’s life expectancy is shorter, with more than double the rate of illness. For example, Australia has failed to eliminate preventable blindness and rheumatic heart disease, shameful outcomes for one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

The Steering Committee first met in March 2006. Their campaign was launched in April 2007 by patrons Catherine Freeman OAM and Ian Thorpe OAM. In 2007 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) set measurable targets to track and assess developments in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. These targets included achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality within a generation and halving the mortality rate gap for children under five years old within a decade.

National Apology to Australia's Indigenous peoples

In February 2008, in his Apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pledged the government would attempt to  bridge the gap between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australian health, education and living conditions, in a way that respects their rights to self-determination.

He also proposed to establish a commission to “close the gap” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in “life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity”.

On 20 March 2008, about a month Rudd and then Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson, signed the Close the Gap Statement of Intent at the Close the Gap Campaign’s National Indigenous Health Equality Summit. The Statement of Intent committed the government to:

  • Develop a comprehensive, long-term plan of action, targeted to need, evidence-based and capable of addressing the existing inequalities in health services, in order to achieve equality of health status and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians by 2030.
  • Ensure the full participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and their representative bodies in all aspects of addressing their health needs.

The Statement of Intent became the point of reference for the Close the Gap Campaign.

Kevin Rudd – Former Prime Minister of Australia – National Apology Transcript 2008

Mr Speaker, I move:

That today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

We reflect on their past mistreatment.

We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations – this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.

We invite members of the public, schools and organisations to support the Close the gap campaign and or donate.

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