For more than a decade, the third Thursday of the month of March has been recognised as National Close the Gap Day amongst schools, businesses and communities from all over Australia.
This day is a strong opportunity to send a clear message to our governments that as Australians, we view health equality as an intrinsic right, including that of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) people with a disability.
When we say ‘the Gap’ it refers to the significant discrepancy between the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and non-Indigenous Australians.
When it comes to the disability sector, the Gap is considerably vaster in places such as the Northern Territory and Western Australia, as well as in remote and very remote areas where it is clear that there is undercounting of disability among Indigenous people. A contributing factor to that may be that some Indigenous Australians find the subject of disability hard to understand or irrelevant. According to the First People’s Disability Network ‘in traditional language there was no comparable word to disability which suggests that disability may have been accepted as part of the human experience.’
When we consider the fact that the NDIS is available to all Australians and yet only 5.7% is made up of active Indigenous participants (2019) we should be looking at why. The Australian Government and state and territory governments should consider the feasibility of overcoming the barriers to service delivery in the NDIS for Indigenous people with a disability by employing Indigenous staff and also developing the cultural competency of non-Indigenous staff.
All Australians should have the right to access appropriate health care that is near to where they live with adequately trained staff. To date, Indigenous Australians face too many significant barriers to accessing disability support services.
Culturally safe primary health care services such as Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services are severely underfunded and therefore struggle to meet the needs of ATSI people.
National Close The Gap Day this year landed on the 18th of March and there are many events and activities being held with schools, businesses and communities, so participate if you can:
Otherwise here is three fantastic ways to show your support this year.
Education and Appreciation:
Build understanding and respect via http://www.shareourpride.org.au/
Join the pledge, be a part of the movement:
Join over 208,000 other Australians and sign up here
Have an honest conversation with your friends and family about the current state of healthcare for Indigenous people.
It is imperative we advocate and educate more people, so they know exactly what ‘the Gap’ is and why we need to close it.
At Melba, we will do what we can, within the regions in which we operate to close the Gap for ATSI people, but of course we can always do more. While we are at the beginning of this journey and acknowledge we have much more to do in this area; we are committed to becoming a more diverse Melba.