Today is National Close the Gap Day – a national day of action to pledge support for achieving health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by 2030.
It is a hugely important day on the calendar, but sadly, it too has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic which is sweeping the globe. This year, Close the Gap events have been cancelled due to COVID-19.
Nonetheless, it is vital that the intent of Close the Gap Day continues to be both marked and discussed. In many ways, amid the coronavirus pandemic, it has never been more relevant.
Earlier this week, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) CEO Pat Turner insisted Covid-19 was potentially “devastating” for Aboriginal communities.
She told the ABC that “Aboriginal people, no matter where they live, are highly vulnerable [to coronavirus] because of the number of illnesses they already have.”
This is compounded by ongoing issues of inadequate housing in Aboriginal communities, with overcrowding making self-isolation impossible and increasing the risk of infection.
NACCHO has called on all levels of government to support urgent measures to prevent the spread of the virus in Aboriginal communities. These include restricting access to Aboriginal communities; increased funding for Aboriginal community-controlled health services; establishing emergency quarantine facilities and mobile health clinics; and evacuation procedures.
Long-term approaches designed and lead by Aboriginal people are necessary to address the issues that make Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people disproportionately vulnerable to COVID-19 and future virus outbreaks.
As a member of the NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations (CAPO), NSWALC is proud to be part of the consultation process for a new National Agreement on Closing the Gap. We know that when Aboriginal peoples are included and have meaningful input in the design and delivery of services that affect them, the outcomes are far better.
Through CAPO, we’re advocating for a new agreement that will allow Aboriginal community controlled organisations to have a greater say on the government’s strategy.
We’ve also set up NSWALC Housing Ltd to address the housing crisis in our communities, with a commitment to increase the number and type of housing options available and a target to manage 6,000 properties for Aboriginal people in NSW by 2028.
We encourage all our Local Aboriginal Land Council members and the wider community to stay informed and safe by following the latest health advice from the Australian Government (https://www.health.gov.au/) and NACCHO (https://www.naccho.org.au/) .