In his 2005 Social Justice Report, then Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Professor Tom Calma AO described the unacceptably wide health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous people in Australia and observed: ‘It is not credible to suggest that one of the wealthiest nations in the world cannot solve a health crisis affecting less than 3% of its citizens.’
The Commissioner then proposed a human rights-based approach to achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality featuring equality-based planning and targets developed in partnerships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and Australian governments.
As the Campaign readies to mark its tenth anniversary in 2016, Australians are, in ever increasing numbers, demanding decisive action to support achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality by 2030. In 2015, the 200,000th Australian signed the ‘Close the Gap’ pledge. In 2015, nearly 1600 community events across the country involving over 150,000 Australians marked the National Close the Gap Day. It’s clear that this generation of Australians want to see their governments make good on the commitments made in 2008.
The message from the Close the Gap Campaign is clear. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health inequality is an issue of growing national concern. We can and want to be the generation that closes the gap but we must stay the course and keep our attention and resources focused on this goal. The health gap has rightfully been described as a stain on our nation, and this generation has the opportunity and responsibility to remove it.
In September 2015, the United Nations General Assembly, including Australia, unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development containing 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These replace and expand on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) adopted in 2000, and that expired in 2015. Over 150 targets were also adopted to advance the SDGs.