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Closing The Gap

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Rachel Siewert 9 Feb 2011

Speaking about the Prime Minister's Closing The Gap address, Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Issues welcomed continuing investment in Aboriginal health outcomes, but questioned the focus of the Government's measures and approach.

"It seems inappropriate for the Prime Minister to be calling for Aboriginal people to take up greater responsibility for overcoming disadvantage, while continuing to pursue policies that further diminish their control of their finances and their everyday lives," Senator Siewert said.

"The Government has continued and expanded income quarantining and the bulk of the investment from her government in closing the gap in health disadvantage continues to be made through mainstream services that don't reach those in need.

"We should be supporting and strengthening the rights of First Australians and increasing participation in measures designed to close the gaps in health.

"There is still a pressing need for an overarching comprehensive long-term plan to coordinate government investment - one that is targeted to need, evidence-based and builds on current success stories.

"Unfortunately when it comes to Closing the Gap, the value of our investment is still much less than sum of its parts.

"A genuine partnership with Aboriginal health services and communities is fundamental to making significant and sustainable changes to improve life expectancy and chronic disease outcomes, and yet the bulk of Close the Gap funding continues to be delivered through mainstream services and there is little investment in capacity building within the Aboriginal community-controlled health sector.

"We have yet to see concerted investment into Aboriginal community-controlled health services to build on their successes, and there is not the investment needed into developing the Aboriginal health workforce and health managers of the future.

"We are still waiting to see reform measures to address the complex and fragmentary funding of Aboriginal health so we can deliver the comprehensive and culturally-appropriate primary health care services that are so urgently needed.

"While we continue to make slow but meaningful progress to improve life expectancy, the greatest barriers to real progress remain the social determinants of poor health and life outcomes - such as unhealthy and overcrowded housing and poor education and employment outcomes.

"It is disappointing that when the Government had a chance to address the issue of rights for First Australians last week before the UN, the Government chose to stall for six months before responding to the recommendations of the universal periodic review by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on the ongoing disparity of rights for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

"These recommendations call for the full reinstatement of the Racial Discrimination Act and the implementation the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People in Australian law - key, central issues which provide a platform of respect on which Closing The Gap measures can build and be more effective," concluded Senator Siewert.

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