Souths Cares Helping to Close the Gap

Souths Cares' Tanika Perry was on hand to share her story on Close the Gap Day at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital on Thursday as one of a record number of Australians showing their support in 2014.

In front of a packed room that included Members of the Minsitry of Health, the Souths Cares Indigenous Community Support Officer outlined her own personal story leading to her role with Souths Cares - a position that has allowed her to give back to the community.

"I was invited by the NSW Ministry of Health to give my story about my journey and ecucation - how I got to move down to Sydney and get a good job," said Tanika.

"For me it's important to tell my story and to educate young kids. Now my role at Souths Cares is to support Indigenous kids to get through school and aspire to get a job and tertiary education after school."

Tanika's story is one that she hopes will be seen as an example moving forward for young Indigenous people aspiring to any goal.

The Close the Gap campaign is Australia’s biggest public movement for health equality.  It is a coalition of Australia’s leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous health and human rights organisations.

Close the Gap co-chairs Mick Gooda and Kirstie Parker said the expected 150,000 people across Australia participating in a record 1250 events on National Close the Gap Day showed the government they wanted continued investment in Closing the Gap health programs.

The eighth annual National Close the Gap Day reminds political leaders of their commitment to achieve health equality between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians by 2030.

Mr Gooda said any cuts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health at the federal, state or territory level would undermine the improvements just starting to emerge in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

“As government considers the Commission of Audit and prepares for the forthcoming budget, it’s imperative that government continues to invest in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health programs so that progress can continue to be made,” Mr Gooda said.

“Since all parties came together seven years ago to commit to ending the disgrace that sees an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander person die up to 17 years younger than other Australians, we’ve seen unprecedented funding and coordinated efforts by federal, state and territory governments that have led to an improvement in child mortality and a reduction in smoking rates.

“Smoking is one of the most common causes of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, accounting for 12 per cent of the disease and mortality gap.

“These improvements are a cause for optimism, but we still have a long way to go to; now is not the time to take the foot off the pedal.” 

Ms Parker said that with last year’s expiration of the National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes – which underpinned all closing the gap health programs – the Close the Gap Campaign now was looking to the Federal Government to take a leadership role and forge a new nationally coordinated approach to funding with states and territories.

“It is absolutely critical that not only does funding remain the same, but government efforts across the country be coordinated so as to avoid duplication and overlap of services,” Ms Parker said.

“The Prime Minister has stated his strong commitment to Close the Gap, and we seek his leadership to drive this through.

“The fact that so many Australians are united in support of the Close the Gap Campaign today clearly demonstrates that this remains an issue of national importance.  People expect action.”

Community groups, health services, businesses, schools, universities, government offices and individuals around Australia are holding or taking part in Close the Gap event in homes, workplaces, schools and communities.

Please visit www.oxfam.org.au/closethegap for more information.