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Download PDF version 1. While there have been improvements made in some areas since the s notably in reducing high rates of infant mortality 1 overall progress has been slow and inconsistent. The inequality gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians remains wide and has not been progressively reduced.
With a significant proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in younger age groups, there is an additional challenge to programs and services being able to keep up with the future demands of a burgeoning population.
Unless substantial steps are taken now, there is a very real prospect that the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples could worsen. A steady, incremental approach will not reduce the significant health disparities between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.
There is a need for commitments to a course of action, matched with significant funding increases over the next years, if there is to be real and sustainable change. This chapter outlines a human rights based campaign for achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality within a generation.
Such a goal is achievable through building on existing approaches to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, by seizing opportunities that currently exist through the new arrangements on Indigenous affairs at the federal level and by capitalising on the overall healthy economic situation of the country.
Ultimately, the purpose of such an approach is to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, along with all other Australian citizens, are able to enjoy 'the highest attainable standard of health conducive to living a life in dignity.
The challenge - addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health inequality The poor health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is a well known fact. Substantial inequalities exist between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians, particularly in relation to chronic and communicable diseases, infant health, mental health and life expectation.
Governments of all persuasions have made commitments to address this situation over a prolonged period of time, accompanied with incremental funding increases. Governments have detailed strategies and national frameworks in place, developed through engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, which clearly articulate the need for a holistic address to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and acknowledge the complex interaction of issues.
Yet despite all of this, what data exists suggests that we have seen only slow improvements in some areas of health status and no progress on others over the past decade. The gains have been hard-fought. But they are too few. And the gains made are generally not of the same magnitude of the gains experienced by the non-Indigenous population, with the result that they have had a minimal impact on reducing the inequality gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians.
There are a number of disturbing trends among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples that reveal an entrenched health crisis. In particular, there remain: On top of this, I fear that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples face substantial health problems which are often left undiagnosed, and hence untreated.
These issues do not receive adequate attention in health frameworks and needs to be redressed. There are three main failings in the approach of Australian governments to date in addressing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health inequality.
First, governments of all persuasions have not activated their commitments by setting them within an achievable time frame. Governments have instead left the achievement of equality to an unspecified future time. By doing so, all Australian governments have been unaccountable for progress in achieving health equality.
Second, they have not matched their commitments with the necessary funds and program support to realise them. And third, while they have accepted in health frameworks the need to address Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health in a holistic manner, they have not engineered their health programs consistent with this understanding nor considered the impact of their broader policy and program approach on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
It is ten years since the Social Justice Commissioner has given detailed consideration to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health issues.
The comments of my predecessor at that time, apply equally today. We have all heard them - the figures of death, and of disability Every few years, the figures are repeated and excite attention. But I suspect that most Australians accept them as being almost inevitable.Program overview.
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