This year is the 10th anniversary of the initiation of the Close The Gap. So what is the gap? How do we close it? What has been done?
Before we can look at these questions lets talk about how the gap came into being. The Gap refers to the difference between the life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and the rest of the population. How did it get to the point that we have a lower life span? It is because of the endless government policies that have kept us subservient. These policies that wouldn’t allow us to stand side by side with the rest of the nation. The rules that stopped us from buying homes, holding our own money (yes we were not allowed to take care of our own finances and had money doled out to us on a needs basis. The need being what the person in charge deemed as important, not us.) We were controlled to an amazing extent, having to get permission to leave or go on a mission, township, move home, get married. Then we also had the problem of Children not being allowed into schools and of course the lack of jobs. Yep no one wants to employ us.
As I sit here in the heat, pondering how things have changed and yet stay the same. I have to share with you an understanding of CTG. Last years report was a bit disappointing
While education, housing and employment are important, I am going to talk and focus on what I know best – Health. I worked as a program officer in the Close The Gap (CTG) field from when it started until I lost my job because of my cancer.
During my time I was always educating General Practice, allied health professionals about the need to sign on to the CTG program. I had to deal with doctors who would say that they treat all patients the same and so there is no need to sign up. I would have to point out that signing up was not a reflection of them but a way to help overcome the disadvantage.
To be a part of the CTG incentive a general practice, would sign on and they would get a monetary bonus just for helping us! The money was a lure, because some doctors really couldn’t be bothered. I am not speaking harsh but the truth. I would deal with practices, that would sign on but not do a health check on a single Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander patient.
The plan was that a practice would sign, give a health check, which this would enable the client to be a CTG patient. The practice would get a bonus payment for signing on, then a payment for each client that did a health check and a bonus at the end of the year, if the client was constantly in their care.
For the patient, it means that they get prescriptions cheaper or free, they are entitled to some allied health services and that is basically it. It is to the patient like any of the care packages that are out there for patients, eg Care Co-ordination, Chronic Disease or Diabetes.
It seems to me to be ironic to get many people to help and just do the right thing, they have to be paid by the government, and then they praise themselves!
Closing the Gap is so important not just to Aboriginal people, but to the whole nation. How can this nation consider itself a just nation, when it allows this to happen? Ensuring the gap is closed brings my people up to the same level as the rest of Australia, and how can a progressive country have such disparity within? Is it not justice? Reconciliation, a real reconciliation which actually brings some pertinent change too all lives.
Enriching your life and being open to an understanding of my people, sharing the wisdom and being able to stand equal is that not a goal to aspire towards?