Analysis

Tenth anniversary of the National Apology


Peter O’Mara


12/02/2018 3:26:04 PM

Associate Professor Peter O’Mara, Chair of RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, reflects on the decade since then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd formally apologised to Australia’s Stolen Generations.

Associate Professor O’Mara has called for a renewed commitment to ending inequality.
Associate Professor O’Mara has called for a renewed commitment to ending inequality.

This week marks the 10th anniversary of the Federal Government’s apology to the Stolen Generations.
 
The National Apology made in Federal Parliament by then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on 13 February 2008 was a landmark action. It was the first formal, national recognition of past policies. It was a significant event for members of the Stolen Generations and their families, the wider Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, and other Australians who acknowledged the trauma and grief suffered. 
 
The commitment given in the apology, as well as the subsequent Statement of Intent to Close the Gap in life expectancy and to achieve health equality within a generation, mobilised bipartisan action. Yet, in the decade since the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) first committed to close the gap on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and life expectancy, health indicators are worsening.
 
A report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) in December 2017 found the gap in life expectancy is widening due to accelerated increases in the non-Indigenous population. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child mortality rate is now more than double that of other children.
 
The Federal Government committed to ‘working with, not to’ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, but this commitment has not translated into meaningful engagement. The lack of action in response to the Redfern Statement and Uluru Statement from the Heart reflect this failure.
 
The engagement and participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will decide the success or failure of future policy decisions. 
 
The RACGP has led the way in working closely with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) to advocate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality. The importance of this relationship was formalised through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in November 2014.
 
This year’s National Day of Apology takes on increased significance as governments ‘refresh’ the Closing the Gap strategy, which will define action towards health equality into the future. The Closing the Gap Refresh must be understood within the political and historical context from which inequalities have emerged.
 
We need a renewed commitment to ending inequality. Governments must acknowledge the critical role of primary healthcare and, particularly, the culturally responsive care offered by Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services.



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Elizabeth(Libby) Hindmarsh   13/02/2018 9:49:01 AM

Thank you for this message and the ongoing committment of the College to work for improved health outcomes. The evidence shows these are linked to overcoming racial discrimimation, improving housing, work opportunities, culturally appropriate and ongoing education opportunities, safety of families and overcoming our past history of cruelty like the Stolen Generation and genocide of Aboriginal peoples.
I am optimistic that we can work together to Close the Gap and bring reconciliation for our nation. It will mean we need to listen and respect each other. It is a challenge.


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