National Close the Gap Day

Closing the gap developed out of the call in Tom Calma’s Social justice report 2005 for Australian governments to commit to achieving equality for Indigenous people in health and life expectancy within 25 years. In March 2006 some non-government agencies came together to develop a National Indigenous Health Equality Campaign and in April 2007 a Close the gap campaign was launched.

In December 2007 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) committed to closing some key gaps and in March 2008 many government and non-government delegates to a National Indigenous Health Equality Summit signed a statement of intent. In July 2008 the Rudd Government established the National Indigenous Health Equality Council and in November COAG agreed to the National Indigenous reform agreement which set out five Closing the gap targets:

  • To close the life expectancy gap within a generation;
  • To halve the gap in mortality rates for Indigenous children under five within a decade;
  • To ensure access to early childhood education for all Indigenous four year olds in remote communities within five years;
  • To halve the gap in reading, writing and numeracy achievements for children within a decade;
  • To halve the gap for Indigenous students in year 12 attainment rates by 2020; and
  • To halve the gap in employment outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a decade.
To help achieve these goals COAG identified a number of building blocks (early childhood, schooling, health, economic participation, healthy homes, safe communities and governance and leadership) and facilitated a number of Indigenous-specific National Partnership Agreements which committed governments to measurable funded steps, namely:  
Three regular ‘Closing the Gap’ publications have tracked developments—the Prime Minister’s annual report (most recently Closing the Gap—Prime Minister’s Report, 6 February 2013),  the  COAG Reform Council’s report on progress (most recently Indigenous Reform 2010-11: Comparing performance across Australia, 30 April 2012) and the Government’s budget time statement (most recently Investing to close the gap on Indigenous disadvantage, 8 May 2013).

While governments have pressed on with ‘Closing-the-gap’ initiatives, the non-governmental ‘Close the Gap’ steering committee’s more rights-based awareness campaign has continued and central to it since 2011 has been the ‘National Close the Gap Day’. Oxfam has encouraged groups and individuals to propose and register events, and reported more than 130,000 Australians taking part in 2012.

The National Close the Gap Day has joined the following other awareness-raising days in the area of indigenous affairs: 
26 January, the First Fleet’s landing date and subsequently Australia Day, was for a long time commemorated by some indigenous Australians (starting with William Cooper and William Ferguson in 1938) as the Day of Mourning and is today commonly called Survival Day or Invasion Day (and marked in Sydney with a Survival Day concert).

13 February, the date of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s 2008 National Apology to the Stolen Generations, has recently started to be called National Apology Day.

21 March is the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and in 1999 Harmony Day became a day to encourage tolerance and understanding between Australians of all races and cultural backgrounds.

26 May has been National Sorry Day since 1998 and marks the anniversary of the 1997 tabling of the Bringing them Home report. Hundreds of thousands of Australians participated in activities marking the first National Sorry Day and the day continues to be well observed.
3 June is Mabo Dayand commemorates the anniversary of the 1992 High Court decision in the case brought by Eddie Mabo and others which recognised the existence in Australia of native title rights.

Between the above two days is National Reconciliation Week. The inaugural week marked the end of the ten year 'Process of Reconciliation' which had begun with the establishing of the Council for Reconciliation in 1990, and ended with the release of the Council's Australian Declaration Towards Reconciliation and Roadmap for Reconciliation.

The first full week of July is NAIDOC Week, it having grown out of the National Aborigines Day which was inaugurated in the late 1950s (after lobbying that had started in 1939), and the 1975 decision of the National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee to stretch the celebration out to a week. The week moved to September in 1985 but moved back to July in 1992.

Other dates of significance for 2013 1 July Coming of the Light, 4 August National Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day, and 9 August International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.

For more on ‘Closing the Gap’ follow the links on the Healthinfonet’s closing-the-gap web-pages and for more on days of significance see my Parliamentary Library research note from 20 August 2002, Indigenous Flags and Days.


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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