Skip to main content

How Effective Has Australia's “Close The Gap” Program Been so Far?

Nyamweya is a global researcher with many years of experience on practical research on a diversity of topics

“Close the Gap” is an Australian public health program that was launched in 2007 by a committee commissioned by the Australian government to look into the welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander. The goal is to enhance the life outcomes of Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal people. This is in respect to their wellbeing, health, justice, languages, access to water, land, housing, education, safety, justice and even employment. Through this program, the Australian Government has committed itself to accord the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander equality in social and health spheres. This hub reviews and critiques the Close the Gap Policy from a social justice perspective.

How the program promotes social Justice among the targeted communities?

The Close the Gap program has been in existence for more than a decade now. Accordingly, it has lifted the expectations of many citizens on what can be achieved in bridging the gap between on life outcomes on minority communities. Evidently, the efforts, and resolve of the stakeholders towards meeting this objective have been harnessed (Milroy and Bandler, 2021). In addition, the members of the said community that is the Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islander have been ignited to play their roles in their shared future. Many have also become optimistic and hopeful as it regards to their future. It is also evident that since its inception, the lives of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have improved to a significant level. This has thus leveraged the indigenous disadvantage that was a common phenomenon in Australia (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018).

Despite the fact that the target of Close the Gap is not yet fully realized, its contribution to raising the standards of the Aboriginal and Tores Strait Islander are noteworthy. For instance, the child mortality rate for the indigenous communities have declined by approximately 35% and this trend is being experienced on a rate of 32% per annum. Alongside these are improvements in core drivers of maternal and child health over the recent years (Milroy and Bandler, 2021). This suggest that the program has been impactful and that more gains can be anticipated in future.

A similar outcome on enhancement of social justice can also been seen in the sector of employment. Accordingly, many Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders have been incorporated into diverse employment sectors to a significant level (Smith et al, 2017). The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2018) reports that access to employment among indigenous people have over the past 10 years improved by 4.2%. In 2016, the rate of employment among indigenous people was 46.6% against non-indigenous people at 71.8. This is a clear individual of the role played by this policy in improving access to employment and hence social justice.

Despite slow progress in raising of life expectancy and child mortality rates among the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders, there have been remarkable improvements on these aspects. A report by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (2020) reports that since 2008, mortality rates among the indigenous communities have declined by approximately 14%. This is as a result of improved access to quality healthcare, education, quality food, safety, and respect.

Apparently, the initiation of the Close the Gap report and the efforts put up by the national government, regional authorities, non-indigenous citizens and even other stakeholder’s shows that there has been a will to improve social equity among the Aboriginal and Tores Straight Islanders (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2021). Consequently, this will and motivation has worked towards achieving this goal as these indigenous communities are now at a better position than they were before implementation of this program. It is also a way of showing respect and equality to humanity without discrimination. In essence, all human beings are the same irrespective of their social or economic background. In this respect, the Close the Gap program by the Australian Government should be a model to other nations to bridge the gap between the indigenous and non-indigenous communities in their respective regions.

References

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2018)Closing the Gap targets: 2017 analysis of

progress and key drivers of change. Available at: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/indigenous-australians/closing-the-gap-targets-2017-analysis-of-progress/contents/summary (retrieved on 25th September, 2021).

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (2020) Closing the Gap. Available at:

https://www.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/reports/closing-the-gap-2018/executive-summary.html(retrieved on 25th September 2021).

Milroy, T., and Bandler, L (2021) Closing the Gap: where to now?Med J Aust, 214 (5), pp. 209- 210. || doi: 10.5694/mja2.50959


Role of a Registered Nurse in Promoting Social Justice and equity among the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders

Nurses and other community health workers play a critical role in promoting social equity within the societies in which they serve. For a long time, they have been known to support access to quality health outcomes especially for populations considered vulnerable (Abimbola, 2017). Registered nurses are also positioned to enable citizen participation in health through communal or individual empowerment. It should also be noted that the government has placed these workers in crucial positions in spearheading national programs whose purpose is to meet the goals of universal health coverage or “Close the Gap” initiative for between the indigenous and non-indigenous communities (Kok, 2017). As a healthcare worker, the nurse is also mandated to execute crucial primary healthcare tasks which includes basic healthcare, education, awareness, and community health action. They are also an important link to cultural brokerage and provision of a comprehensive and culturally safe primary healthcare services to patients including the Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders (Topp et al, 2018).

It is already noted that nurses and other community health professionals can play a crucial role in overcoming communication and cultural barriers. This is especially for indigenous groups of people who want to access healthcare (Brigg and Curth-Bibb, 2017). For instance, they can do these by accepting assessment and treatment recommendations, improving attendance at appointments, increasing contact and interaction time with patients, and reducing discharge rates against medical advice. In addition, the nurse should also enhance follow up practice for patients as well as improve on patient referral linkages. A preliminary evidence indicates that nurses have a potential to improve screening and care management of chronic diseases such as diabetes, alongside infant and maternal care and also palliative care (Wright et al, 2019).

Conclusion

Scroll to Continue

From this assessment, it is clear that the “Close the Gap” program has achieved positive results since its inception. Though not to a full extent, the program has indeed contributed to social equity and justice among a people who were once openly marginalized and disadvantaged in the society. This outcome is depicted on the reduced mortality rates among non-indigenous community, improved access to healthcare, basic necessities, employment, socio-economic systems among others. Nonetheless, the nurse should be empowered by the government as they are play a great role in realizing that the targets of the program are fully extended.


References

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2018) Closing the Gap targets: 2017 analysis of

progress and key drivers of change.

Australian Human Rights Commission. (2021). Close the Gap: Indigenous Health Campaign.

Abimbola S. (2017). Institutional analysis of health system governance. Health Policy Plan,

32(9), 1337–44.

Brigg M, Curth-Bibb, J. (2019). Recalibrating intercultural governance in Australian indigenous

organisations: the case of aboriginal community controlled health. Aust J PolitSci, 52(2), pp:199–217.

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. (2020). Closing the Gap.

Smith J.A., Trinidad S., Larkin S. (2017). Understanding the Nexus Between Equity and

Indigenous Higher Education Policy Agendas in Australia. In: Frawley J., Larkin S., Smith J. (eds) Indigenous Pathways, Transitions and Participation in Higher Education. Springer, Singapore, 15-30. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-10-4062-7_2

Topp, S., Edelman, A. & Taylor, S. (2018). We are everything to everyone”: a systematic review

of factors influencing the accountability relationships of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers (AHWs) in the Australian health system. Int J Equity Health 17, (67),

Kok M. (2017). Optimising the benefits of community health workers' unique position between

communities and the health sector: a comparative analysis of factors shaping relationships in four countries. Glob Public Health. 12(11), 1404–32.

Milroy, T., and Bandler, L. (2021). Closing the Gap: where to now? Med J Aust, 214 (5), 209- 210, doi: 10.5694/mja2.50959

Wright, A, Briscoe, K, Lovett, R. (2019). A national profile of aboriginal and Torres Strait islander health workers, 2006–2016. Aust N Z J Public Health. 2019;43(1): 24–6.

Related Articles