Close the Gap Day advocates for health equity of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and educates the public about health issues and barriers they may face.
The national day is observed on the third Thursday of March each year and aims to close the health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation.
The 2023 Close the Gap Report, titled ‘Strong Culture, Strong Youth: Our Legacy, Our Future’, explores how the cultural determinants of health play a vital role in achieving long-term health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities, with a particular focus on the organisations and individuals that work to enrich the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and youth.
For more than a decade, Australians from every corner of the country, in schools, businesses and community groups, have shown their support for Close the Gap by marking National Close the Gap Day.
Northern Health is playing its part in closing the gap through Narrun Wilip-giin (Aboriginal Support Unit), the Koori Maternity Service and more recently, the employment of the new Emergency Department Aboriginal Liaison Officer, who works four days a week from 1 pm to 9 pm in the Emergency Department and Short Stay Unit.
There is also the Northern Health Aboriginal Advisory Committee (NHAAC) that meet four times a year, and the Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) Sub-Committee that meet monthly, who are currently working on the second version of the Innovate RAP. Northern Health also has a Cultural Safety Plan which has been worked on with Aboriginal staff, Aboriginal community members and Northern Health Executive Directors.
“Northern Health has a committed Aboriginal Support Unit which aims to culturally support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and carers through the hospital journey,” said Toni Gabelish, Aboriginal Liaison Officer.
“We do this by ensuring Aboriginal people have access to all Northern Health services and ensuring Northern Health is culturally sensitive, safe and welcoming to Aboriginal people.”
“We also identify and address barriers that may prevent Aboriginal people from using Northern Health services and assist Northern Health as a whole to develop relationships within the Aboriginal community,” Ms Gabelish said.
Northern Health’s aim is to bring people together to share information, and most importantly, to take meaningful action in support of achieving health equality for First Nations Peoples by 2032.
Featured image: Karen Byrant, Senior Aboriginal Liaison Officer, Stephanie Thompson, Aboriginal Liaison Officer and Toni Gabelish, Aboriginal Liaison Officer.