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The Close the Gap campaign arose in response to Professor Tom Calma’s Social Justice Report (2005 ) which challenged governments to bring about health equality within a generation.
In Australia, Aboriginal infants die more often than non-Indigenous infants, Aboriginal people’s life expectancy is shorter, with more than double the rate of illness. For example, Australia has failed to eliminate preventable blindness and rheumatic heart disease, shameful outcomes for one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
The Steering Committee first met in March 2006. Their campaign was launched in April 2007 by patrons Catherine Freeman OAM and Ian Thorpe OAM. In 2007 the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) set measurable targets to track and assess developments in the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. These targets included achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality within a generation and halving the mortality rate gap for children under five years old within a decade.
In February 2008, in his Apology to Australia’s Indigenous peoples, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pledged the government would attempt to bridge the gap between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australian health, education and living conditions, in a way that respects their rights to self-determination.
He also proposed to establish a commission to “close the gap” between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in “life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity”.
On 20 March 2008, about a month Rudd and then Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson, signed the Close the Gap Statement of Intent at the Close the Gap Campaign’s National Indigenous Health Equality Summit. The Statement of Intent committed the government to:
The Statement of Intent became the point of reference for the Close the Gap Campaign.
A First Nations Voice to Parliament protected by the Constitution is a key element of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
Speaking at the Garma Festival, Prime Minister Albanese put forward a possible referendum question: “Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?”
“Do you support an alteration to the Constitution that establishes an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice?”