Close the Gap Day is an annual event that raises awareness of the gap in health and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the non-indigenous community, with the ultimate goal of achieving health equality. Since 2007, Close the Gap Day has taken place on the third Thursday in March.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience poorer health outcomes and life expectancy than that of non-Indigenous Australians. Data shows that:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have a life expectancy of 10-17 years lower than non-Indigenous Australians.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders experienced a burden of disease that was 2.3 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.
- 46% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people had one or more selected chronic conditions, up from 2012–13 (40%).
- Heart disease was the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, followed by diabetes, in 2018.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders experience higher rates of psychological distress and are hospitalised for mental health and behavioural disorders at much higher rates than other Australians.
Monash Health is uniquely positioned to make a difference due to its extensive geographical reach and high number of patients seen yearly. As such, Monash Health plays a significant role in creating health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Some of Monash Health’s current initiatives to address this include:
- Running a fortnightly, multi-disciplinary clinic for out of home Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.
- Organisation-wide cultural safety training to help create culturally aware employees, so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people feel safe in attending our sites.
- Community engagement for new hospital builds to create a safe and meaningful environment.
- Referring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients to an Aboriginal Hospital Liaison Officer to provide cultural support, make appropriate referrals and assist with discharge planning.
For the 2019/20 financial year, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander inpatient registrations represented 0.83% of all Monash Health patients. Considering that poorer health rates are much higher than for non-Indigenous Australians, it is expected that this number would be also higher.
One way Monash Health aims to provide patients with cultural support and care, while addressing health inequalities, is to ask all patients if they identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. Monash Health’s policy regarding “asking the question”, recording and responding to Aboriginal patients can be found here.
Due to the success of previous cultural safety training sessions, Monash Health is offering multiple sessions in 2021. The externally facilitated sessions will be virtual and last for approximately 4 hours on the following dates:
- 31 March 2021
- 4 May 2021
- 7 July 2021
- 9 September 2021
- 5 November 2021
Booking for these sessions will be available on LATTE two weeks before the event.
For more information about Close the Gap Day or cultural safety training, please contact Dan Mason. For more information on the Closing the Gap website or the Australian Human Rights Commission website.