March 17, 2022

National Close the Gap Day: Transforming Power

The incidence of cervical cancer in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women is more than twice that of non-indigenous women.  Mortality is nearly four times the non-indigenous rate. Participation in Breast Screen programs is half that for non-indigenous women.*

National Close the Gap Day is observed on the third Thursday of March and advocates for health equity of Australia’s indigenous people and educating the public about the health issues and barriers to well-being faced by them.

The Close the Gap campaign is aimed at improving the health outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, whose life expectancy is 10–17 years lower than that of non-indigenous Australians. In addition to access to healthcare, other factors including poverty, education, and employment have an impact on the well-being of indigenous groups.

The 13th annual Close the Gap Campaign report, “Transforming Power; Voices for Generational Change” produced by the Lowitja Institute, focusses on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander-led transformation, highlights the work of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations and communities. This will be launched  at 11.30 am today. Attendance is free, however you need to register below (click on the image).

In our Northern Health Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan, some of the feedback from the Aboriginal community relating to Closing the Gap, were requests to improve access to services and health promotion.

In response, Northern Health Narrun Wilip-giin (Aboriginal Support Unit) in 2019 partnered with Djirra to deliver five Aboriginal women’s health and wellbeing workshop programs, made possible by a grant from Tobin Brothers Foundation.

Karen Bryant, Senior Aboriginal Liaison Officer said, “The workshops allowed for Aboriginal women to listen to speakers, in a culturally safe space, on topics relating to women from 18 years to Elders”.

The workshops were held from December 2020 to September 2021 with a total of 58 participants.  Topics included how to access services such as cervical, breast, and bowel screening.

Participants overwhelmingly reported that they found the topics “informative and important to their needs.”  78 per cent of respondents reported that the program speakers encouraged them to reach out and make one or more health checks.

Participants also received a Narrun Wilip-giin ‘Dilly bag’ with health information on the topics discussed.

Given the constraints of COVID-19, the sessions transitioned from face to face to an online program. This brought about several positive unanticipated outcomes, including extending our reach beyond the Northern Health catchment, opening up registrations for women from across all of Melbourne.

The other positive outcome was the collaborative partnership with Djirra to co-design and deliver the workshop program.

‘Djirra’ is the Woiwurrung word (Woiwurrung is the traditional language of the Wurundjeri people) for the reed used by Wurundjeri women for basket weaving. The work Djirra does is predominantly designed by and for Aboriginal women and offers practical support to all Aboriginal women and particularly to Aboriginal people who are currently experiencing family violence or have in the past.

Antoinette Braybrook, the CEO of Djirra, said, “Djirra is delighted to partner with Northern Health to deliver culturally safe workshops, designed for and by Aboriginal women. These workshops are critical to improving health outcomes and providing support for our women to live strong in culture and identity.”

For more information on Close the Gap, click here.

Featured image shows Narrun Wilip-giin ‘Dilly bag’ with health information, provided to participants at the workshops.

*(BSV data June 2017).