Since 2012, the reported gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians has been around the 10 year mark. I don’t like national statistics because they don’t tell us the true story on the ground within Aboriginal Communities.

My Abuji (Grandfather) passed away in his early 50s when I was 3 years old. My Ganthayi (Grandmother) passed away at age 75, six years ago. But this week, their eldest son, my funny and happy uncle, passed away at just 60 years old. This is the third loss in my big family who I all adore in just 3 weeks.

Death has become so normalised that it’s exhausting having to “go through the motions” of loss. Our Aboriginal families are fracturing more and more because our family members are passing away sooner than before. We don’t have just one loss, it’s multiple losses every year and with every loss, we lose a piece of ourselves. The young ones give us the strength to carry on. But what future do they have to look forward to? What future does my daughter who is just 12 weeks old have? What age should I expect to live to?

Why is it acceptable to fail against the Closing the Gap targets? The Australian Governments have committed to Closing the Gap in life expectancy by 2031 – that’s 14 years away. Based on our past success (or lack of), we will fail. But failing won’t be for lack of funding or for lack of people. All sectors of the Australian community are involved in impacting this very real issue. Billions are being spent. Then why are we failing?

Speaking Events
All I can do, is point out, the reasons why, from my perspective, as an Aboriginal woman who is impacted by the Gap personally; as an observer of those operating in the space of Closing the Gap; and as a Director of an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (ACCHO).

We are failing our Aboriginal peoples because:

1. We are not invested in Building Relationships with Aboriginal Communities.

2. We are still taking a “Big Brother” approach towards Aboriginal peoples instead of working in partnership or empowering them.

3. We don’t respect the Aboriginal Cultures that govern Aboriginal Communities. We impose the Western Culture on them, instead of investing in two-way learning.

4. We don’t prioritise the individual health priorities of each Aboriginal Communities based on the ground level data that is available via our ACCHOs.

5. We accept failure in Aboriginal Health because it sits in the “too hard” basket”!

6. We take a deficit approach by throwing resources at the end stages of Health issues instead of also focusing on prevention via education.

Look, I’m no health professional. I’m just an Aboriginal woman with a voice who is sick of the constant death around me. I want to see genuine and authentic engagement with Aboriginal

families and I want to see Aboriginal Health funding actually reaching our Aboriginal Communities instead of being chewed up in administration costs. I want to see funding contracts being linked to successful outcomes. I don’t want to keep hearing of “no progress” or “not on track” when it comes to Closing the Gap. If you can’t get the successful outcomes that are required, get out of the space and stop adding to our misery. ACCOUNTABILITY NOW! Stop making excuses and get the job done. While you are making excuses, our family members are dying 10- 30 years earlier than they should. Close the Gap or go and do something else. If you are not up for the challenge, piss off.

Jolleen Hicks

Empower Yourself to Close the Gaps by Purchasing a Copy of this Book

One of the most important National Strategies is the National Closing the Gap Strategy that seeks to address the inequalties that exist within Australia between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians.

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