Graphic: Close the Gap image
National Close the Gap Day is a day of action for Indigenous health equality, that aims to close the health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality is everyone's business: it is a national issue in which every individual, organisation and group in Australia can play a role. We at the RFDS are committed to the Close the Gap campaign and contributing to improving health outcomes and access to health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Over 60% of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples live in our primary service footprint of rural Australia, and almost half of all patients provided with critical health care services by the Flying Doctor identify as Indigenous Australians. We understand the importance of campaigns like Close the Gap Day. We consider it as an opportunity for us to reflect on the many ways the RFDS can better contribute to working towards genuine, meaningful reconciliation to achieve better health outcomes for our First Peoples.
Why is closing the gap so important?
Most Australians enjoy one of the highest life expectancies of any country in the world — but this is not true for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples can expect to live at least 10 years fewer than other Australians. Babies born to Aboriginal mothers die at more than twice the rate of other Australian babies, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience higher rates of preventable illnesses such as heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes. The mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is on par with some of the world’s most impoverished nations.
We think it's a national priority that we close the gaps in critical social determinants between First Nations people and non-Indigenous Australians.
Our Reconciliation Action Plan
As a leading health service in Australia, we are committed to ensuring our services contribute to the “Close the Gap” targets to improve both health outcomes and access to health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
The RFDS Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) is the strategic framework that drives strong relationships, respect and opportunities with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander brothers and sisters. It is our roadmap to embed reconciliation to become ‘business as usual’ in all areas of our organization.
Through our reconciliation journey, we strive for a culture of unity, equity and respect between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians. Our vision for reconciliation is for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to have access to culturally safe health services and to experience better health outcomes as a result.
This will be achieved by working in close partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities and ensuring all our staff embark on a journey of cultural learning about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories. We are committed to creating a culturally safe workplace that fosters a deep understanding of the ongoing impact of dispossession, colonisation and genocide.
In July 2020, CEOs agreed to the development of a new National RFDS RAP to be launched in 2022. This will be the third RAP for the RFDS and will demonstrate a renewed commitment to further embed reconciliation throughout our organisation over the next three years, taking a revised approach to actions we have not been able to achieve to date.
We acknowledge and pay respect to the traditional owners of the lands on which we work and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and the community. We feel privileged to engage with such diverse and rich cultures and we hope to deepen our understandings and our relationships around the country as part of our ongoing reconciliation journey.