Close the Gap

The ANU Rural Medical Society’s annual Close the Gap Conference will be held at the ANU on the weekend of April 9th and 10th. Leaders in Indigenous health will speak to hundreds of university students, health professionals and community members who will come to the ANU from across Australia to work towards a shared goal.

This year is particularly special, marking the 10th anniversary of the Close the Gap Campaign, a campaign where Australia’s peak health bodies, NGOs and human rights organisations aim to achieve health equality for Indigenous Australians by 2030.

The conference, first run in 2007 in support of the Oxfam Close the Gap campaign started the year before. It has grown from being a 1-day conference involving 30 medical students to a 2-day conference including seminars and workshops that has been attended by over 150 people.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians have a life expectancy 10-17 years less than non-Indigenous Australians. Australia’s Indigenous people have some of the highest rates in the world for preventable conditions such as otitis media, trachoma, and diabetes.

It is well known that Indigenous people face systemic discrimination from structures in society including the health care system, and the conference aims to look at ways of changing this within the country.

It is important that young Australians such as ANU students are informed of the health inequities faced by Indigenous Australians and learn what they can do about it in their careers and everyday life.

This year’s speakers include Dr. Jackie Huggins and Luke Pearson. Dr. Huggins is a Bidjara and Birri-Gubba Juru woman from Queensland who has received a Member of the Order of Australia and is the current Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.

Luke Pearson, another speaker is a Gamilaroi man from New South Wales who founded the twitter account IndigenousX. He has over 25,000 twitter followers and his account has become a leading and important voice for Indigenous representation within Australian media.

Danielle Dries, a final year ANU medical student and the current Indigenous Health Officer for the National Rural Health Student Network, will act as the Master of Ceremonies. Danielle is the winner of the 2014 Allied Health Inspiration Award from Indigenous Allied Health Australia.

There is a free open seminar is held on the Saturday, featuring a performance by traditional dancers and multiple inspiring guest speakers.

After a social bush dance event on Saturday night, the Sunday workshop will be delivered by Indigenous Allied Health Australia. The workshop will focus on capabilities and cultural responsiveness. Last year’s attendees enjoyed the intimate style of the workshop, where they were able to work on their own skills and were given an opportunity to clarify concerns or confusions they may have had. A key issue discussed was the role of LGBTI people in Indigenous communities.

The event is open to anyone interested in Indigenous health, including all ANU students.

You can register at http://armsclosethegap2016.getqpay.com/ and for more details on the event head to the ‘ANU Rural Medical Society Close the Gap Conference 2016’ Facebook event.