In 2008 Australian Governments committed to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on an incredibly important task - to achieve equality in health status and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians by the year 2031. The commitment – in the form of the Close the Gap Statement of Intent – creates the platform for this National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan, which has been developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their representatives.
This Health Plan provides a long-term, evidence-based policy framework as part of the overarching Council of Australian Governments’ (COAG) approach to Closing the Gap in Indigenous disadvantage, which has been set out in the National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA) signed in 2008. The NIRA has established a framework of national targets and policy building blocks. Two of the Closing the Gap targets, to halve the gap in child mortality by 2018 and close the life expectancy gap by 2031, go directly to health outcomes, while others address social determinants of health such as education and employment.
The Health Plan builds on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It adopts a strengths-based approach to ensure policies and programs improve health, social and emotional wellbeing, and resilience and promote positive health behaviours. It emphasises the centrality of culture in the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the rights of individuals to a safe, healthy and empowered life. The Health Plan also builds on existing strategies and planning approaches to improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health,.