Since its inception 10 year ago, the Closing the Gap campaign has helped improve a number of key indicators for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, but there are many more hurdles to overcome if Australia is to achieve indigenous health equality by 2030, the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) has warned.

The Close the Gap Progress and Priorities Report 2016 reveals significant improvements in indigenous health outcomes, including increased access to medicines and health checks.

“We have also seen other encouraging improvements over that time, but without concerted effort across governments and respectful engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, we as a nation will not be successful in closing the gap,” said Adjunct Professor Kylie Ward, CEO of ACN.

“The long term impact of such improvements on adult health and life expectancy is yet to be seen as this will take time to measure. This should not be cause for complacency because the overall health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples still lags behind the rest of the nation.

“Government and non-government organisations need to continue to work with indigenous communities to develop and implement health policy and programs, particularly around chronic disease management and long-term care of these patients.”

ACN supports all nurses to continue to show leadership and strive for innovative ways to improve the health outcomes of our nation’s first people.

“ACN will continue to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups to identify the availability of indigenous-specific health care services and work to identify which models of care are most effective,” said Adj Prof. Ward.

ACN proudly administers the Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarships Scheme on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Health. The scheme was established in recognition of the late Dr Arnold ‘Puggy’ Hunter who made an outstanding contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health. More than 1540 scholarships have been awarded since 2002 in areas such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, Allied Health, Dentistry, Medicine and Nursing and Midwifery.

ACN supports increasing the number of scholarships to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to help administer a culturally sensitive health care system and ensure Indigenous peoples take steps in improving health outcomes overall.

To mark National Close the Gap Day, Thursday, 17 March 2016, ACN is holding a morning tea and welcoming former Chief Nurse and Midwifery Officer of the Northern Territory Department of Health and ACN board member Professor Greg Rickard OAM MACN to share his knowledge and experiences in Indigenous and remote health.