Sonder, South Australia’s integrated health service, hosted this year’s Closing the Gap Day at the Adelaide Show Grounds, bringing together health services and community under one roof.

The day was an opportunity for local businesses and South Australia’s peak indigenous health bodies to encourage community to take care of their health.

Sageran Naidoo, Sonder CEO said the event was important as it highlighted what health services are available for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and how to access them.

“Today’s event is an opportunity to bring together 65 stallholders, together with our partners, SA Health’s Watto Purrunna, the Adelaide Primary Heath Network and Nunkuwarrin Yunti to showcase what services are out there so that people may realise they are not alone. It is a day to promote early intervention and educate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about the range of health initiatives that they can access.”

Mr Naidoo said information about services is not always easy to find.

“This idea of having the Closing the Gap Day event comes from the broad notion that there are so many players out there that some of the services get missed. Some of the providers themselves don’t even know what is out there, and this must be doubly confusing for the community” he said.

On the day, people were able to have their general health checks, which often get missed by community members.

Schania Czygan, Indigenous Health Project officer at Sonder and the Closing the Gap health program said health checks are the key to early intervention.

“The day was a great way for families to come along to talk about their health. People need to be aware of how important it is to have a health check once a year. People don’t always get to a GP and they will miss their check-up, and this check-up could help to identify illness and disease early on.”

Miss Cyzgan said that chatting about health in a social setting is a good way to break down barriers.

“It is my job to help people feel culturally safe to talk about their health issues and what can be done for them. The Closing the Gap Day was a way to highlight the support we have in the community and to think about ways to prevent chronic diseases and to keep us healthy.

“This is important because as we know, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are expected to live 17 to 20 years less than the non-indigenous population. So, the government has put in place these measures for us to utilise, to support our community and to stay out of hospital so more time is spent practicing culture and with family” said Ms Czygan.

The Government’s Closing the Gap report has found there has been little progress with just two of the seven targets on track. The two being educational targets.

In December 2018, The Council of Australian Governments committed to forming a partnership approach to the Closing the Gap Campaign as part of the Closing the Gap refresh.

A formal Partnership Agreement between COAG and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations (Coalition of Peaks) came into effect in March 2019.

Mr Naidoo said partnership is the key to better health services.

“There are several ways in which the Commonwealth Government wishes to close that gap. There is employment, educational opportunities and so on, but for us at Sonder, we focus on health and wellbeing. One way in which we do this is by recognising that no single agency can close the gap in any one of those fields without thinking about the other and we believe that a partnership approach is a must”.

“It is overwhelming to see this in action today with all the stallholders and people getting together. Last year we had close to 1000 people and today we have over 3000. This shows people are wanting to learn and they are asking for change.

“We have created a website, ClosingTheGapDay.net and what we want to do is enable people beyond today to find out who are the stallholders and how they can help. It’s about changing the culture of how we work together, it’s about promoting a culture of love and that way we will continue to make a difference” said Mr Naidoo.

For more information go to sonder.net.au

By Kaliah Alice

Pic top:  Richard Willet & Sheryl Tongerie at Closing the Gap Day 2019

For more photos of the event, read Aboriginal Way newspaper Autumn 2019 edition here


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