Content uploaded by Rhonda Lynne Wilson
All content in this area was uploaded by Rhonda Lynne Wilson on Mar 20, 2016
Content may be subject to copyright.
An Aboriginal perspective on ‘Closing the Gap’ from the rural front
Submitted: 14 August 2015
Revised: 18 February 2016
Accepted: 18 February 2016
Published: 20 March 2016
Full text: View a printable version.
Author(s) : Wilson RL.
Citation: Wilson RL. An Aboriginal perspective on ‘Closing the Gap’
from the rural front line. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2016; 16: 3693.
Available: http://www.rrh.org.au/articles/subviewnew.asp?ArticleID=3693 (Acc
essed 20 March 2016)
[View Author Details]
Read comments on this article / Add your own comments.
Acknowledgment of Country: We acknowledge the traditional lands and people, where
we live and work: the Gumbangarry, Dunghutti, Kamilaroi and Anaiwan nations.
A recent rural community gathering, designed to bring together rural
Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members and leaders,
was held and provided an important forum for Aboriginal people to
share perspectives about Australia’s aspirations to ‘Close the
Gap’1 between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. The aim of this
report is to disseminate the sentiment that percolated in the
presentations and discussion arising from the gathering. This report
demonstrates how rural Close the Gap champions can influence the
uptake of healthy choices in their communities, at the front line of
Participants, methods and results
A rural Close the Gap public forum was held highlighting the continuing
needs associated with social and health disparities in Australia. The
forum had a culturally diverse attendance with a majority of Indigenous
participants. Indigenous champions presented topics discussing their
perspectives about the reduction of disparity. This type of locally
initiated activity undertaken by local people in a local setting has the
capacity to generate local solutions to local problems2.
Fifty-five Indigenous secondary school students and approximately 100
Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal local community, primary health care
network and university members attended. Aboriginal elders attended
and provided their knowledge, insight and guidance to the meeting that
was hosted at a rural university Aboriginal centre. The Aboriginal
health liaison staff from a primary health network organised the
meeting in collaboration with a range of local services and community
groups. Attendees represented a social ecological cross section of the
community who all shared an interest in participating actively in closing
the gap generally. As such, a specific Indigenous community of interest
was formed that consisted of an extensive collaborative network2. The
community of interest was able to articulate a set of priorities and to
present them in a way that communicated a shared sense of self-
determination about ways to reduce disparities associated with closing
Three themes were identified among the topics presented. First, ‘safe
and thriving families’ were recognised as important components of
future health and social parity3,4. Parents take on the responsibly of
creating safe places to raise their children, while drawing on the
wisdom, experience and encouragement of their elders. The
demonstrated role modelling of healthy behaviours and social
interactions within families will promote the uptake of healthy decision-
making by children and young people in the future5.
Second, ‘courage’ should be fostered and nurtured among Indigenous
people to stand firm in a colonised context, and where generational
traumas related to traditional lands, human rights and equity have all
been eroded in the past. Indigenous people are encouraged to stand
firm and to promote strength and resilience despite past adversities so
that parity of health and wellbeing can be achieved in the future. These
aspirations are not without challenges; however, precedents of
success are noted, in particular the Moree Freedom Ride (1965) that
demanded equity of access to public amenities6. Fifty years later, the
fight for parity continues but the changes required are both within and
external to Indigenous communities. A new stand against inequity of
health and opportunity exists as families learn to deal with conflict
without violence, to eat healthy food without excess, enjoy leisure
without drugs and alcohol, and to instil hope for the future by
completing education and generating employment successes7.
The third theme identified was the need for ‘respectful personal
interactions that are distinguished by the rendering of kindness’ to
others to ensure that inclusion and safety is achieved for all age
groups. Healthy change is achieved with positive behavioural
interactions between people, regardless of colour or culture, who
choose to regard people well, speak kindly, offer respect and provide
positive role modelling within families.
The synthesis of the three themes includes the need for improved self-
control in regard to excess consumption of food, alcohol, drugs and
cigarettes, and anger/conflict management. These factors reveal the
priorities identified by rural Indigenous people in this setting, and these
are considered to be most important for improvement in Indigenous
health and wellbeing in rural communities2. The rural forum called for
Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to be united and to take
courageous and persistent actions to say no to the misuse of drugs,
alcohol, junk food and smoking, and to say yes to peaceful and
respectful interactions with others to ensure that closing the
gap is possible in the future.
A contemporary rural Aboriginal perspective derived from a forum
discussion on closing the gap identified the ongoing need to foster safe
and thriving families in rural communities. It is acknowledged that
standing firm with sufficient courage to say no to the misuse of drugs,
alcohol, junk food and cigarettes will remain a challenge, and this
should be the focus of ongoing health promotion intervention to offset
the chronic disease trajectory experienced disproportionally by
Indigenous people8. In addition, nurturing respectful interactions with
people, and the reciprocal experiences of kindness, will promote
positive relationships and reduce the propensity for conflict in the
future. Gains in these three domains will encourage the ongoing
efforts to reduce the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous
Australia and will strengthen the social health ecology generally while
supporting sustainable ecological conditions that will form the basis of
moving beyond surviving and towards thriving for Indigenous health,
welfare and communities.
. Holland C. Close the gap progress and priorities report 2015. The Close the
Gap Campaign Steering Committee for Indigenous Health Equality,
. Tuhiwai Smith L. Articulating an Indigenous research agenda.
In: Decolonizing methodologies. Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2012;
. Wilson RL, Wilson GG, Usher K. Rural mental health ecology: a
framework for engaging with mental health social capital in rural
communities.EcoHealth 2015; 12(3): 412-420.
. Bronfenbrenner U (Ed.). Ecological systems theory. In: Making human
beings human: bioecological perspectives on human development. Thousand
Oaks: Sage Publications, 2005; 106-173.
. Purdie N, Dudgeon P, Walker R (Eds). Working together: Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander mental health and wellbeing principles and practice. Canberra:
Commonwealth of Australia, 2010.
. Thomas K. Footsteps of Freedom Ride retraced at Moree 50 years
after Charles Perkins' groundbreaking protest. ABC News. Australian
Broadcasting Comporation, 2015.
. Wilkes E, Gray D, Saggers S, Casey W, Stearne A. Substance
misuse and mental health among Aboriginal Australians. In: N Purdie,
P Dudgeon, R Walker (Eds). Working together: Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander mental health and wellbeing principles and practice. Canberra:
Commonwealth of Australia, 2010; 117-133.
. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National drug strategy
household survey detailed report 2013. Canberra: Australian Institute of
Health and Welfare, 2014.
© James Cook University 2016, http://www.jcu.edu.au
This article has been viewed 1 times since
March 20, 2016. Article No. 3693
Read comments on this article / Add your own comments.