Moree community working towards closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people at 2019 Close the Gap Day

With Aboriginal people still expected to live 10 years fewer than other Australians, there's still a long way to go before the health and educational gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people is closed.

Only two of the seven closing the gap targets are on track to be met, more than 10 years since the original Close the Gap report was released in 2008.

The goals to have 95 per cent of all Indigenous four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education by 2025 and to halve the gap in year 12 attainment by 2020 are on track to be met, however improvements to life expectancy, child mortality rates, employment, reading and numeracy and school attendance are not on track.

And while the federal government has realised they need to find better ways of working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to help close these gaps, communities such as Moree are finding ways to close the gap themselves.

Pius X Aboriginal Corporation is one organisation leading the way in closing the gaps in healthcare and education.

"I'll be honest, if we wait for the government to fix our problems, we'll never get there," Pius X board president Cathy Budda-Deen said during Pius' Close the Gap day event on Friday, March 15.

"Places like Pius, looking at primary health care, are shining lights in this progress of closing the gap, hence why it's very important that Pius leads the way in closing the gap day today.

"Our health care and clinic team need to be commended for the effort they put in every day to try and close the gap in health statistics. Our new mums and bubs program is going to look at changing the health of our young people and improving child mortality rates.

"Our preschool, as you've seen them perform today, is one of the examples of how communities can close the gap in education and early childhood.

"And also, our social and emotional wellbeing team that are out there to look at mental health, drug and alcohol counselling and other services within the community.

"That's the effort we're going to make to close the gap, it's not going to come from government.

"Our remote services in Toomelah and our new clinic in Mungindi are also shining examples of how we can close the gap within our own community and the Gamilaroi nation."

Ms Budda-Deen said Pius X isn't the only organisation in Moree working to achieve these goals, with the Aboriginal Employment Strategy, the new Sports Health Arts and Education Academy, Miyay Birray Youth Service, Moree Family Support and its Early Childhood Education Expo held last week, and many other services "every day trying to close the gap".

"But remember, it starts with us first - the mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunties, uncles, our youth, our young adults - we all need to take the first step in closing the gap," she said.

"Be proactive about our health and education. There are a lot of services here in Moree, we need to work with those services."

The event held at Pius X on Friday, March 15 - nearly a week earlier than National Close the Gap Day on March 21 - aimed to highlight the importance of closing the gap.

Pius doctors, local pharmacists and service providers were on hand to talk to members of the community about how they can improve their health and education and gain employment.

People were able to access free 715 health checks (for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people), which covers all aspects of health, from height and weight measurements and measuring blood pressure and sugar levels, to mental and emotional wellbeing.

The aim of the checks are to help ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people receive primary health care matched to their needs, by encouraging early detection, diagnosis and intervention for common and treatable conditions that cause morbidity and early mortality. 

"It's looking to identify anything that may be a problem down the track," Pius X Aboriginal Health Practitioner Chris Rowden said.

"The more checks they have, the less chance they'll have of developing the problem down the track. They can act on it and get the help they need now."

Once they'd had a health check from the team at Pius, there were pharmacists on hand to talk them about any medications prescribed by the doctor.

Mr Rowden said in he's seen big improvements to the health of Aboriginal people, particularly men's health, in the five years since he's been at Pius.

"The main message from today is that help is out there; it's about owning your responsibility and doing something about it," he said.