Message from Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Dr Stephen Weller: Today is national Close the Gap Day – an event that urges us all to work together to address the large gap in health indicators between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.
The annual Close the Gap campaign highlights large differences that persist in Australia today, including that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can expect to live between 10 to 17 years less than non-Indigenous Australians. They also face higher rates of infant mortality, poorer health, and lower levels of education and employment. Each of these inequalities affects the capacity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to engage in economic development, healthy living, environmental management and other activities that contribute to strong communities.
Addressing systemic disadvantage requires working in partnership and maintaining ongoing dialogue with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. ACU is committed to working with communities to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff are supported in their education and careers.
As a University, we are proud of the achievements of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and staff. Six ACU students are current recipients of the prestigious national Puggy Hunter Scholarship, awarded to university students undertaking study in health sciences. This year ACU recorded its highest intake of enrolments of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students overall, and last year 70 students completed their courses with ACU. Their achievements are also testament to the staff in our Indigenous Higher Education Units who supported these students throughout their ACU journey.
Some ACU graduates are directly contributing to ‘closing the gap’ by working within communities as health workers. In 2015, Away From Base graduate Cherisse Buzzacott, an Arrernte woman, received the prestigious NT Young Achiever Award for her midwifery work and has since returned to work in her local community in Alice Springs.
In addition to the work of ACU’s Research Institutes, ACU continues to grow early career academics - in 2015 we celebrated the graduation of the first Indigenous PhD staff scholarship holder, Dr Bindi Bennett (pictured left with Professor Morag Macarthur). Dr Bennett is currently working as a Lecturer in Social Work at the University.
In addition to receiving cultural, academic and personal support,it is important that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students are recognised, and that they are inspired by the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people employed across all areas of the University.