The 2023 Chalmers Oration put a spotlight on the importance of Closing the Gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and justice outcomes in a compelling speech delivered by Leanne Liddle called ‘Why a dose of accountability is needed to close the gap’.
Aboriginal children are born in poorer health, face lives marred by chronic illness, live around eight years less than the wider population and are ten times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Aboriginal Australians.
In a powerful and thought-provoking speech Leanne cited the disparity in health outcomes between non-Indigenous Australians and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and a lack of social accountability by decision makers.
“There needs to be a broader understanding of healthcare and the justice system because they dovetail together. We would like to see a quality of care that meets our needs and improves our quality of life and future prospects,” she said.
During the hour-long session, Leanne talked about the power of creating genuine partnerships and the importance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to be “heard, respected and supported”.
Asked about what can be done to Close the Gap, she asked for “more accountability and careful cultural consideration”, as well as a desire to be “part of the solution, not part of the problem”.
“When we empower Aboriginal governed communities, we see improved outcomes, but few communities to date have been given this opportunity. We need to look at opportunities and templates where it’s working well, and replicate those across the country,” she added.
Joining Ms Liddle for the Q&A session on the day was the Hon Mark Butler MP, Australian Minister for Health and Aged Care.
Ms Liddle is the Director of the Northern Territory Aboriginal Justice Unit. She is NT’s 2022 Australian of the Year, a Distinguished Flinders Alumni Awardee for her fearless leadership and commitment to justice for over 30 years, including in UN and in senior government roles.
The Chalmers Oration is an annual event that commemorates the work of John Chalmers AC who was the first Professor of Medicine (1975-1996) at the Flinders Medical Centre and the College of Medicine and Public Health.
To view the recording of the Oration, click here.