High school students want the gap closed

COLOUR and movement, laughter and excited chatter – it was a sign the Close the Gap event at Nowra High School last Friday was a success. 

It might have looked like chaos but organiser English teacher Carly Zandstra was happy with the way her National Close the Gap Day was embraced by hundreds of students and teachers.

She was also pleased with having a film crew from Oxfam covering the event for the organisation’s website.

National Close the Gap Day draws people together in events to remind politicians of their commitment to close the gap on health inequality between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

About 150,000 people across Australia gathered for events around the nation in schools, workplaces, homes and community venues.

Oxfam Australia’s indigenous rights policy adviser Andrew Meehan said registered events had hit a record 1283.

“This showed an undeniable groundswell of support from everyday Australians expecting governments to keep their promise to invest in indigenous health,” he said.

“The diverse range of events ranged from a school in Nowra creating a mural wall and running a photo booth for students to record their hopes for closing the gap, to the NSW Ambulance Service running events at all of its sites throughout the state.”

Ms Zandstra said her goal for the day was to have non-indigenous students realise that Aboriginal health was an issue for all Australians. 

“And to realise that they have a voice,” she said.

“But I also want the indigenous kids to see that everyone cares.

“I was pretty excited when Oxfam responded to my emails about our event and then said they wanted to film here,” she said.

Year 12 Aboriginal Studies student Sarah Blank decided to work with students on the day to create a mural of hand prints.

She hoped to enter the mural as part of her class assessment.

“I wanted to create a mural of a tree and the sky using the hand prints.

“It’s great having the Koori kids and the non-indigenous kids all painting their hands and putting prints on the mural.

“I hope there are so many hand prints that it becomes abstract and takes a while for people to work out what it is.

“The idea behind the hand prints is that they represent identity,” she said.

The Close the Gap campaign is Australia’s biggest public movement for health equality.  It is a coalition of Australia’s leading Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-indigenous health and human rights organisations. 

For more information visit www.oxfam.org.au/closethegap.

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