TODAY is National Close the Gap Day. Last year, more than 150,000 people took part in 1596 separate National Close the Gap Day events across the country and more are expected to take part this year. Most Australians enjoy one of the highest life expectancies of any country in the world — but this is not true for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can expect to live 10–17 years less than other Australians. Babies born to Aboriginal mothers die at more than twice the rate of other Australian babies, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience higher rates of preventable illness such as heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes. The Close the Gap Coalition — a grouping of Indigenous and non-Indigenous health and

community organisations — together with nearly 200,000 Australians is calling on governments to take real, measurable action to achieve Indigenous health equality by 2030. National Close the Gap Day has become an annual event since 2009. Australians across every state and territory participate in this event. Health services, schools, businesses, hospitals, government departments, ambulance services, non-government organisations others hold events to raise awareness and show support for the Campaign and its goals. Reflecting the importance of the Campaign to nation, it has become the largest and highest profile Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health event in the country. With events ranging from workplace morning teas, to sports days, school events and public events in hospitals and offices around the country — anyone can take part and make a difference. BCH are hosting a morning tea at Lucas at 10am to show support for Closing the Gap.

Another celebration taking place in Ballarat is Harmony Fest celebrating Cultural Diversity Week 17 to 26 March – 10 days of fun, flavour, music and special events. Supporting partner, Ballarat Community Health, is partnering with Neighbourhood House on a Multicultural Dance Workshop event on Thursday 23 March from 1-3pm at Ballarat Neighbourhood Centre Sebastopol.

Harmony Day is on 21 March and was first celebrated in Australia in 1999. It is a time when Australians can come together to reflect on, and celebrate, the many cultures that make up our country and show an appreciation of Australia’s diversity.