National Close the Gap Day: Our Health Our Voice Our Choice

18 March 2021

National Close the Gap Day is a time for all Australians to come together and commit to achieving health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by 2030.  Everyone deserves a right to a healthy future and the opportunities this affords.  But, Australia’s universal health system has been failing First Australians for far too long. 

Despite a commitment by every major political party to deliver health equality for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples over the years, the gap in life expectancy and other health outcomes has been widening. 

The Government have agreed to the calls from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations to enter into a formal partnership with First Nations leaders, where Closing the Gap is placed as a national policy priority.  All parties must deliver and be accountable for an Implementation Plan on Closing the Gap and report on the actions they are taking to achieve the targets.

Closing the Gap is underpinned by the belief that when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a voice in the design and delivery of policies, programs and services that affect them, better life choices and outcomes are achieved.  It also recognises that structural change in the way Governments work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is needed to Close the Gap.

Southern Cross University Indigenous Events Coordinating Committee (SCUIECC) invites you to hear from Elders and the community share their stories and experiences of working within the health and education sectors.  They will lend their voice on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander issues around cultural safety, education, social and cultural determinants of health, and what programs have worked in the community that can help ‘Close the Gap’.

Video: Close the Gap Our Health Our Voice Our Choice panel discussion


Rachel Lynwood (Facilitator)

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Rachel has taught in the discipline of Indigenous Knowledge for over 20 years, particularly in the areas of Indigenous health, social and emotional wellbeing, and trauma and resilience. Rachel also has a long trajectory of interdisciplinary teaching in the areas of cultural studies, law & justice, and midwifery in particular. Rachel is very committed to community engagement collaborations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, one of her many key disciplinary interests is in diverse philosophical and sociological discourse.

Aunty Dale Williams

Dale Williams is a current Board of Director for the Tweed Byron LALC. She has been an active member since its inception. Dale is also the Chairperson for the Bugalwena Volunteers group which was formed in the 90’s and played an important role in the creation of Bugalwena Health and the Bugalwena GP. Dale also does mentorship with people of all ages and has played an important role in supporting youth at risk over many years via the Tweed Byron Area Command Police youth projects. Dale has also provided support and mentorship for community and youth projects via the Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council. Dale is also a committee member of First Sun Employment and the Family Centre.

Aunty Sue Follent

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Sue Follent is a current volunteer and Board member of the Tweed Byron Ballina Community Transport. She is a member of the Tweed Valley hospital Aboriginal advisory committee. She is also a part of the Aboriginal advisory committee for The Family Centre in Tweed Heads. Sue is a former Manager of the Bugalwena Health Service and former Manager of the regional Aboriginal health service. Sue is a senior member of the Tweed Heads Aboriginal community who continues to provide support and guidance to community members through her role as a community driver.

Aunty Gwen Hickling

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Gwen Williams-Hickling is a descendant of many Aboriginal tribes of two Nations, Bundjalung and Dunghutti.  She grew up on the banks of the Richmond River and then moved to Box Ridge Aboriginal Mission where she started work at the age of 14. 

In 1964 she moved to Sydney where she did various jobs and studied at Tranby College and Metropolitan Business College.  Her first permanent job was working as a clerk in the office of the first Aboriginal organisation, Foundation for Aboriginal Affairs where Charles Perkins was her boss.

Gwen later moved to Tabulam where she worked as an Aboriginal Education Assistant (AEA) in the School, then gained a permanent position at Bonalbo Central School and transferred to Casino West Public School.  While working as an AEA she became President of the Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) and travelled to New Zealand with Linda Burney.  She was also an Aboriginal representative for the PSA Union.

After 20 years in the education sector, Gwen left and worked as an Aboriginal Health Care Worker at the Casino Hospital where she spent 11 years in the position.  During that time Gwen joined the Bundjalung Elders Council where she travelled to London and the Netherlands to bring back Bundjalung Aboriginal remains (1800) after Kevin Rudd said Sorry.  She is a current member of the Southern Cross University Elders Council and on the Board at the Casino Land Council and Namatjira Haven.

Uncle Ted Williams

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Ted Williams has dedicated much of his life to the education sector. He has taught in various capacities (primary, secondary, tertiary, TAFE and overseas Exchange posts) over his 45 year professional career.

He strives to combine his experiential skills, knowledge of Indigenous issues and his Yugambeh culture and heritage to advance our nation’s Reconciliation journey.

A proud Mununjali man, in his capacity as a member of the GC2018 Yugambeh Elders Advisory Group, Ted provided the Welcome to Country at the GC2018 Opening Ceremony alongside Elder Patricia O’Connor his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall and GC2018 officials.

Possessing tertiary qualifications in Arts, Teaching and Educational Studies, Ted regularly speaks at educational campuses and businesses across the public and private sector on Indigenous issues.

In March 2017, for the first time in history for First Nation Elders, Ted took part in the Queen’s Baton Relay commencement ceremony at Buckingham Palace alongside Her Majesty, The Queen delivering an invitation to all First Nations People of the Commonwealth to join in the celebrations of GC2018 on Yugambeh land.

In his spare time, you’ll find Ted spending time with his family, bushwalking, playing golf, travelling and reading. He has a passion for Cricket and Rugby League and is Vice President of the Queensland Cricket Scorers’ Association and a life-long supporter of Eastern Suburbs in Brisbane and St George in the NRL.

Tyson Morris

man standing, smiling in front of sign - image has text - Ready Mob

Tyson has been working with Galambila Aboriginal Health Service since 2013.  He started out working with the Ready Mob (Tackling Smoking Program) and gained his Aboriginal Health Worker qualification and practitioner registration whilst working there.  He is a qualified personal trainer and has run various fitness programs at Galambila over the years.  Currently he is the Program Development Manager at Galambila.

For more information on Closing the Gap visit:
The ANTaR website and how to be involved and take action
Closing the Gap in Partnership


Close the Gap 2021 presentation slides

Close the Gap 2021 panel discussion audio transcript

Other events:

Close the Gap Report Launch 2021 - hosted by The Australian Institute
Close the Gap report launch (video)

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image has text Our Health, Our Voice, Our Choice - Close The Gap

Date and time

From: 09:00 AM Thursday, March 18, 2021 To: 06:00 PM Thursday, March 18, 2021