A new report ranks Australia at the bottom of a league table of wealthy nations working to improve the health of their indigenous peoples.

The report, entitled The Gap Must Be Closed: Solutions to the Indigenous Health Crisis facing Australia, commissioned by Oxfam and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), found that New Zealand, Canada and the USA had narrowed the life expectancy gap between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people to approximately seven years. In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders die nearly 20 years earlier than most other Australians.

Today’s headlines echo Oxfam’s press release. “At what point do we stand up and start shouting?” said Oxfam executive director Andrew Hewett. “It’s scandalous that in a country as wealthy as Australia we cannot solve a health crisis affecting less than three-per cent of the population.”

But The Oz has led with a different kind of study:

Life expectancy of Aborigines in the Northern Territory has risen by eight years for men and 14 years for women over the past four decades, signalling a dramatic improvement in the nation’s biggest health crisis.

The Howard Government has seized on a study, to be released later this week, that argues indigenous life expectancy has improved significantly, particularly for women in the Northern Territory, who are closing the gap between themselves and other Australian women.  

It is understood the study shows that Aboriginal women in the Territory can expect to live 14 years longer than they did in the late 1960s.

This compares with an improvement of just nine years for Australian women generally over the same period.

Health Minister Tony Abbott said the study by the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin showed that progress was being made…

…It is understood the study is the first to track indigenous life expectancy trends over such a long time and will challenge the widespread pessimism that surrounds the study of black health and mortality.  

The report is capped off by a front page photo of “one indigenous woman defying the statistics” – 87-year-old Bessie Savo: 

“Having reached 87, ” says The Oz, “Ms Savo has even surpassed the life expectancy projected for her great-great-granddaughter, one-year-old Patrina Sands.”