A RECORD turnout of people and organisations for Close the Gap day has given new hope to making ground on indigenous health and education in the south-west.
Hundreds of people, including schoolchildren, participated in the annual event held at the Civic Green in Warrnambool on Thursday, with health groups pushing the message that they were approachable.
South West Healthcare (SWH) manager of Aboriginal health Allan Miller said the region was better poised to tackle problems, particularly mental health, drugs and alcohol.
“This year we’ve had a record number of people come to participate ... it tells you that more and more people are buying into our message that Aboriginal health is everybody’s business,” Mr Miller said.
“It’s not just the mandate of Aboriginal organisations out there, more people are aware they have a role to play. It’s for everybody to come on board and help bridge the gap.”
Mr Miller said many in the community were wary about accessing health services, leaving problems until the last minute.
“There’s a lot of services there but how do we get Aboriginal people to go there and feel comfortable and seek information earlier on, rather than waiting for things to snowball and go straight to emergency because they might need a limb amputated.”
Mr Miller said mental health, drug and alcohol abuse and keeping kids engaged in school were the key issues in the south-west.
But progress has also been made in other areas.
SWH Close the Gap family support worker Adeline McDonald said more people were seeking help for diabetes.
“I know working at South West Healthcare myself we bring in a lot of Aboriginal support,” she said.