STOP THE STEREOTYPES: Butchulla elder Glen Miller says ending racist stereotypes will bring us a step closer to closing the gap.
STOP THE STEREOTYPES: Butchulla elder Glen Miller says ending racist stereotypes will bring us a step closer to closing the gap. Nancy Bates

CLOSE THE GAP: Stopping racist stereotypes the first step

RACIST stereotypes need to change if Australia wants to bridge the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people.

That is according to Butchulla elder Glen Miller.

Speaking yesterday on Close the Gap Day, Mr Miller said there were too many examples of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people being treated poorly because of judgements based on the colour of their skin.

He recounted one story involving an indigenous elder who suffered from insulin-dependent diabetes.

Police assumed the man was drunk when he became ill and took him into custody.

Mr Miller said if the man's grandson hadn't demanded his release, he would have died.

The difference in life expectancy between indigenous and non-indigenous people is still shockingly high.

In Queensland the life expectancy gap is currently estimated at 10.8 years for males and 8.6 years for females.

Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mental disorders, chronic respiratory disease, intentional injuries and cancer were six of the leading drivers of the health gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people.

Mr Miller said it would be a major milestone for society to cast off racist stereotypes once and for all.

"It's a nice goal to relegate that to the past, but I don't see it happening in my lifetime," he said.

He said Close the Gap Day shed light on the issues the indigenous community faced.

"It can't do any harm. But it's not the panacea for everything," he said.

Mr Miller said Galangoor Duwalami Primary Healthcare Service was making a significant difference when it came to providing healthcare to the indigenous community.

He also praised Raelene Baker, manager of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health at Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service.

Two years ago, WBHHS confirmed its commitment to reconciliation with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as part of National Reconciliation Week.

Speaking at the time, Ms Baker said the Statement of Commitment created by the health service recognised past injustices and rejected racism.

"The statement is more than just words - it underlines values WBHHS staff want to put into practice each day and commits to a number of goals for our service," she said.

 Mr Miller said as well as health, the gap had to be closed in all parts of society, including education and employment.

"We're sick of being bystanders," he said.

"We've been bystanders for more than 200 years."