National News

Closing the gap means 'walking the talk'

Governments must "walk the talk" to end the entrenched disadvantage indigenous Australians face, says Ethiopia's former health minister and the front runner to be the next chief of the World Health Organisation.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is one of the three final candidates for the post of director-general of the WHO and was responsible for reforming the Ethiopian health system.

As a result of that reform, rates of HIV and tuberculosis infection have been declining in the developing country.

Dr Tedros says health is a rights issue, and closing the gap between indigenous Australians and non-indigenous Australians requires political will and plenty of funding.

Providing substantial incentives for experienced doctors and health professionals to work in indigenous and remote communities is one "concrete" measure that's required, Dr Tedros says.

An Oxfam Australia report released on Wednesday showed many fundamental rights of Aboriginal people have not progressed as a result of decades of failed government policy.

It showed one in five indigenous households fall in the country's poorest 10 per cent of households.

The report also condemned funding for indigenous services as inadequate, misdirected, uncertain and lacking transparency.

Just identifying the inequalities is a "very important" step to closing the gap but it must not stop there, Dr Tedros says.

"In many countries, that kind of inequitable distribution of services is a challenge for many, many countries but it (reform) starts from really accepting it, understanding it and then understanding the concrete issues related to that, and then addressing it.

"The political leadership should be willing to put forward the resources required because at the end of the day, if you are going to walk the talk, you have to put resources to address the inequality that is already identified," Dr Tedros told AAP while in Australia to share his vision for the WHO.

"I hope the government is doing this," he added.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in February announced an indigenous commissioner would be appointed to the Productivity Commission.

© AAP 2017

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