Indigenous groups front and centre of million dollar health promise
18 April 2019 at 5:16 pm
Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations are at the heart of delivering a $115 million election pledge from Labor to reduce youth suicides and preventable diseases, in a move welcomed by Indigenous groups.
Federal opposition leader Bill Shorten announced the spending promise on Thursday in Bathurst Island, off the coast of the Northern Territory.
“A Labor government, if elected, will invest $115 million to improve the health outcomes of our First Australians,” Shorten told reporters.
“We should be a country that ensures our First Australians have the same outcomes as other Australians, we want to close the gap.”
Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations will play a primary role in delivering culturally appropriate and regionally specific primary healthcare services.
Donnella Mills, National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (NACCHO) acting chair, said the decision to give community controlled organisations a front seat in the decision-making process was a welcome change in the Closing the Gap conversation.
“For Labor to acknowledge that in order to be able to close any gaps you have to have a genuine partnership with Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations is incredibly welcome,” Mills told Pro Bono News.
The announcement includes almost $30 million for youth mental health and suicide prevention, following a spate of deaths in remote communities.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children make up a quarter of all suicide statistics, despite representing less than five per cent of young people in Australia.
A further $33 million will go towards addressing rheumatic heart disease, $20 million for sexual health promotion activities, $13 million to close the gap on vision loss, $16.5 million for promoting positive lifestyle choices in communities, and $3 million for Health Justice Partnerships in vulnerable communities.
Mills said the level of funding acknowledged the unequal burden Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities faced when it came to health outcomes.
“Our communities face a life expectancy gap of 10 years less than non-Indigenous Australians – and this gap is only widening. And the death rate of Aboriginal and Torres StraitIslander children is more than double the rate of non-Indigenous children,” she said.
Alison Verhoeven, CEO of the Australian Healthcare and Hospitals Association, said while the Morrison government’s formal partnership with Indigenous groups on Closing the Gap discussions was welcome, including leadership and governance roles for Aboriginal people was a “step-up”.
“While additional funding commitments are welcome, importantly with this announcement the focus is on putting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the centre of decision-making about their health,” Verhoeven said.
“This recognition that community voice and control matters in addressing the gross health inequities experienced by Indigenous people is significant and welcome.”
Mills said NACCHO would continue to invite all parties to put Indigenous health, and the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector at the heart of the election.
“Good health should be for all of us, everybody should be able to access it and it shouldn’t be determined based on where you live, where you grew up, or your race,” she said.