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14 Mar 2019

BY AMA PRESIDENT DR TONY BARTONE, CHAIR OF AMA INDIGENOUS TASKFORCE

The AMA is very disappointed that just two of the seven Closing the Gap goals are on track. This is one fewer than last year and is simply not good enough.

The 11th annual Closing the Gap statement highlights the urgent need to adopt the recommendations of the Close the Gap (CTG) Campaign to address the unacceptable gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians.

Progress against Closing the Gap is not what we all hoped for. While more Indigenous children are entering early education, improvements to life expectancy, infant mortality, and employment rates are not closing.

After more than a decade, the lack of resourcing and investment in the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples continues to see unacceptable gaps across a range of outcomes.

The lack of sufficient funding to vital Indigenous services and programs is a key reason for this.

We support the comments made by Ms Pat Turner, CEO of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) who said: “While our people still live very much in third-world conditions in a lot of areas still in Australia ... we have to hold everybody to account.”

Closing the Gap targets are vital if we are to see demonstrable improvements in the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The call for a justice target and a target around the removal of Aboriginal children should be considered.

We welcome the decision of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to agree to a formal partnership with us on Closing the Gap. This is a historic milestone in the relationship between Governments and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The AMA knows that outcomes are better when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a say over their lives and matters that affect them.

We support the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies that has formed to be signatories to the partnership agreement with COAG, and for them to share as equal partners in the design, implementation and monitoring of closing the gap programs and policies.

The life expectancy gap is widening, in part because of inequitable expenditure on health, housing, and other issues. The proposed policy agenda will, if fully funded and implemented, provide a pathway forward for an incoming government to achieve tangible improvements in life expectancy and other key health indicators.

This includes support the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak bodies to progress a formal partnership with COAG on Closing the Gap; and ensuring more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are employed in the health workforce to ensure that primary health care and prevention measures are culturally safe, to avoid avoidable hospital admissions and premature deaths.

It also includes a $100 million minimum commitment towards a four-year Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services capacity-building program as seed funding to fill the highest priority service gaps, noting that the amount needed, once fully costed, will be significantly higher and is dependent upon the service gap mapping exercise in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan [Implementation Plan] being undertaken.

A commitment to a ‘Good Housing for Good Health’ strategy to improve home health and safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, including the ‘Housing for Health’ program to eradicate third world diseases, is also needed.

And systemic racism in the mainstream health system must be addressed by establishing an Aboriginal Health Authority to oversee service delivery, professional training and policy and accreditation processes that impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and health care.

 

 


Published: 14 Mar 2019