Extract from Prime Minister speech
AUSTRALIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION ANNUAL DINNER
PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
22 AUGUST 2011
File photo: Prime Minister with Matilda and Paul House
Together, we are making progress towards Closing the Gap.
The AMA Indigenous Health Report Cards have been influential in guiding health policies for Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples for more than a decade now.
They have had a significant influence in our efforts to Close the Gap.
Of all the targets in Indigenous advancement, Closing the Gap on life expectancy by 2031 remains the most challenging of all. Of course in this room we know and understand that.
Progress towards the other health, education and employment targets are providing strong foundations to help us lift life expectancy.
And the life expectancy target is the longest term of the six – it is a twenty-five-year target.
We particularly recognise that Closing the Gap in life expectancy in the Northern Territory is enormously difficult.
The challenge is a very large one, but it is a challenge Government does not face alone.
The AMA has been a champion for improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
Your recent AMA Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Audit Report is only your latest important contribution to policy and practice, and I thank you for it.
You’ve played a key role in the national debate and just as important, you’ve played a vital role on the ground, in the communities, with our Indigenous people.
And our public investment is designed to work with you.
Our Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory health initiative is a comprehensive health package to deliver better primary health care, dental and allied health services to more than 65,000 Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory.
Funding for alcohol and other drug workers in communities which help develop Alcohol Management plans is part of the approach.
Expanding primary health care services through Aboriginal Controlled Health Organisations, is also a feature of the approach, with around 250 full-time staff delivering medical, nursing and allied health services in around 80 primary health care clinics.
An integrated health program for hearing for Indigenous children, focussing on remote communities, boosting audiology outreach and improving service co-ordination.
Oral health services for Indigenous kids are there too with a new focus on prevention.
Support for around 450 health professional placements in remote areas each year through the Remote Area Health Corps is also working.
And support for Mobile Outreach Service Plus, for four new communities, providing mental health services in the Northern Territory over the next two years and we’re also proud to support three new Indigenous Health Research Centres.
It’s a lot of work in a lot of areas, but one where we know progress is being made.
It’s critical that we talk about this progress, and that when we come together in gatherings like this we reflect on it.
It’s critical that we speak out strongly on this progress to the Australian community, because the greatest threat to the progress of Indigenous Australians is the false notion that we can’t make a difference, that nothing ever works.
You’ve seen things that work; I’ve seen things that work, and we should share them.
We can make a difference, we know we can, and we are making a difference with more to do.
In Western Australia, South Australia and the Northern Territory the Indigenous mortality rate declined by 36 per cent from 1991 to 2010 – and there was a significant narrowing of the gap in mortality rates with non-Indigenous Australians.
Four years into a twenty-five-year project, health outcomes, employment outcomes, education outcomes are improving.
They need to, and they need to keep improving and to improve more quickly.
It’s a big challenge to Government, a big challenge to you, but I take great confidence from your resolve to keep at it and keep making a difference where it is needed most.
Closing the Gap is a generational project.
It’s a journey of countless short steps – not a journey where there are single days of brilliant victory.