The reason the Northern territory was on track to meet some of its Close the Gap health targets was because programs were being controlled by Aboriginal Controlled Community Health organisations, the Chair of the national organisation, Justin Mohamed said.
Published National Indigenous Times
The latest progress report on Closing the Gap on Indigenous disadvantage revealed very mixed results across the country with the Northern Territory the only jurisdiction on track to meet its 2031 target to Close the Gap on Indigenous death rates although the Northern Territory remains the worst jurisdiction for infant mortality.
The Northern Territory’s Indigenous death rate fell by an average of 47 people per year from 1998 to 2011, it recorded a child death rate for the last five years at 312 per 100,000 compared to 94 non-Indigenous children.
Across the rest of the country the picture was pretty much reversed with lower infant mortality but higher adult rates.
Mr Mohamed, the Chair of the National Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) credits the better general result in the Northern Territory to Aboriginal Community controlled Health Organisations (ACCHO) and their peak body AMSANT.
Mr Mohamed said the ACCHOs in the Northern Territory decided early on if the Northern Territory Intervention was going ahead they needed to control the health spend to best advantage Aboriginal people.
“There is two reasons I have been stating quite regularly, one has to be the great work the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations are doing in the Northern Territory and I know when the Intervention was rolled out in the Northern Territory the Aboriginal Community controlled Health Organisations through AMSANT, their peak body, they really stepped up to take health as a priority and take the initiative and say, “ if there is going to be an Intervention rolled out, we want to be the driver of the health part of that and they had real success at getting that across probably better than any other part of Aboriginal affairs, “Mr Mohamed said.
Mr Mohamed said the national attention the Intervention attracted meant everybody was accountable for their actions and their spend and for once that meant the bureaucrats, not just the ACCHO’s.
“The focus and the resources and the attention that was focused on the Northern Territory and still has focused on the Northern Territory, especially the remote communities, draws people to be accountable right across the board in the sense of the departments and the questions that are being asked”, he said.
Mr Mohamed believes the Gap would begin to Close and results in the rest of the country would improve if the same resources were deployed through Aboriginal community controlled organisations with the same level of scrutiny on all parties across all States and Territories.
“If the same sort of urgency as far as resources being allocated and also the attention to detail, attention to make sure the people who working in Aboriginal affairs from the bureaucracy, that they have be accountable, if that sort of accountability along the additional resources flowed right across Australia, we might be seeing similar results in the other States and Territories, “ he said.
Mr Mohamed said the latest progress report showed again Closing the Gap was “a work in progress”, and the struggle for equality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous was still a long road to be travelled.
“We can make some improvements when the resources are going into the right areas but we also know if they don’t, things won’t change. If things aren’t changing we need to look at why, “ he said.
Justin Mohamed is a man of big ideas and big expectations. Sadly, his expectations are sometimes not achieved even though they are quite reasonable.
Ha said people should remember some of the COAG targets are really only about halving the gap when he and his organisation wants to Close the Gap totally.
“We know we are well behind the game when it comes to the mortality rate for our infants and even when we see improvements in other areas, we’re still behind, “ he said.
“Some of these targets are only about halving the gap, it’s not about Closing the Gap, so we have got to keep reminding ourselves that even the grains that we have, we are still behind.
“We have got to be mindful of the goals that have been agreed to and signed off on, that we don’t get too carried away when there are some gains.
“This is a progress report and we have to understand a lot of the figures are still well behind the rest of Australia, which obviously is not good enough”.