There is a way forward if government would only listen to NACCHO
Two reports released last week, one relating to health delivery services and the other on Justice reinvestment program to cut the appalling rate of imprisonment of Indigenous Australians are perfect examples of how government at all levels can deliver meaningful outcomes in addressing the disparity facing our First Nations people.
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First health ,The National Indigenous Times has long supported the National Community Controlled Health Organisation or NACCHO as it is more commonly known.
The reason we have long acknowledged the incredible work this organisation performs and the strong fearless leadership with Chair, Justin Mohamed at the front is because what NACCHO has been calling for to improve the standard of health delivery services to Indigenous Australians makes absolute sense.
Even more so because what Mr Mohamed and NACCHO have demonstrated is a way to deliver health service without the terrible waste in funds and therefore outcomes we have all witnessed in the methods used currently.
NACCHO’s approach can be simplified to this : Let Aboriginal Health delivery services control and manage the service to Aboriginal communities and we will all see improvements in outcomes.
Billions have been spent by all levels of government claiming it has evidence of their genuine attempts to address the health issues communities have faced for generations. Despite the enormous sums of money spent there has been little improvement in outcomes.
The myriad of programs launched have largely been driven by governments handing out money to public service bureaucrats to administer the disbursement of funds. There has generally been little interaction with the communities affected and worse still, no acknowledgment or meaningful attempts to provide what the Indigenous communities themselves say is required.
Like so many of the processes government adopts when it comes to Indigenous affairs the outcome ends up with the communities watching on as these government initiatives fail.
Some believe the approach by government is just” the government way” of doing things. Others believe it is a deliberate policy position of government designed to ensure communities are not empowered to achieve the desired outcome. The National Indigenous Times leans toward the latter rather than the former.
But NACCHO has resisted this policy approach and has continued to fight for an approach which empowers community based Indigenous health organisations to take responsibility for delivery of the program.
As Mr Mohamed said last week this is all about delivery of health services “by Aboriginal People for the Aboriginal people”. He is absolutely on the money. We couldn’t agree more with him. We believe the more empowerment given to the reputable and responsible Aboriginal organisations, the more we will see improvements in the Closing the Gap targets.
NACCHO’s position has been further strengthened now with the release of a report by the Institute of Health and Welfare which has found significant improvement in the quality and outcomes of health delivery services when those services are delivered by Aboriginal community based organisations.
This is the salient lesson for all governments if government genuinely wants to see improvements for Indigenous Australians then the best way, the most effective way, the “biggest bang for the buck” way is to empower Indigenous organisations to take responsibility and let them make it happen.
What NACCHO has demonstrated can be achieved also tells us if it can work for NACCHO it can work across the entire spectrum of health services and also for education, housing, employment, and the list goes on.
What NACCHO has said is the way forward and which has been endorsed by this Institute of Health and Welfare report now emerge as the true test of Federal State and Territory governments. NACCHO has shown us all a way forward and how it can work. All it requires is a commitment from government to change its approach on how funding is controlled and delivered across all Indigenous programs.
The report by the Senate committee inquiring into the benefits of Justice Reinvestment is another example. This committee has found the system of jailing Indigenous Australians at an ever increasing rate simply does not work.
All governments are spending billions locking up Indigenous Australians only to find they are more than likely to re-offend after they have been released. It should not take a Rhodes scholar to work out his was always a recipe for the outcomes we are now seeing. Indigenous Australians are more likely to be jailed than any other race of people anywhere in the world. And as the rate keeps increasing so does the rate of re-offending. It is a vicious cycle with no end.
What the Senate committee has found is it would be far more effective to invest in the communities and end the poverty. If that was done then the number of people ending up in jail would decrease.
Justice Re-investment has been shown to work in various countries around the world including of all places in the United States. If it can work there you would have to think it could work anywhere, including Australia.
But Justice Re-investment is what the name implies. It requires a re-investment by government into the communities, a willingness to empower the communities, a desire to provide meaningful outcomes on core issues such as housing, employment and education. If government committed to this there would be genuine and meaningful savings in the cost currently borne to lock these people up.
The reason is simple. If people are provided meaningful employment. If they can see they can own their own home and their children provided with a decent education then less will have any desire to commit a crime.
As it stands today many communities are being left to rot and die because of government inaction. If there are no jobs, no houses, no education, what is there ?. Well one alternative is crime and little wonder under those circumstances.
Both these initiatives, NACCHO’s demand for empowerment in the delivery of health services and re-direction of focus toward building and supporting communities so people are not left drifting aimlessly through life and crime are real outcomes. They are meaningful and they can make a difference to what faces so many Indigenous Australians today.
All it requires is government to commit to this change in approach. It seems crazy to even have to contemplate why government wouldn’t change. If delivery of health services can be more effective, therefore saving on the money wasted to date and if we can cut the number of people being jailed, again saving a great deal of money why wouldn’t you ?.
- NACCHO political alert:Call for government cooperation as NACCHO outlines ten point plan for enhancing Closing the Gap efforts (nacchocommunique.com)
- NACCHO launches new 2013-2030 Healthy Futures 10 point and AIHW report card (nacchocommunique.com)
- NACCHO political alert: One size does not fit all with Aboriginal policy (nacchocommunique.com)
- NACCHO press release:West Australia confirms funding to Close the Gap (nacchocommunique.com)
- NACCHO political alert:Minister funding risk warning, only 6 days to Close the Gap (nacchocommunique.com)