NACCHO political alert: NACCHO calls on both parties for greater control of Aboriginal health

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Transcript from World News Australia Radio

Aboriginal community-controlled health organisations have entered the election fray, releasing a major plan they want political parties to commit to.

At a national summit in Adelaide, the organisations challenged both sides of politics to promise to give Aboriginal communities greater control over health programs.

Karen Ashford reports.

Trust us – that’s the message from the leaders of some 150 Aboriginal controlled health agencies, who contend a community-driven approach to Indigenous health can deliver results the mainstream can’t.

Ngiare Brown (pictured above) is research manager for the National Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Organisation, or NACCHO.

She says governments have to be prepared to try something different if Australia’s to make any headway on addressing indigenous health disadvantage.

“I think it was Albert Einstein wasn’t it that said insanity isn’t that when you do the same things over and over and expect a different result?”

NACCHO thinks it would be smarter for Australia to embrace its 40 years of community health provision that it says delivers results – and they’ve produced a ten point plan to take it further.

The plan focuses Indigenous leadership, to drive health reforms and find innovative ways of closing the gaps on Indigenous health between now and 2030.

Ngiare Brown says it’s a much-needed departure from the traditional mainstream model.

“There is an ever changing line up of politicians and bureaucracies and in systems, so we’re having the same sorts of conversations over and over again. So if we’re able to demonstrate and articulate those principals and provide the kind of evidence and structural approach to that change, it should be independent of any change of government, any change in politics, any reform of the system that’s outside of that, because we in fact are one of the most consistent leadership processes and a demonstration of community control that this country has. In fact whilst there’s the revolving door of politics, Aboriginal community control is one of our strongest and most consistent national vehicles for positive change. ”

The NACCHO plan, presented to more than 300 delegates at its inaugural Primary Health Care Summit in Adelaide comes hot on the tail of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report card which has given Aboriginal-controlled health organisations a big tick.

The report credited those organisations with making significant improvements in areas like diabetes management, increase child birth weights and better maternal health.

NACCHO chairman Justin Mohamed says the only thing missing is political attention, with indigenous health hardly mentioned so far in the federal election campaign.

“I think to be honest both parties at different times do talk about Aboriginal community control, do talk about Aboriginal health, but I think what we’re seeing in the election process at the moment is that I would like to see more of the parties to let us know what their platform is or what their thoughts are around Aboriginal health, not just health in general.”

Mr Mohamed argues that Aboriginal community-controlled health bodies have proven their expertise and efficiency, and whoever wins government on September 7 must show greater faith in the sector.

“I think that this is a time that things are changing. Our stakeholders and other groups that are working in health are actually saying to government that Aboriginal community controlled health works, you need to give them the keys to the vehicle and let them drive it, and results will show with that. And we’ve seen the results in recent reports that Aboriginal community control delivers results in health.”

A big slice of the conference was devoted to governance.

“You certainly need to be aware of potential risks to your operations” (fade under)

Much of the program was devoted to discussing how community health bodies could make sure they’re accountable.

Ngiare Brown says the sector is tired of paternalism and keen to prove they can be trusted with the purse strings.

“I think we’ve become far more sophisticated. So in the past it has been very much the attitude for example of politicians and departments that they’re doing us a favour by providing us with funds and resources, but we’ll still maintain that control – we are actually able to demonstrate that we’re focused on governance, we’re focused on our internal capacity to be able to lead, to understand business models, to be able to be responsible for funding and other resources, and we demonstrate that at more than 150 services across the country as well as at a national level. ”

Meanwhile, Justin Mohamed won’t say whether he believes Labor or the Coalition is leading in promises on Indigenous health, instead committing to work with whoever wins.

“We need to see results. We aren’t worried about being a political football and thrown around and showcased, or rolled out when it suits – we want to see results, and we just can’t afford to take sides, it’s about we want results and we need to have whoever is in power to give us those results and work with us.”

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