Investing in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services will help address the increasing gap in employment outcomes between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people as revealed in the new report released by the COAG Reform Council.
Justin Mohamed, Chairperson of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) said the COAG Reform Council report showed encouraging gains are being made in areas such as life expectancy, child mortality and immunisation, but unemployment and obesity rates needed greater attention.
“This is yet another report to add to the many before it which demonstrate that massive inequalities still exist between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people,” Mr Mohamed said.
“The take home message is that we can’t shift focus or we risk reversing the gains we have made. There is still a long way to go before Aboriginal people can expect the same levels of health, employment and education as other Australians.
“It’s pleasing to see Aboriginal child mortality rates are decreasing but Aboriginal kids are still twice as likely to die before they are five than non-Aboriginal children. As adults we still have a life expectancy more than ten years less than non-Aboriginal people.
“That’s why we need to keep up the investment in programs and services that are making a difference.
“Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services are making huge contributions towards closing the gap across a range of indicators and demand for our services is growing.
“In addition to these significant health gains, our 150 health services employ more than 3,200 Aboriginal people – one of the largest employers of Aboriginal people in the country.
“Governments at all levels need to look to supporting and expanding the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector if they are committed to improving the health and employment outcomes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”
Mr Mohamed said NACCHO has concerns that we still do not have any concrete commitment of the future of the Close the Gap “National Partnership Agreement” or an alternative structure. This concern is further heightened by the fact that the COAG Reform Council will be abolished come 30 June.
“We are extremely concerned that the millions of dollars being cut from across Aboriginal affairs at the Federal level, plus the introduction of new arrangements in accessing primary health care and changes to unemployment benefits, could potentially push the closing the gap targets even further from reach.
“Yet at the state and territory level we also see apparent indifference to the challenges at hand.
“It’s now been more than twelve months since the National Partnership Agreement has lapsed and we still don’t have any clear advice how states, territories and the commonwealth plan to coordinate addressing the closing the gap targets. The Nation needs a long term agreement that has full support and buy in from all levels of Government.
“NACCHO also questions what replacement reporting mechanisms will be put in place to continue this specific, detailed state and territory reporting given the abolishment of the COAG Reform Council next month. These reports provide a level of accountability to the actions of the different levels of government which needs to be retained. ”
Media contact: Olivia Greentree 0439 411 774