Andrew Forrest: Aboriginal community controlled health sector is the single largest employer of Aboriginal people

PrintAndrew Forrest: Aboriginal community controlled health sector  is the single largest employer of Aboriginal people

The Forrest Review has missed an opportunity in not recommending the expansion of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health sector as a pathway for employment, training and economic development for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, said the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) today.

Responding the Forrest Review, NACCHO Chairperson, Justin Mohamed, said Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services were leading, evidenced based examples for all governments to decrease unemployment, as the largest single employers of Aboriginal people, providing meaningful and sustainable training and career pathways.

Mr Mohamed did welcome recommendations to invest in and build the capacity of Aboriginal organisations to deliver their own services and to reduce the red tape that detracts from front-line service delivery.

However, he said he was concerned about the harsh measures around welfare detailed in the Report, questioning how this would improve Closing the Gap and the social determinants of health, and from a personal level improving Aboriginal self esteem or self-reliance.

“Aboriginal health services, operated by Aboriginal people, tick all the boxes for achieving better outcomes for Aboriginal people – health, training and employment,” Mr Mohamed said.

“They employ more than 3,500 Aboriginal people as doctors, specialists, nurses and administrators and, given the increasing demand for their services, have the potential to employ and train many more. In many cases they are the largest employers of Aboriginal people in the communities they service, and provide economic benefit to local and regional businesses.

“Better resourcing and an expansion of our sector would solve some of the issues relating to Aboriginal unemployment while improving the health of more of our people.

“It is disappointing the Forrest Review did not contain more about community driven models of employment such as those demonstrated by our Services.”

Mr Mohamed welcomed the Forrest Report’s focus on early childhood health and development and said Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services were ideally placed to take this on.

“The Forrest reports notes the failure of mainstream services to address Aboriginal disadvantage.

“The fact is, most Aboriginal people prefer to go to a service that understands them and their culture. We are seeing evidence of this where families are driving large distances to visit our health services, bypassing many mainstream services on the way.

“Aboriginal parents will be more open to early intervention in their children’s health if the early intervention is being done by others within their own community.”

Mr Mohamed called on the government to support the Forrest Review’s recommendation for better accountability of government.

“The abolition of the COAG Reform Council means we don’t have that critical independent oversight of how we are tracking against the Closing the Gap targets. The development of the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan provides an opportunity to address this.”

Media contact: Olivia Greentree 0439 411 774