Six-month funding extensions for programs under the Federal Government’s Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) announced this week by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet are welcome but long term certainty is needed for the success of front line Aboriginal health programs said the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).
NACCHO Chairperson Matthew Cooke said proven programs relating to mental health, drug and alcohol addiction, social and emotional wellbeing and child and maternal health now fall under the Federal Government’s new IAS.
“These critical programs, many of which are run by Aboriginal community controlled health services across Australia have a proven track record in improving the health of Aboriginal people,” Mr Cooke said.
“We are seeing baby birth weights increasing and better health of Aboriginal mums which can be attributed at least in part to the good work of our programs.
“Given the terrifyingly high suicide rates we are seeing amongst young Aboriginal people in our communities, the programs tackling mental health, drug and alcohol are more vital than ever.
“While the interim funding arrangements mean these programs can remain functioning into early 2015, their clients still don’t know if they will be able to access the services they rely on beyond the next six months.
“This ongoing uncertainty is also impacting on the ability of program managers to recruit and retain quality staff as the workforce continues to live with the uncertainty that they may be unemployed in the new year.
“Many have already left or are actively looking for more secure employment.
“Continuity of care to clients and community is essential to close the gap and improving the client journey.
“Moving 150 programs into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet is a huge task and more resources are clearly needed to ensure funding applications are considered and continuity provided for these programs that are making a difference.
“We won’t close the gap overnight.
“Generational change will take a sustained effort, requiring ongoing, coordinated commitment to the programs that are working and delivering outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians.”