NACCHO Media Release: Aboriginal health must remain the priority to close the gap

The peak Aboriginal health organisation today said Aboriginal health, commitment to programs that work, Aboriginal control and long-term funding were all necessary to close the ongoing gap between Aboriginal and other Australians.

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Chairperson Matthew Cooke said closing the gap was achievable.

“Closing the gap is about generational change and there are no quick fixes,” Mr Cooke said.

“Real gains, although small, are already being made in life expectancy and other key areas like maternal and child health.

“We need to see continued, long-term commitments from all levels of government in the programs that work. In health, it’s Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services that are making the biggest inroads against the targets to close the gap.

“They are also contributing to other targets, such as in employment, as the largest employers of Aboriginal people.”

Mr Cooke said the Federal government’s focus on getting kids into school, adults into work and community safety, is welcomed, but cannot be achieved without a similar prioritisation of health issues.

“Put simply, sick kids can’t go to school, sick workers can’t work.

“Yet our health services continue to live with great uncertainty. The last funding allocation was for only twelve months and expires at the end of June this year. Without better funding certainty, we can’t provide certainty to our staff or to our patients.”

Mr Cooke said Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services are the primary health care sector that delivers the best results for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People but are the least funded.

“What we would like to see is a clever re-allocation of the Aboriginal health budget from mainstream services into community controlled health.

For example the government currently allocates Aboriginal health funding to Medicare Locals. We would like to see this redirected to our sector to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people continue to receive quality care during the transition to Primary Healthcare Networks.

“The Abbott Government supported establishment of the Closing the Gap targets while in opposition and must continue to honour these commitments in government if we are to meet the targets for overcoming Indigenous disadvantage by 2031.”

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