NACCHO #IndigenousVotes : ACCHO members urge greater focus on Aboriginal health in the election campaign

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“It is a sad reality that neither political party have made any substantial new commitments to the new National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Implementation Plan,

“We know it is not all about money, but without dedicated new funds the plan cannot be fully implemented which is what went wrong with all previous plans.”

Congress Alice Springs  CEO, Donna Ah Chee

See update below 29 June

Where communities have a real voice in the development of solutions and decision making processes with clear accountability frameworks in place to ensure effective use of funds, accountability back to and within community for performance, outcomes will improve.

“Services are owned by community, sustainable, flexible, responsive to local need and provide real and meaningful opportunities for community members.

Early access to good primary health care, results in less spending on expensive hospital treatment, keeps people in community and out of hospital and improves health outcomes through early identification, intervention and prevention of chronic conditions.

Remote communities have enough barriers to access, so we are calling on government to maintain or improve upon the way healthcare is funded.

Cleveland Fagan CEO Apunipima

See full press release or page 10

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Congress Alice Springs urges greater focus on Aboriginal health in the election campaign

Update 29 June

Since this article was written by Congress on the election Labor has announced their Indigenous Affairs policy. This includes a commitment to re-instate the more than $500 million over 4 years that was removed from the Indigenous Affairs portfolio by the Coalition government, a commitment to re-fund the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples and commitments in specific program areas such as FASD. These are very significant policy and funding commitments, supporting Aboriginal self-determination consistent with the recent Redfern Statement. This has not been matched by the Coalition .

The Central Australian Aboriginal Congress (Congress) calls for a greater focus and commitment to Close the Gap in Aboriginal health disadvantage in the election campaign.

Continued from opening quote

“There is also a need to get the states and territories to commit to the plan through the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council (AHMAC) because if this does not occur, this plan will simply go the way of previous plans with no shared commitment from all levels of government. This is needed as much as new funding at the federal level.

“The Medicare freeze is really hurting Aboriginal community controlled health services as these funds are the major source of growth for new services and programs. Congress welcomes the commitment of the Labor party to remove the freeze and calls on the Coalition to match this commitment.

Both parties also need to reform Medicare to address the increasingly serious maldistribution of GPs in Australia and this needs to include a 20% loading on Medicare in areas of GP shortage as determined by the Medical Boards Areas of Need, classification.

Consideration also needs to be given to provider number restrictions to the national average of 1 GP per 700 people.,” Ms Ah Chee added.

“Neither party has committed to reversing the funding cuts to Australia’s public hospitals and this is especially a concern for Aboriginal people.

Here in Alice Springs, 80% of inpatients in the public hospital are Aboriginal people. There must be a commitment to reverse the $80 billion cut from the forward projections for our public hospitals before people die as a result,” she continued.

“In spite of this, both major parties seem equally committed to maintaining the multi-billion dollar private health insurance rebate with no evidence that this improves health outcomes.

These same funds could make a major difference in funding primary health care and public hospitals.

“At a time when the country is in danger of losing its AAA credit rating, it is really unfortunate that neither the ALP or Coalition have committed to two key public health taxes that will have a differential, positive impact on Aboriginal health.

This includes the volumetric tax on alcohol and the 20% tax on glucose hypothecated to subsidise access to fresh food. If Britain can introduce a glucose tax and Scotland a minimum unit price on alcohol, why can’t Australia?

“Another area of bipartisan disappointment is in Early Childhood. Australia is an outlier within the OECD for its failure to invest in Early Childhood.

We almost stand alone in only funding one year of pre-school rather than two and there is no plan to invest in the critical period from birth to age three with key evidence based programs that we know can lift children out of their disadvantage. GONSKI is essential and welcome but it is not enough without a major investment in the years prior to school.

“The OECD has told Australia that if it wants economic growth in the future it must invest in Early Childhood now.

This is a key focus area for Aboriginal health improvement.

There are also major opportunities to disinvest in programs that are not working for disadvantaged people and redirect these funds into programs that work but no-one really seems to want to tackle this space,” she lamented.

“Public Housing is another area that has been neglected in the campaign with a recent estimate suggesting that in the NT alone there is shortfall of some 2500 houses in Aboriginal communities and a rehashed commitment to fund only 160.

Housing has hardly rated a mention yet this is one of the key barriers to health improvement for many poorer people in Australia. So much more needs to be done and yet there are no substantial commitments in this critical area.”

“Congress’ detailed election policy platform provides more detail on the key things that are needed to improve Aboriginal health.

“When total government revenue as a proportion of GDP is so low in relative terms within the OECD it is not acceptable to say there is no money. It all comes down to priorities and political will and Congress hopes that Closing the Gap will be given a much higher priority for the remainder of the election campaign,” concluded Ms Ah Chee.

Download Congress’ Election Policy Platform here

2016_Election-Policy-Platform

Cape York Leaders call for action on priority areas ahead of federal election

At a recent meeting of Cape York leaders , Cleveland Fagan, CEO of Apunipima sought agreement on the three key issues to be put to federal leaders as priority areas for action for the next government.

As we enter the last four weeks of campaigning before the federal election in July, Apunipima had the opportunity to address members of CIMA (Cape York Indigenous Mayors Alliance) to discuss the priority health action areas for Cape York from the community’s perspective.

  • Health System Reform
  • Universal Access and Equity to Healthcare
  • Reciprocal Accountability Framework

System Reform: Cape Leaders are calling for reforms of the education, health and welfare system in order to return control back to communities. Evidence is clear that community driven and led services have a real impact on positive outcomes across all sectors, particularly in the area of health.

Mr Fagan said, “Where communities have a real voice in the development of solutions and decision making processes with clear accountability frameworks in place to ensure effective use of funds, accountability back to and within community for performance, outcomes will improve.

“Services are owned by community, sustainable, flexible, responsive to local need and provide real and meaningful opportunities for community members.”

Universal Access & Equity to Healthcare: Good health is considered the cornerstone of wellbeing, it is a foundation for learning, education and employment.

Early access to good primary health care, results in less spending on expensive hospital treatment, keeps people in community and out of hospital and improves health outcomes through early identification, intervention and prevention of chronic conditions.

Mr Fagan said, “Remote communities have enough barriers to access, so we are calling on government to maintain or improve upon the way healthcare is funded. Medicare will never sustain remote indigenous primary health care so better funding models need to be put in place. Private health insurance is not an option for the people of Cape York and our preference would be for free health care as it gives the greatest access to the disadvantaged which will then lead to greater wellbeing, attainment and opportunity for Cape York people.”

Recent policy decisions by all parts of government, although well meaning are inadvertently creating barriers to and inequity in access to services in remote communities.

Connectivity is a real issue. With more and more key services moving access points online, remote communities with little or no internet access are being prevented from accessing services or having the same access as their counterparts in large towns or cities. The My Health Record and access to NDIS are just two examples where internet access is essential to access the service they provide.

The disproportionately high incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders continues to remain a concern with little or no oversight at a national level and cuts to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander legal services compounding the problem.

Many remote communities are oversubscribed when it comes to services and service providers but a lack of community based planning, coordination and analysis of need, supported by adequate funding, infrastructure and cultural competence create rather than reduce barriers to access.

Chairman of CIMA and Mayor of Lockhart River, Cllr Wayne Butcher said, “To improve access and outcomes across all sectors we don’t need more services or government intervention. We need whole system reforms to deliver the right services that are properly funded.

“We want to work with providers that will work with us as a community to develop solutions that are flexible, adaptable and responsive to our needs. We need to be able to rely on joint accountability frameworks so providers are accountable back to community rather than just their funders for effective use of resources and performance.

“At the 2015 Indigenous Leaders Forum (Aboriginal Shire Council Mayors) in Toowoomba, the ALF members agreed to an Accord with the State Government and we will be progressing with work between CIMA and Apunipima in the future.

We now look to our federal government to do the same.”

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