“ The $183.7 million 4 years funding commitment builds on a previous three-year program and forms part of the government’s efforts to progress the Closing the Gap strategy, which is set for a “refresh” after years of disappointing results across education, employment and health
The sickening fact is that, despite considerable progress in recent years, smoking is still responsible for around one in five preventable deaths in Aboriginal people,
It also remains the leading cause of preventable disease, accounting for more than 12 per cent of the overall burden of illness in our Indigenous communities.
The revamped TIS program will:
- Continue the successful Regional Tobacco Control grants scheme including school and community education, smoke-free homes and workplaces and quit groups
- Expand programs targeting pregnant women and remote area smokers
- Enhance the Indigenous quitline service
- Support local Indigenous leaders and cultural programs to reduce smoking
- Continue evaluation to monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of individual programs, including increased regional data collection “
Ahead of the release of the latest Closing the Gap progress report, Aged Care and Indigenous Health Minister Ken Wyatt said a four-year “Tackling Indigenous Smoking” program will direct money to successful local initiatives to continue to drive down smoking rates.
The Turnbull government has announced more than $180 million for programs to reduce the drastic rates of smoking among Indigenous Australians, with tobacco still a leading cause of death and illness in communities across the country.
The government’s Closing the Gap progress report will be published today, the week after a 10-year review by the Close the Gap campaign criticised the government for “effectively abandoning” the strategy with $530 million in funding cuts put in place under former prime minister Tony Abbott.
Lena-Jean Charles-Loffel, who leads a Victorian Aboriginal Health Service anti-smoking initiative, said the organisation relied on federal funding to deliver its programs.
As part of her work, every Friday at Yappera Children’s Services in Thornbury, Ms Charles Loffell leads sessions that include reading, games and an Aboriginal super hero called Deadly Dan to educate kids on the dangers of smoking.
“It’s important to target the younger generation because they are going to be our best smoke-free ambassadors not just because of the choices they can make when they are older but because they are having an influence on the people around them,” Ms Charles-Loffel said.
She said a recent focus group conducted by her organisation had found families in the local community had gone completely smoke-free because of the influence of their children spreading the word.
Mr Wyatt said the four-year timeframe of the funding allowed organisations to have stability and long-term planning and emphasised that, underneath the mixed national results on Closing the Gap targets, there were successful efforts.
“The challenge when you aggregate to national data is that that is lost. And I would hope that we turn our minds not to the gap but to the effective programs and improved outcomes and build on that,” he said.
Overall, the government’s anti-smoking funding seeks to support education programs, smoking during pregnancy, the especially high rates of smoking in remote areas, the Indigenous quitline service, and local Indigenous cultural programs.
The most recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows Indigenous smoking rates have dropped an average 2.1 per cent annually since 2008, with particular reductions among young people. Smoking-related heart disease has fallen while lung cancer continues to rise.
This week, the Close the Gap campaign’s scathing review said the Closing the Gap strategy had only been “partially and incoherently” adopted since being established in 2008 and called for national leadership.