NACCHO #ClosetheGap Aboriginal Health : Read Download Top 10 Press releases #Closethegapday


In this NACCHO Alert you can read /download Close the Gap Press Releases from

1.AMA 2.NACCHO 3.RACGP 4. FVLPS/#JustJustice 5. Healing Foundation

6.Pallative Care 7.Labor Party 8.Stroke Foundation

9.NSW Aboriginal Land Council .10. Australian Psychological Society (APS) is

Please note  :  Only a selection and in no particular order from hundreds released

” The Close the Gap Campaign 2017 Progress and Priorities Report, released today, shows that, despite their best efforts, all Australian governments are failing in their endeavours to meet their own targets in closing the gap – but we can turn this around,” Dr Gannon said.

The AMA believes that positive progress can be made if governments work directly with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and better understand the approaches that they know work in their own communities.”

AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, said today that genuine cooperation between all political parties and across all levels of government is needed if Australia is to achieve significant improvements in closing the gap in life expectancy and health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians

Photo above All AMA Presidents from all states and Territories met at Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service (AHS) for Close the Gap Day Event : Winnunga is an Aboriginal community controlled ACCHO primary health care service for Canberra and the ACT community

Read full article here


” Hard figures and targeted investment, not rhetoric, are key to solving indigenous disadvantage, Aboriginal health leader Pat Turner said as she called for at least 4000 homes to be built in remote Australia to help tackle the ­problem.”

As published in The Australian

Ms Turner, chief executive of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Care Organisation, said indigenous health problems would be ­addressed only through “far greater ­investment … in the physical environment including safe houses, communities and roads.

“I would estimate there are 4000 dwellings required in remote Australia alone.

“We have not had this investment,” she said. “We need to take account of the factors that contribute to good health: housing, education, employment and access to justice.

“And why hasn’t there been far greater innovation, why is the passing on of knowledge of language and culture not recognised as legitimate work? This sounds fuzzy, but it’s not. We know that around 30 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health problems are to do with social and cultural factors.

“The context of people’s lives is what matters most in determining health outcomes, and that is something that individuals are unlikely to be able to control. We ask that the federal government replace its rhetoric about economic empowerment with significant public policy initiatives that produce specific outcomes.”

Close the Gap Campaign

Download CTG Press Release : 17.03.16 MR for CTG Progress & Priorities report launch FINAL

Download PHAA Press Release :PHAA CTG 2017

Close the Gap Campaign report: Australia ‘going backwards’ in fight to end Indigenous disadvantage

Download the Press Release NACCHO CTG 2017

A peak Northern Territory  Aboriginal community controlled  health organisation which  was on track  to close  the life expectancy gap between First Nations peoples and other Australians  has challenged Governments to listen to what programs really work… and then give their people the capacity to deliver them.

Speaking to CAAMA  on  National Close the Gap Day  Donna Ah Chee CEO of the Alice Springs based Central Australian Aboriginal Congress , AMSANT Chair and NACCHO Board member  was scathing in her criticism of Government and  its inability to actually listen to what her people have been saying for decades.

Listen here :

Download the report HERE CTG Report 2017


The RACGP recognises the importance of supporting our members to be great doctors for all Australians, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

 We are committed to developing culturally safe GPs and practice staff so that they are able to work effectively in the cross-cultural context and in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and communities. ”

RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said the organisation was an active member of the Close the Gap Steering Committee, proudly committed to ending the health gap by 2030.

Download the Press release RACGP CTG 2017

4.FVPLS / #JustJustice

” We know being incarcerated affects someone’s health and yet it is not one of the Closing the Gap targets. It’s Close the Gap Day and the Close the Gap Campaign Steering Committee’s Progress and Priorities report 2017 has been released.

The 2017 report calls for a social and cultural approach and covers many issues, including justice. This is the fourt report from the Steering Committee to call for Justice Targets.

Since 2004, there has been a 95 per cent increase in the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in custody. Over the same time, we have seen the crime rates decrease across the country.

Urgent action is required to reduce incarceration if we are ever to see life expectancy parity between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians.

Despite the urgency of the need, and the calls by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations for an urgent response to this need, there has been no indication that governments are responding with the level of urgency required.”

Summer May Finlay from Croakey : Read Full report HERE

5. Healing Foundation

 “The social determinants of health need to be realigned in a cultural context of understanding the impact of trauma for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and how to overcome – to heal – from this. Focusing on changing just economic or education levels alone will not fix the profound challenges we face without also giving people the opportunity to improve their social and cultural connectedness and feel greater inclusion.”

Meanwhile, Richard Weston, CEO of the Healing Foundation, writes in The Guardian of the vital importance of trauma-informed practices and services, as well as for broadening discussion of the social determinants of health.

6.Palliative Care Australia

While this report doesn’t address palliative care, it is important that all people with a life-limiting illness are able to access palliative care.

“We understand that while some parts of the country offer exceptional levels of palliative care, culturally appropriate care is still not done well everywhere in Australia. We need to see that good work spread,” Ms Callaghan said.

“Community-based local approaches to end-of-life care are preferred, which leads to a significant role for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals in the delivery of quality end-of-life care.

“It is also very important that non-Indigenous health professionals develop culturally safe practice through education or training and appropriate engagement with local Indigenous communities.

“Culturally safe palliative and end-of-life care means that providers or practitioners must understand how these communities want health care to be provided

Download the Press Release Pallative Care CTG 2017

7. Labor Party

 ” The 2017 Close The Gap Progress and Priorities Report reiterates the need for all levels of Government to recommit and refocus, Labor stands ready to work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and their Communities.”

Labor is committed to working in a bi-partisan way, striving for the best possible outcomes for Australia’s First Peoples. Labor recognizes the importance of relationships that harness the knowledge, creativity and innovation that community controlled originations bring to driving decisions; strong relationships, working in partisanship, is the only way forward.

“Genuine partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations, are essential to improving the quality of life for our First Peoples. As stated in the Report, the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples cannot be considered at the margins”,

Senator Dodson said.

Download the Press Release Labor Party CTG 2017

8.Stroke Foundation

 ” Currently, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer stroke at a younger age, are more than twice as likely to be hospitalised with a stroke and 1.4 times as likely to die from stroke as non-Indigenous Australians. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders experience multiple risk factors for stroke and cardiovascular disease and there are significant challenges around identifying and managing that risk. 

As a healthcare community we need to come together to close the stroke gap which is claiming the lives of too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Stroke Foundation is committed to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations to improve the health outcomes of Indigenous communities.”

By Stroke Foundation Chief Executive Officer Sharon McGowan

Today is Close the Gap day – a national movement demanding equal access to healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. Most Australians enjoy one of the highest life expectancies of any country in the world – but this is not true for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can expect to live 10 –17 years less than fellow Australians.  The mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is on par with some of the world’s most impoverished nations. The United Nations Report, The State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples (2009) indicated Australia and Nepal have the world’s worst life expectancy gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people – we must do better.

Here at the Stroke Foundation we believe everyone should have the opportunity to lead a healthy life and have access to best practice healthcare. While Australia has made some big strides towards improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, as a nation we have a long way to go.

Equal access to healthcare is a basic human right. Everyone in Australia should have the opportunity to live a long and healthy life. It is time our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities get the health care and support they need and deserve.

The facts

• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more than twice as likely to be hospitalised with stroke.
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 1.4 times as likely to die from stroke as non-indigenous Australians.
• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are 1.5 times as likely as non-Indigenous people to be obese – seven in 10 adults are overweight or obese.
• Two in five indigenous Australians smoke daily, 2.6 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians.
• More than half of Indigenous Australians (over 15) put themselves at risk of harm by drinking alcohol.
• 64 percent of Indigenous adults do not get enough exercise.
• 85 percent on Indigenous children and 97% of Indigenous adults do not eat enough fruit and vegetables.
• One in five Indigenous adults have high blood pressure.
• One in four Indigenous adults have abnormal or high cholesterol levels

– See more at:

9.NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC)

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can expect to live 10 to 17 years younger than other Australians and the data on preventable illness and infant mortality is an appalling reminder of the challenges we face.

“The inequalities in health are a generational challenge and we have to continue the fight because the lives of our children depend on it.

“Positive change is possible – particularly when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations are driving those changes.

“Solutions that are generated by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are a key part of any efforts to Close the Gap on health and living standards in Australia.”

Further progress to Close the Gap can be made if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are able to drive change, the Chair of the NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) Roy Ah-See said today

Please note the above NACCHO TV was recorded when Roy was Chair of Yerin ACCHO

Download Press release NSW Land Councils CTG 2017

10. Australian Psychological Society (APS)

” There is a need for more community-based, culturally appropriate mental health services that include strengthening culture and identity, and that are delivered by culturally responsive health professionals “

Leading Aboriginal psychologist and Chair of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership in Mental Health (NATSILMH) Professor Pat Dudgeon FAPS, agrees that building on social and emotional wellbeing and cultural strengths is the foundation for improving Indigenous health and preventing suicide.

Picture : Our NACCHO CEO Pat Turner as a contributor to the report attended the launch pictured here with Senator Patrick Dodson and co-author Prof. Pat Dudgeon

 Download Press Release dAustralian Psycholigical Society CTG 2017


NACCHO Aboriginal Health #obesity : What is the #sugartax and who reckons it’s a good idea?

 ” JUNK food would be banned from schools and sports venues, and a sugar drink tax introduced, under a new blueprint to trim the nation’s waistline.

The 47-point blueprint also includes a crackdown on using junk food vouchers as rewards for sporting performance and for fundraising.

State governments would be compelled to improve the healthiness of foods in settings controlled by them like hospitals, workplaces and government events.

And they would have to change urban planning rules to restrict unhealthy food venues and make more space for healthy food outlets. “

Download the 47-point blueprint Report here :



 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Obesity #junkfood : 47 point plan to control weight problem that costs $56 billion per year


” In 2014-15, 63.4% of Australian adults were found by the National Health Survey to be overweight or obese. In response to Australia climbing up the ladder of the most obese countries in the world, professor Stephen Colagiuri, a diabetes expert at the University of Sydney, has urged the government to introduce a sugar tax to dissuade people from consuming sugary foods.”

Sophie Heizer Crikey intern

But what if you live in a place where you don’t have easy access to fresh food? What if the Macca’s down the road is within walking distance, but you have to jump in the car and drive for miles to get to the nearest supermarket? That’s called a food desert, and the sugar tax could have a bigger impact on people who live in those areas.

What is the sugar tax?

At this point, it is a recommendation from some health experts, which would place a levy on sugary drinks in order to mitigate obesity rates.

A report from the World Health Organization (WHO) says that a tax of 20% or more results in the drop of soft drink sales, which they say would also cut healthcare costs if it succeeded in improving health outcomes.

The Grattan Institute has suggested a tax of 40 cents per 100 grams of sugar, and calculated that obesity costs Australians $5.3 billion a year. The savings they have projected would mean an extra $500 million for the budget.

Is there support for the sugar tax?

The WHO called for a tax on sugary drinks across the world in October 2016 to curb the effects of sugary drinks on health.

Many health researchers also advocate for the tax as well. Dr Belinda Reeve from the University of Sydney writes that there needs to be more things done at the same time to reduce obesity rates and the risk of diabetes, but the tax could be effective in Australia, as the tobacco tax has been.

The Greens have released a statement saying that if the government doesn’t act on the issue, they will draft a private senator’s bill and introduce it to the Senate by the end of 2017.

Who is against it?

The Turnbull government, Labor, and senators Pauline Hanson and Derryn Hinch have all rejected the idea of imposing a sugar tax.

Minister for Health Greg Hunt has said the government was taking action in other ways: “We’re committed to tackling obesity, but increasing the family’s weekly shop at the supermarket isn’t the answer.”

Pauline Hanson said she would not support the tax because she believes it’s high time people take responsibility for what they put in their mouths, and Derryn Hinch said the tax would be unfair and unworkable.

Labor leader Bill Shorten said the opposition had no plans for a sugar tax, but said it was probably time to “toughen up advertising restrictions around junk food at peak periods when the little eyeballs are on the TV and getting all the wrong messages about food and healthy eating”.

What is a food desert?

A food desert is an area where there are no fresh fruit or vegetable outlets within a 500-metre radius. They are also defined by limited access to shops that sell healthy foods, coupled with an abundance of fast-food takeaway options within easy walking distance. These areas leave people disenfranchised by lack of access to affordable, healthy food and at a greater risk of obesity and the development of diabetes.

There have been a number of food deserts identified in Australia: Braybrook, Maidstone and West Footscray/Kingsville have been identified in Victoria, areas of western Sydney including Blacktown (where residents are three times more likely to develop diabetes) and Mount Druitt and even in wealthy areas of Canberra. Research commissioned by Anglicare and Red Cross showed that there was insufficient access to affordable and nutritionally adequate food in inner suburbs such as Kingston, Red Hill and Fyshwick, as well as Narrabundah Longstay Caravan Park, Belconnen, Weston Creek and newer suburbs in the Gungahlin region.

How would the sugar tax affect people living in food deserts?

The same kind of sugar tax was proposed in the UK. It was met with heavy resistance from the seemingly conservative lobby group, the TaxPayers’ Alliance, which cited the ineffectiveness of the tax in Mexico, the chief executive stating:

“It is astonishing that the government is pressing ahead with this pernicious tax when the evidence clearly suggests that it will simply not affect consumption in any meaningful way. As with any regressive tax, this will only raise living costs for hard-pressed families, already struggling with big tax bills. Politicians must look at the evidence and ignore the High Priests of the Nanny State in the public health lobby, and abolish the Sugar Tax before it is too late.”

Food deserts are, in particular, an issue for people of low socio-economic status (SES) and where there are people with mobility issues in the community. The tax will undeniably hit the poor and those living in food deserts harder because more of their income goes towards poor quality food, but there is evidence from studying the effectiveness of the tax in Mexico that it does decrease spending on unhealthy food products for everyone.

A research paper by PLOS One, which also supports the 20% hike in tax on sugar, states:

“We note that Australians of low SES are disproportionately affected by high rates of diet-related illnesses and are therefore likely to experience greater dietary improvements as a result of a tax on SSBs. Inequitable aspects are likely to be further ameliorated if revenue was used to support healthy eating initiatives and subsidies on healthy foods for low-SES households.”

This means the sugar tax could actually be beneficial to low-SES households in food deserts, as a result of both a shift in eating habits, and a freeing up of space in the health budget to rectify access issues in relation to cost and geography.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Budget2017 : @AMAPresident launches Pre-Budget Submission 2017-18


 ” The gap in health and life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and other Australians is still considerable, despite the commitment to closing the gap.

The AMA recognises the early progress that is being made, particularly in reducing early childhood mortality rates, and in addressing major risk factors for chronic disease, such as smoking.

To maintain this momentum for the long term, the Government must improve resourcing for culturally appropriate primary health care for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the health workforce.

Despite recent health gains for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, progress is slow and much more needs to be done.”

AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon launching the AMA’s Pre-Budget Submission 2017-18

Download AMA submission here


AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, said today that the appointment of Greg Hunt as Health Minister provides the Government with the perfect opportunity to change direction on health policy, and to consign any links to the disastrous 2014-15 Health budget to history.

Launching the AMA’s Pre-Budget Submission 2017-18, Dr Gannon said the key for the Government and the Health Minister is to look at all health policies as investments in a healthier and more productive population.

“Health is the best investment that governments can make,” Dr Gannon said.

AMA POSITION Indigenous Health pages 14/15

The AMA calls on the Government to:

• correct the under-funding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health services;

• establish new or strengthen existing programs to address preventable health conditions that are known to have a significant impact on the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, such as cardiovascular diseases (including rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease), diabetes, kidney disease, and blindness;

• increase investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health organisations. Such investment must support services to build their capacity and be sustainable over the long term;

• develop systemic linkages between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-controlled health organisations and mainstream health services to ensure high quality and culturally safe continuity of care;

• identify areas of poor health and inadequate services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and direct funding according to need;

• institute funded, national training programs to support more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to become health professionals to address the shortfall of Indigenous people in the health workforce;

• implement measures to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s access to primary health care and medical specialist services;

• adopt a justice reinvestment approach to health by funding services to divert Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from prison, given the strong link between health and incarceration;

• appropriately resource the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan to ensure that actions are met within specified timeframes;

• adopt the recommendations of the AMA’s 2016 Report Card on Indigenous Health and commit to a target to eradicate new cases of Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD); and

• support a National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Hearing Health Taskforce that can provide evidence-based advice to Government, embed hearing health in Closing the Gap targets, and recognise its importance in early childhood development, education, and employment.

“The AMA agrees with and supports Budget responsibility. But we also believe that savings must be made in areas that do not directly negatively affect the health and wellbeing of Australian families.

“Health must be seen as an investment, not a cost or a Budget saving.

“There are greater efficiencies to be made in the health system and in the Health budget, but any changes must be undertaken with close consultation with the medical profession, and with close consideration of any impact on patients, especially the most vulnerable – the poor, the elderly, working families with young children, and the chronically ill.

“But the AMA urges caution – and care. The Government must not make long-term cuts for short-term gain. Patients will lose out.

“In this Pre-Budget Submission, the AMA is urging the Government to invest strategically in key areas of health that will deliver great benefits – in economic terms and with health outcomes – over time.

“The first task of the new Minister must be to lift the freeze on Medicare patient rebates, which is harming patients and doctors.

“Primary care and prevention are areas where the Government can and should make greater investment.

“General practice, in particular, is cost-effective and proven to keep people well and away from more expensive hospital care. It was pleasing to hear Minister Hunt use his first health media conference to declare that he wanted to be the Health Minister for GPs.

“The Government must also fulfil its responsibilities – along with the States and Territories – to properly fund our public hospitals.

“So too, the Government must deliver on its commitments to improve the health of Indigenous Australians.

“In this submission, the AMA provides the Government with affordable, targeted, and proven policies that will contribute to a much better Budget bottom line in coming years.

“More importantly, the AMA’s recommendations will deliver a healthier and more productive population to drive further savings into the future.”

The AMA Pre-Budget Submission 2017-18 covers the following key areas:

  • Medicare Indexation Freeze;
  • Public Hospitals;
  • Health Care Home;
  • Medicare Reviews;
  • Medicare Levy;
  • Pathology;
  • Private Health Insurance;
  • Medical Indemnity – Underpinning Affordable Health Care;
  • Medical Care for Palliative Care and Aged Care Patients;
  • Indigenous Health;
  • Mental Health;
  • Medical Workforce and Training;
  • Obesity;
  • Nutrition;
  • Physical Activity;
  • Alcohol and Drugs; and
  • Climate Change and Health.

The AMA Pre-Budget Submission 2017-18 is at

This Submission was lodged with Treasury ahead of the cob Thursday 19 January 2017 deadline.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health : A new Health Minister must address the #medicare rebate #freeze – a barrier to health reform


Newly elected Australian Medical Association (AMA) President Dr Michael Gannon speaks at a press conference at the National Convention Centre in Canberra, Sunday, May 29, 2016. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING

 ” The Medicare rebate freeze, which has been in place since 2010, had become a barrier to reform between the health sector and the Coalition.

It really does represent a major issue and I think it would be a fabulous sign of good faith with any new minister if they were able to move on that measure,”

Australian Medical Association president Dr Michael Gannon Speaking to Sarah Martin at The Australian

Read AMA President press coverage at NACCHO News Alerts

Doctors are calling for the country’s incoming health minister to reset the government’s relationship with the sector by ending a controversial freeze on Medicare payments.

With Malcolm Turnbull ­expected to announce a new health minister either today or ­tomorrow, doctor groups say lifting the freeze would restore faith with the sector and ease the path for future reform.”

The Prime Minister is ­considering a limited reshuffle, with Cabinet Secretary Arthur ­Sinodinos or Industry Minister Greg Hunt most likely to take on the portfolio.

Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon said whoever took on the politically sensitive portfolio needed to ­implement reforms once reviews established by former minister Sussan Ley were completed, ­including one examining payments made under the Medicare Benefit Schedule.

“I am sure if the government lifted the freeze next week then they would be less likely to have the College of GPs complaining about other elements of government policy.”

President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners Bastian Seidel said the organisation wanted to see the government adopt evidence-based policy that would endure regardless of who held the portfolio.

Dr Seidel said the RACGP would be calling for an immediate end to the freeze on Medicare ­rebates for doctors, saying it would make a “significant difference” to patients.

“The top priority for the RACGP and our members and our patients is to lift the Medicare rebate freeze for general practice,” Dr Seidel said.

He said ending the freeze on payments to doctors would cost $150 million a year, and called for a reprieve over the next two years while a review of the MBS was completed.

Mr Turnbull is understood to be considering whether he reduces the size of cabinet from 23 to 22 ministers, while increasing the outer ministry from seven to eight to maintain the ministry at its current level of 30.

Doing so would likely see the elevation of an assistant minister to the outer ministry, with conservative NSW MP Angus Taylor a frontrunner.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health : We need more Indigenous doctors , GP’s and thier essential primary health care role


” In 2012, there were 221 medical practitioners employed in Australia who identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander – representing 0.3 per cent of all employed medical practitioners who chose to provide their Indigenous status.

In 2015, the Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand reported that a total of 265 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students were enrolled across all year levels. Of the 15 medical colleges, four have never had an Indigenous trainee.

Medical workplaces and training providers must find ways to support Indigenous trainees and medical practitioners,”

Dr Michael Gannon is a very committed to Aboriginal community controlled health and increasing the number of Indigenous Doctors

NACCHO Aboriginal Health : AMA calls for targets to increase Aboriginal people in workforce

He is federal president of the AMA  ( Australian Medical Association.) and heads the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the St John of God Subiaco Hospital, where he was born.

Pictured below with NACCHO Chair Matthew Cooke

See NACCHO TV for interviews with some of our Indigenous doctors

Dr Mark Wenitong Pictured above

Public Health Medical Advisor Apunipima Cape York Health Council


Dr Marjad Page Gidgee Healing Mt Isa Aboriginal Health In Aboriginal Hands #closethegap

AMA and NACCHO -Aboriginal health background


For the AMA, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health has been, and will remain, a priority. It is our responsibility to advocate for and support efforts to improve health and life outcomes for Australia’s First Peoples.

The AMA works closely with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in a number of ways to contribute to our mutual goal of closing the health and life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

We have close relationships with NACCHO, the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association and the Close the Gap Steering Committee, through which we collectively contribute to the national debate on Indigenous health issues. The Taskforce on Indigenous Health, which I Chair, is another way that the AMA works in partnership with Indigenous people.

Each year, through the Taskforce, the AMA produces an annual Report Card on Indigenous Health a landmark publication that makes practical recommendations to governments on how key Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health issues should be addressed.

GPs – The drivers of patient-centred health care                             

Australia has a very good health system, the envy of many in the world. It has been built around the central role of general practitioners.

GPs are highly trained specialists. They are uniquely positioned to diagnose and treat illness, and coordinate care working in collaboration with their patients, other specialists, and allied health care professionals.

General practice is delivering great value for patients, the community, and government. GPs are achieving very good health outcomes for patients – with modest out of pocket costs, and spending on general practice representing only six per cent of total health spending.

General practice has embraced team-based care, with many practices employing practice nurses and allied health professionals. For example, there are over 12,322 nurses working within general practice. It is estimated that over 60 per cent of practices employ at least one practice nurse.

GPs are making use of Chronic Disease and Mental Health items in the Medicare schedule to support patients in accessing the care they need.

GPs have embraced technology, with general practice in Australia now highly computerised.

This is making a world of difference. While many patients have their preferred GP, if they need to see another doctor or health professional in their practice, their patient record is readily available. This supports high quality care.

The care provided by GPs is built around the needs of the patient.

GPs occupy a gatekeeper role in our health system. This not only helps patients to navigate what can be complex and confusing, it also ensures close collaboration between GPs and other specialists in delivering care. It is one of the reasons why our health system delivers the high quality results our patients expect and deserve.

We cannot forget that fragmentation of care is the enemy of quality care.

Too often, other health professions seek to expand their role and scope of practice, at times at the expense of the quality of care. One of the reasons why health costs in the United States are so high, and outcomes poor in comparison to ours, is their fragmented approach to health care, with poor coordination and duplication being major problems.

We need to build on what works, with a strong collaborative approach to care.

Other health professionals need to be able to work autonomously to their full scope of practice. This is something that the AMA fully supports. However, the patient’s care needs to be well coordinated and it needs to be built around medical diagnosis.

We must never forget that care is about the patient. Other health professionals want to carve out new roles, often based on the premise that they will be looking after relatively simple presentations, and that this will free up time for doctors to do more complex work.

To be perfectly clear, there is rarely such a thing as a ‘simple’ presentation. GPs know their patients’ histories. So-called ‘simple’ symptoms can be a sign of a far more complex and potentially dangerous condition. GPs are trained to look for enigmas like depression and alcoholism.

In reality, a ‘simple’ visit to the GP can make a big difference to a patient’s health. Comprehensive, longitudinal care is about much more than just seeing patients when they are sick.

Vaccinations and basic acute presentations all represent an opportunity to talk about prevention and a patient’s overall health. Every visit is a health promotion opportunity.

Simple advice can make big changes to a patient’s health and wellbeing. Every consultation has the potential to uncover more serious health issues, with early intervention often the key to a good prognosis.

While it is important that patients get access to the right care from the right health professional at the right time, we need to build on what we know works well for patients. Doctors are not afraid of workforce reform, but it must be grounded in the fundamental principle of quality.

Any changes to scope of practice for different health practitioners must be underpinned by sound arrangements for:

  • setting accreditation standards for education and training programs;
  • assessing education and training providers against those standards;
  • setting practice standards; and
  • assessment of practitioners for registration against those standards.

The AMA has previously said that there is an urgent need for an independent entity to be set up to assess and evaluate the future health workforce needs of the Australian community.

Reforms must be driven by evidence, and build on a collaborative approach to care – as opposed to individual professional interests.

The Australian community will not accept second best when it comes to the quality of their health care. Near enough is not good enough.

We are training more doctors than ever before, with around 3,700 new medical graduates entering the workforce every year.

We know that there are problems with distribution of the medical workforce and that problems in rural and regional areas persist. Some specialty areas are also in short supply. But problems in accessing care are being addressed.

We must build on this training investment by having in place policies that support doctors working in the locations and specialties where they are desperately needed.

This will require greater investment in post-graduate training and well-crafted policies that target areas of workforce shortage.

We long ago moved beyond the 2005 Productivity Commission Report and the medical workforce shortages that existed at the time.

Our challenge is how to best deploy a rapidly growing medical workforce so that we meet community need, working closely with our colleagues in other health professions, rather than being bogged down in inter-professional rivalries that are not in the interests of either our health system or the patients we serve.

Australians want and deserve the best quality primary health care.

GPs are the key providers and coordinators of patient-centred care.

Over 30 years, Governments from both sides of politics have undermined and undervalued General Practice. It is time that they realised their value and supported them in their essential primary health care role.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health : Cultural learning the key to new ways of improving Aboriginal health


” Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health training strategic plan is to expand our capacity and improve the quality of GP training in Aboriginal health settings.

We aim to develop mutually beneficial relationships by building a culturally diverse health workforce, by raising the awareness about the unique cultural history that Aboriginal people enjoy, particularly in Tasmania.”

Allyson Warrington chief executive of General Practice Training Tasmania

GENERAL Practice Training Tasmania is committed to “Closing the Gap”, through its partnership with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre and the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community.


GPTT aims to improve health outcomes for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Evidence clearly points out Aboriginal people continue to suffer a greater burden of ill health compared to the rest of the population.

Overall, they experience lower levels of access to health services, are more likely to be hospitalised for most diseases and conditions, to experience disability and reduced quality of life, and to die at younger ages than other Australians.

Aboriginal people also suffer a higher burden of emotional distress and mental illness than that experienced by the wider community.

GPs have a key service delivery role in addressing these issues. One of GPTT’s main aims is to train GP registrars to deliver high-quality, innovative, regionally based training programs that meet the primary healthcare needs of all Australians.

Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health training strategic plan is to expand our capacity and improve the quality of GP training in Aboriginal health settings.

We aim to develop mutually beneficial relationships by building a culturally diverse health workforce, by raising the awareness about the unique cultural history that Aboriginal people enjoy, particularly in Tasmania.

Last year we held a Cultural Camp at trawtha makuminya, or Gowan Brae, near Bronte Park.

For two days, GP registrars from across the state enjoyed catering, cultural walks and activities with 10 Aboriginal community members, who ranged in age and experience from elders to young children.

Community members Jason Smith and Nathan Maynard guided the walks and shared information about the traditional fire burning they have been conducting on the property.

They also shared Aboriginal history and culture, showing GP registrars stone tools and the importance of our heritage.

Our GP registrars were treated to a cultural lunch — barbecued mutton-birds and kangaroo patties, with an abundance of salad and fresh fruit. They were taught some of the basic skills of basket weaving and making kelp water carriers. Participants enjoyed wearing ochre and asking lots of questions about the way the original Tasmanian aboriginals lived and survived.

The feedback from our GP registrars was around the strength of their experience and how much they were privileged to learn about the culture of Tasmania’s first people. We will continue to work with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre to deliver this experience.

In the past, GPTT has also been involved with program initiatives, including:

THE delivery of an outreach service for frail, socially isolated, elderly Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients with chronic diseases.

GP registrars planning and organising their learning, specifically facilitated by the Medical Director from the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre.

WE have also been involved through registrar and GP support across the Tasmanian Aboriginal Health Service network.

Every year, GP registrars have the opportunity to spend a significant part of their training at the Aboriginal Health Services in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie and persuade future GP registrars to choose these services as part of their GP training.

General Practice Training Tasmania has also contributed funds for the refurbishment of medical facilities and the upgrading of existing clinical rooms at the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, as well as supplying appropriate medical equipment.

General Practice Training Tasmania is committed to both continuing and improving our partnership with the Tasmanian Aboriginal Community.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health : AMA calls for targets to increase Aboriginal people in workforce


The AMA has called for targets to increase the proportion of women in health leadership positions, and the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the medical workforce.

AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, today released the AMA Position Statement on Equal Opportunity in the Medical Workforce.

“The medical workforce should reflect the diversity of the patients it cares for. Doctors from diverse backgrounds bring skills and perspectives that enable the medical workforce to be more responsive and empathetic, not only to individual patient needs but to broader community needs,” Dr Gannon said.

“The AMA recognises that there is an under-representation of women in leadership positions in the medical workforce, and an under-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people throughout the health care sector.

“The AMA supports targets to address the current under-representation in the medical workforce, including medical students, of women and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“Targets should be realistic, and must continue to be merit-based, but organisations should have a range of positive strategies and initiatives to attract doctors from diverse backgrounds.”

Currently, fewer than 12.5 per cent of hospitals with 1000 employees or more have a female chief executive, and only 28 per cent of medical schools have female deans. Women make up one-third of State and Federal chief medical officers or chief health officers.

In 2012, there were 221 medical practitioners employed in Australia who identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander – representing 0.3 per cent of all employed medical practitioners who chose to provide their Indigenous status.

In 2015, the Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand reported that a total of 265 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander medical students were enrolled across all year levels. Of the 15 medical colleges, four have never had an Indigenous trainee.

“Medical workplaces and training providers must find ways to support Indigenous trainees and medical practitioners,” Dr Gannon said.

“Removing the barriers to employment and training, coupled with targeted recruitment, promotion, retention, and support strategies, will help to achieve a diverse workforce that can respond to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and communities.”

Dr Gannon encouraged Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students currently studying medicine at an Australian university to apply for the 2017 AMA Indigenous Peoples’ Medical Scholarship. Successful applicants will receive $10,000 each year for the duration of their course.

“There is evidence that there is a greater chance of improved health outcomes when Indigenous people are treated by Indigenous doctors and health professionals,” Dr Gannon said.

“Increasing the number of Indigenous doctors and health workers improves access to culturally appropriate health care and services, and ensures medical services respond properly to the unique needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Applications close on 31 January. More information can be found at

The AMA also called on workplaces and training providers to ensure that they had processes for reporting and responding to any complaints relating to equal opportunity, and to develop policies on bullying and harassment, flexible work arrangements, return to work following extended leave, doctors’ health and wellbeing, and cultural safety.

The AMA Position Statement on Equal Opportunity in the Medical Workforce can be found at

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Education Weekly Wrap of 5 articles and opportunities #rural, regional and remote


In this edition of Aboriginal Health and Education News

1. ANU Graduate Dr Danielle Dries helps close the gap

2.Applications are being sought for the 2017 AMA Scholarship

3. Doctor on journey to find health answers

4. AMA flags no more medical schools

5. Doctors welcome Government focus on rural medical training

6. GPs can and must do more to tackle obesity crisis says ANU study

7. Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme


Article I From ANU

ANU Graduate Dr Danielle Dries helps close the gap

Danielle Dries ( Pictured above ) a Kaurna woman from South Australia, has graduated with a Doctor of Medicine Doctor of Surgery with distinction from the ANU Medical School and now wants to close the gap on health and life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

Dr Dries, who graduates this week, is well on her way, working on Indigenous health during her studies and landing a Board Director position with Indigenous Allied Health Australia.

“Honestly I was surprised when I saw I was graduating with distinction because I have been so busy working on projects outside of my studies,” Dr Dries said.

“Moving around the country for my undergraduate studies and ANU medical school placements has been an amazing experience. I got into medicine because I want to help people in rural and remote Australia and I have dreams to end up there one day,” she said.

Dr Dries was appointed as the Indigenous Health Officer for the National Rural Health Student Network (NRHSN) half way through her degree and has been flat out since.

“I have been able to encourage people to get involved in Indigenous communities and promote health careers to Indigenous youth, as well as promote Indigenous health awareness among my peers,” she said.

Through her role with the ANU Rural Medical Society, Dr Dries was able to transform the annual ANU Close The Gap Day event into a two-day conference, attracting more than 130 multidisciplinary health students from across the country each year.

“We ended up with a two-day conference with five or six speakers on the first day and workshops for health students on the second day,” Dr Dries said.

“This has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me at ANU because a lot of the time when we are talking about Indigenous health, we tend to be talking to an Indigenous crowd, but 90 per cent of the people who attend this conference are non-Indigenous people.

“It gives us the opportunity to talk about the strength of Indigenous people, what we have achieved, and what we continue to achieve.”

Dr Dries will complete her postgraduate internship year at The Canberra Hospital and Calvary Hospital, while she sits as a Director on the board of Indigenous Allied Health Australia.

“At the moment it feels right to stay in Canberra and spend time with my family while working closely with some really important Indigenous health organisations,” she said.

Dr Dries is the fourth person in her family to attend ANU, with three brothers having studied engineering at the university.

Whilst at ANU Dr Dries received the inaugural Peter Sharp Scholarship, funded by the ACT Health. The scholarship was established to continue Dr Peter Sharp’s legacy in improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in the ACT.

Article 2

Applications are being sought for the 2017 AMA Scholarship 

The AMA recognises the critical importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors through the AMA Indigenous Peoples’ Medical Scholarship scheme. Applications are being sought for the 2017 Scholarship from eligible Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students who have entered an Australian university to study medicine.

Since 1994, the Scholarship has assisted over 20 Indigenous men and women become doctors, many of whom may not otherwise have had the financial resources to study medicine. Previous AMA Scholarship recipients have graduated to work in Indigenous and mainstream health services, and some have spent time providing care in their own communities. Read the stories and profiles of past winners on the Indigenous Peoples’ Medical Scholarship webpage.

The successful applicant will receive $10,000 each year for the duration of their course. Preference will be given to applicants who do not already hold any other scholarship or bursary. Applications must be received by 31 January 2017.

To receive further information on how to apply, please contact Sandra Riley, Administration Officer, AMA on 02 6270 5452 or email An application package can be also downloaded from the AMA website.

Article 3 From NIT

Doctor on journey to find health answers


Indigenous elder Doseena Fergie has been awarded a prestigious Churchill Fellowship to further her research into Indigenous health.

Dr Fergie works in the School of Nursing and Midwifery and Paramedicine at the Australian Catholic University’s Melbourne campus.

She was among 106 Australians announced as recipients of a 2016 Churchill Fellowship.

The Fellowship provides an opportunity for recipients to travel overseas to conduct research in their chosen fields.

Dr Fergie will spend several weeks travelling to Finland, England, Canada, Hawaii and New Zealand next year where she will meet Indigenous elders, researchers, academics and health service providers.

“I hope to visit these Indigenous nations to find out the relationship between their intergenerational trauma through colonisation and culture and how they have managed to rejuvenate a sense of belonging and identity within their communities because we know the health disparities are just huge in all Indigenous Nations,” Dr Fergie said.

“I see a need to build relationships between the Indigenous communities I will visit and the Australian Indigenous community.

“We need to share our cultural ways and learn from each other and by doing so we can overcome the barriers of geographical isolation.”

Dr Fergie completed her PhD thesis on post-natal depression among Victorian Aboriginal women.

“If you have a passion for our own people and you’ve seen the needs out there, this passion should be expressed in a place of influence. I think academia is an important place for this work of advocacy,” she said.

Dr Fergie will be presented with her Churchill Fellowship at a ceremony at Government House in Melbourne in January.

Wendy Caccetta

Article 4 AMA Press Release

No more medical schools

The Federal Government has signalled a shift in policy focus from expanding medical school places to addressing shortcomings in the distribution of training opportunities as part of efforts to boost the number of doctors working in rural and regional areas.

Following sustained AMA advocacy on the issue, the Government has accepted that the country does not need more medical schools, and has instead identified the need to improve the spread of training places to enable more medical students and graduates to undertake their studies in rural and regional locations.

Assistant Minister for Rural Health Dr David Gillespie said a massive expansion in medical schools in the past decade meant the country was now producing more than enough medical graduates, and the challenge now was to increase the number choosing to train and practice outside the major cities.

“We’ve expanded medical undergraduate places by over 100 per cent since 2001, because we had an absolute shortage, but now predictions are that we’ll have 7,000 excess medical practitioners by 2030,” Dr Gillespie told ABC Radio. “So we want to look at the distribution of undergraduate training, see what works best, with the aim of addressing the shortage of medical practitioners in rural and regional Australia.”

The Health Department and the Department of Education and Training have been directed to undertake a joint assessment of the number and distribution of medical schools and medical student places.

“This assessment will be considered within the context of existing workforce modelling and data, two decades of workforce distribution policies, the expansion of higher education places, and the Government’s priorities to address the maldistribution of medical professionals across regional, rural and remote Australia,” Dr Gillespie said.

The move follows sustained pressure from the AMA, which has for several years argued that the nation does not need more medical school places, and should instead focus on boosting medical training opportunities in rural and regional Australia.

Delegates at the 2015 AMA National Conference unanimously passed a motion calling on the-then Abbott Government to reconsider its funding for the Curtin Medical School, and in mid-2015 the AMA presented the Government with a plan to increase prevocational training opportunities for junior doctors in rural and remote areas.

In its plan for improved rural health care launched in May 2016, the AMA detailed proposals to boost the country medical workforce by, among other measures, a Community Residency Program to provide prevocational GP placements and expanding the Specialist Training Program to 1400 places by 2018, with priority for rural and regional training places, as well as a greater rural focus for existing medical schools.

The AMA also jointly proposed with the Rural Doctors’ Association of Australia a comprehensive rural workforce incentive package, Building a sustainable future for rural practice: the rural rescue package.

Against this backdrop, AMA President Dr Michael Gannon welcomed the policy shift outlined by Dr Gillespie.

“The last thing we need are more medical schools,” the AMA President told ABC Radio. “What we need to see is an expansion of the investment in existing rural clinical schools and a serious look at the process of maybe reallocating numbers to those universities with rural clinical schools, or to schools that are in rural areas themselves.”

Dr Gillespie admitted that the current training structure, which provided limited opportunities for rural-based students and graduates, militated against increasing the number of doctors working in non-metropolitan areas, undermining access to care for rural and regional Australians.

“At key points in their training and development, the structure of the training system and a lack of advanced regional, rural and remote positions tend to force new doctors back to the cities, where they often settle,” he said. “The baggage one collects in one’s life, partner, mortgages, houses, friends, schools, children, if you’ve been there six or seven years, that’s where you more than likely stay.

“We must ensure access to high quality postgraduate training for the existing numbers of medical students and recent graduates in rural, regional and remote Australia.”

Article 5

Doctors welcome Government focus on rural medical training

The Rural Doctors Association of Australia (RDAA) has welcomed today’s announcement by the Federal Government that it will undertake a review of the distribution of medical school places in Australia, with a focus on encouraging more doctors to train and ultimately practise in rural and remote areas.

In announcing the review, the Federal Assistant Minister for Rural Health, Dr David Gillespie MP, emphasised the Government’s continuing priority to address the shortage of doctors in regional, rural and remote areas, and to develop ways in which this shortage can best be addressed.

“We strongly welcome this important review” RDAA President, Dr Ewen McPhee, said.

“It is clear that we already have more than enough doctors graduating from our universities to meet Australia’s overall doctor workforce needs now and into the future — but we still do not have enough young doctors choosing a career in rural and remote practice, whether that be as a general practitioner or another type of specialist.

“There is a pressing need to address this continuing maldistribution of doctors, and to shape both medical education policies and medical workforce policies to address this challenge at all stages of a doctor’s career — starting from the day they apply for a place in medical school.

“Research has shown repeatedly over many years that those who come from rural areas, or undertake medical studies or extended clinical placements in rural areas, are the most likely to return to rural or remote areas to work once they graduate from medical school.

“This is because they get to see how wonderfully rewarding a career as a rural doctor can be. To this end, the more medical school places that can be located in regional, rural and remote locations, the better. This could include expanding the existing Rural Clinical Schools across Australia.

“We also appreciate the strong recognition from Minister Gillespie of the challenges that young medical graduates face once they leave university and start to plan the next step in their medical career — this inevitably involves additional training in general practice or another specialty, and can be the point at which a young doctor gravitates to the city due to an often perceived lack of career opportunities in regional, rural and remote areas. We need to bust this myth.

“Queensland’s Rural Generalist Pathway is a prime example of the fact that advanced medical training can be delivered very successfully in regional, rural and remote areas — and it can actually lead to the reinvigoration of medical services like obstetrics in towns that had previously lost these services.

“We are very keen to see the Federal Government’s election promise of a National Rural Generalist Framework, and associated training pathway, implemented as soon as possible, so we can start to replicate the success of Queensland’s Rural Generalist Pathway right across the country.

“We look forward to working with Minister Gillespie, his Department and other stakeholders on this important review.”

Article 6

GPs can and must do more to tackle obesity crisis says ANU study

General practitioners (GPs) can and should do more to tackle the obesity epidemic in Australia, a new study from The Australian National University (ANU) has found.

Two in three Australians are overweight or obese but half of patients in obesity programs drop out before achieving any results.

Dr Liz Sturgiss from the ANU Medical School led a pilot study which found GPs were well placed on the health frontline to help patients manage their weight, but they did not have the confidence to do so effectively.

“More and more patients are coming to GPs with obesity problems, and we want to give GPs the tools to assist their patients. The current guidelines for obesity patients are to refer them to a dietician. However, this doesn’t work for everyone,” said Dr Sturgiss, who is a GP and health researcher.

Her team – which includes GPs, nurses and psychologists – developed a toolkit that guides GPs and their patients through an evidence-based weight management program.

Part of the toolkit is taken from the field of psychology and measures the effectiveness of a relationship between a GP and patient to manage weight problems.

“GPs and patients with warm and respectful relationships, shared goals and good agreement on what to do to achieve those goals got the best results,” Dr Sturgiss said.

Dr Mel Deery, whose practice in Canberra was involved in the pilot study, said the research helped the practice to treat weight and obesity problems.

“Through the research project we helped a number of patients lose five to eight kilograms, which is a significant amount, and we’re continuing to use these strategies with patients. This work is vital as obesity is a major public health problem that can lead to heart disease, stroke, arthritis and many mental health problems,” Dr Deery said.

Dr Sturgiss said the research team would use the pilot study results to conduct a randomised control trial, which could inform public policy on health and guidelines in GP clinics across Australia.

The research is published in Clinical Obesity.

Watch the video interviews with Dr Sturgiss and Dr Mel Deery on the ANU YouTube channel.

Article 7

Indigenous health scholarships

Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme

Applications open now; close 15 January 2017

The Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship Scheme (PHMSS) is available to Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people who are studying a course in ATSI health work, allied health, dentistry/oral health, medicine, midwifery or nursing.

It is an Australian Government initiative designed to encourage and assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander undergraduate students in health-related disciplines to complete their studies and join the health workforce.

The scheme was established in recognition of Dr Arnold ‘Puggy’ Hunter’s significant contribution to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and his role as Chair of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation.

Application form

Online application form

Australian College of Nursing apologises if the application form is not working at the moment. The problem is a hardware problem with our internet supplier, and not with ACN systems. We hope the problem will be rectified soon.

Applications are open now; close on 15 January 2017.

Please note the ACN office will be closed from midday December 23 and re-open on Monday 9 January 2017 at 9am. If you have any questions about the application or the process it is strongly recommended that you contact ACN prior to December 23 by email on or call 1800 688 628.

Eligibility criteria

Applications will be considered from applicants who are:

  • of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander descent
    Applicants must identify as and be able to confirm their Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander status.
  • enrolled or intending to enrol in an entry level or graduate entry level health related course.
    Courses must be provided by an Australian registered training organisation or university. Funding is not for postgraduate study.
  • intending to study in the academic year that the scholarship is offered.

ACN receives high volume of applications; meeting the eligibility criteria will not guarantee applicants a scholarship offer.

Eligible health areas

  • Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander health work
  • Allied health (excluding pharmacy)
  • Dentistry/oral health (excluding dental assistants)
  • Direct entry midwifery
  • Medicine
  • Nursing; registered and enrolled

Value of scholarship

Funding is provided for the normal duration of the course. Full time scholarship awardees will receive up to $15,000 per year and part time recipients will receive up to $7,500 per year. The funding is paid in 24 fortnightly instalments throughout the study period of each year.

Selection criteria

These are competitive scholarships and will be awarded on the recommendation of the independent selection committee whose assessment will be based on how applicants address the following questions:

  • Describe what has been your driving influence/motivation in wanting to become a health professional in your chosen area.
  • Discuss what you hope to accomplish as a health professional in the next 5-10 years.
  • Discuss your commitment to study in your chosen course.
  • Outline your involvement in community activities, including promoting the health and well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The Puggy Hunter Memorial Scholarship scheme is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and administered by the Australian College of Nursing.

Important links

Links to Indigenous health professional associations

Contact ACN

t 1800 688 628


NACCHO Aboriginal Health #RHD : AMA Report Card on Indigenous Health highlights need for Aboriginal community controlled services


With Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians still 20 times more likely to die from RHD, the AMA’s call for firm targets and a comprehensive and consultative strategy is welcome. We encourage governments to adopt these recommendations immediately.

“As noted by the AMA, it is absolutely critical that governments work in close partnership with Aboriginal health bodies. Without strong community controlled health services, achieving these targets for reducing RHD will be impossible.

While this is a long term challenge, the human impacts on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are being felt deeply right now. Action is required urgently.

NACCHO is standing ready to work with the AMA and governments to develop and implement these measures. We have to work together and we have to do it now.”

National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) Chairperson Matthew Cooke pictured above at Danila Dilba Health Service NT with AMA President Dr Michael Gannon (right ) and the Hon Warren Snowdon MP Shadow Assistant Minister for Indigenous Health (left )


” RHD, which starts out with seemingly innocuous symptoms such as a sore throat or a skin infection, but leads to heart damage, stroke, disability, and premature death, could be eradicated in Australia within 15 years if all governments adopted the recommendations of the latest AMA Indigenous Health Report Card.


AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon see full AMA Press Release below


 ” We have many of the answers, we just need commitment from Govt to help implement necessary changes

Ms Olga Havnen is the CEO of Danila Dilba Biluru Binnilutlum Health Service in Darwin

NACCHO Press Release

The peak Aboriginal health organisation today welcomed the release of the Australian Medical Association’s Report Card on Indigenous Health as a timely reminder of the importance of community controlled services.

The 2016 Report Card on Indigenous Health focuses on the enormous impact that Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) is having on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia with a ‘Call to Action to Prevent New Cases of RHD in in Indigenous Australia by 2031’.

DOWNLOAD the Report Card here :



AMA Indigenous Health Report Card 2016: A call to action to prevent new cases of Rheumatic Heart Disease in Indigenous Australia by 2031

The AMA today called on all Australian governments and other stakeholders to work together to eradicate Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) – an entirely preventable but devastating disease that kills and disables hundreds of Indigenous Australians every year – by 2031.

AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, said today that RHD, which starts out with seemingly innocuous symptoms such as a sore throat or a skin infection, but leads to heart damage, stroke, disability, and premature death, could be eradicated in Australia within 15 years if all governments adopted the recommendations of the latest AMA Indigenous Health Report Card.

The 2016 Report Card – A call to action to prevent new cases of Rheumatic Heart Disease in Indigenous Australia by 2031 – was launched at Danila Dilba Darwin  Friday 25 November

Dr Gannon said the lack of effective action on RHD to date was a national failure, and an urgent coordinated approach was needed.

“RHD once thrived in inner-city slums, but had been consigned to history for most Australians,” Dr Gannon said.

“RHD is a disease of poverty, and it is preventable, yet it is still devastating lives and killing many people here in Australia – one of the world’s wealthiest countries.

“In fact, Australia has one of the highest rates of RHD in the world, almost exclusively localised to Indigenous communities.

“Indigenous Australians are 20 times more likely to die from RHD than their non-Indigenous peers – and, in some areas, such as in the Northern Territory, this rate rises to 55 times higher.

“These high rates speak volumes about the fundamental underlying causes of RHD, particularly in remote areas – poverty, housing, education, and inadequate primary health care.

“The necessary knowledge to address RHD has been around for many decades, but action to date has been totally inadequate.

“The lack of action on an appropriate scale is symptomatic of a national failure. With this Report Card, the AMA calls on all Australian governments to stop new cases of RHD from occurring.”

RHD begins with infection by Group A Streptococcal (Strep A) bacteria, which is often associated with overcrowded and unhygienic housing.

It often shows up as a sore throat or impetigo (school sores). But as the immune system responds to the Strep A infection, people develop Acute Rheumatic Fever (ARF), which can result in damage to the heart valves – RHD – particularly when a person is reinfected multiple times.

RHD causes strokes in teenagers, and leads to children needing open heart surgery, and lifelong medication.

In 2015, almost 6,000 Australians – the vast majority Indigenous – were known to have experienced ARF or have RHD.

From 2010-2013, there were 743 new or recurrent cases of RHD nationwide, of which 94 per cent were in Indigenous Australians. More than half (52 per cent) were in Indigenous children aged 5-14 years, and 27 per cent were among those aged 15-24 years.

“We know the conditions that give rise to RHD, and we know how to address it,” Dr Gannon said.

“What we need now is the political will to prevent it – to improve the overcrowded and unhygienic conditions in which Strep A thrives and spreads; to educate Indigenous communities about these bacterial infections; to train doctors to rapidly and accurately detect Strep A, ARF, and RHD; and to provide culturally safe primary health care to communities.”

The AMA Report Card on Indigenous Health 2016 calls on Australian governments to:

Commit to a target to prevent new cases of RHD among Indigenous Australians by 2031, with a sub-target that, by 2025, no child in Australia dies of ARF or its complications; and

Work in partnership with Indigenous health bodies, experts, and key stakeholders to develop, fully fund, and implement a strategy to end RHD as a public health problem in Australia by 2031.

“The End Rheumatic Heart Disease Centre of Research Excellence (END RHD CRC) is due to report in 2020 with the basis for a comprehensive strategy to end RHD as a public health problem in Australia,” Dr Gannon said.

“We need an interim strategy in place from now until 2021, followed by a comprehensive 10-year strategy to implement the END RHD CRC’s plan from 2021 to 2031.

“We urge our political leaders at all levels of government to take note of this Report Card, and to be motivated to act to solve this problem.”

The AMA Indigenous Health Report Card 2016 is available at


Labor calls on the Turnbull government to take heart and address Rheumatic Heart Disease, an entirely preventable public health problem which is almost exclusively affecting First Nation Peoples.

Labor welcomes the release of the Australian Medical Association’s 2016 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Report Card, A Call To Action To Prevent New Cases Of Rheumatic Heart Disease In Indigenous Australian By 2031.

Poor environmental health conditions, like overcrowded housing remain rampant in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, devastating families and the lives of young people.

As the AMA’s report card suggests, we must build on the success of the 2009 Commonwealth Government Rheumatic Fever strategy, established to improve the detection and monitoring of Acute Rheumatic Fever and Rheumatic Heart Disease.

Funding under the Rheumatic Fever strategy is uncertain after this financial year,” Ms King said.

The Productivity Commission’s report Overcoming Indigenous Disadvantage [OID] released last week found 49.4% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in remote communities live in overcrowded housing. Additionally, the report details no significant improvement in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples access to clean water, functional sewerage and electricity.

“We know Rheumatic Heart Disease is a disease of poverty and social disadvantage, which is absolutely preventable. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, especially in the Top End of the Northern Territory, suffer the highest rates of definite Rheumatic Heart Disease,” Mr Snowdon said.

Labor applauds the work of the Take Heart Australia awareness campaign, and their work to educate and advocate putting Rheumatic Heart Diseases on the public health agenda.

“Like always, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities need to be front and centre in taking action. The most positive outcomes will come through communities working with Aboriginal and Community Control Health Organisations to design and deliver programs tailored to their needs,” Senator Dodson said.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023 noted more than three years ago the association of RHD with ‘extremes of poverty and marginalisation’, these conditions remain and are almost exclusively diseases of Indigenous Australia.

If we are serious about closing the gap, we must take heart, and address this burden of Rheumatic Heart Disease facing First Nation Peoples.


The Heart Foundation has today supported the Australian Medical Association (AMA) call for governments to work together to eliminate Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD) in 15 years, by 2031.

Heart Foundation National CEO, Adjunct Professor John Kelly (AM) said RHD was an avoidable but widespread disease that kills and harms hundreds of Indigenous Australians every year.

“Considering how preventable RHD is, it is a national shame that our Indigenous population are left languishing.

“The Heart Foundation has strongly advocated from the RHD strategy. We continue to call on the government to fund the National Partnership Agreement on Rheumatic fever strategy and Rheumatic Heart Disease Australia (RHD Australia) with a $10 million over 3 years’ commitment, “Adj Prof Kelly said.

With the AMA predicting that RHD could be eradicated in Australia within 15 years if all governments adopted its recommendations, the time to act is now.

“We need to boost funding for the national rheumatic fever strategy. New Zealand is allocating $65 million over 10 years. A robust approach can put an end to RHD as a public health issue within 15 years,” Adj Prof Kelly said.

This call to action was part of the release of the AMA’s 2016 Indigenous Report Card – A call to action to prevent new cases of Rheumatic Heart Disease in Indigenous Australia by 2031.

“We want a strong and robust strategy to tackle this challenge. We will be working with the AMA to support and advocate for these recommendations which include:

  • A commitment to a target to prevent new cases of RHD among Indigenous Australians by 2031, with a sub-target that, by 2025, no child in Australia dies of ARF or its complications; and
  • Working in partnership with Indigenous health bodies, experts, and key stakeholders
  • to develop, fully fund, and implement a strategy to end RHD as a public health problem in Australia by 2031.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health : OBESITY – Australia’s biggest public health challenge


“Obesity is markedly more prevalent amongst people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent compared to all Australians, with 25 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women being obese.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities need information that is culturally appropriate, evidence-based, easily understood, action-oriented and motivating. There is also the need to promote healthy eating to facilitate community ownership and does not undermining the cultural importance of family social events, the role of elders and traditional preferences for some foods. Food supply in Indigenous communities needs to ensure healthy, good quality food options are available at competitive prices.

Primary health care services have a central role in promoting and improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and the sector needs specialised training and resources to implement new initiatives and provide culturally appropriate advice.”

Department of Health Website


Download AMA Position Statement on Obesity 2016


AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, said today that obesity is the biggest public health challenge facing the Australian population, and called on the Federal Government to take national leadership in implementing a multi-faceted strategy to address the serious health threat that obesity poses to individuals, families, and communities across the nation.

Releasing the AMA’s revised and updated Position Statement on Obesity 2016, Dr Gannon said that combating obesity demands a whole-of-society approach.

“The AMA strongly recommends that the national strategy include a sugar tax; stronger controls on junk food advertising, especially to children; improved nutritional literacy; healthy work environments; and more and better walking paths and cycling paths as part of smarter urban planning,” Dr Gannon said.

“A national obesity strategy requires the participation of all governments, non-government organisations, the health and food industries, the media, employers, schools, and community organisations.

“The whole-of-society strategy must be coordinated at a national level by the Federal Government and must be based on specific national goals and targets for reducing obesity and its numerous health effects.

“More than half of all adult Australians have a body weight that puts their health at risk. More than 60 per cent of adults are either overweight or obese, and almost 10 per cent are severely obese.

“At least a quarter of Australian children and adolescents are overweight or obese.

“Obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, musculoskeletal diseases, and impaired social functioning.

“Around 70 per cent of people who are obese have at least one established health condition, illness, or disease, which can increase the cost of their health care by at least 30 per cent.

“Obesity was conservatively estimated in 2011-12 to cost Australian society $8.6 billion a year in health costs and lost productivity. More recent studies have put the cost much higher.

“The AMA recommends that the initial focus of a national obesity strategy should be on children and adolescents, with prevention and early intervention starting with the pregnant mother and the fetus, and continuing through infancy and childhood.

“We are urging the Federal Government to lead a national strategy that encompasses physical activity; nutritional measures; targeted interventions, community-based programs, research, and monitoring; and treatment and management.

“Governments at all levels must employ their full range of policy, regulatory, and financial instruments to modify the behaviours and social practices that promote and sustain obesity.

“Every initiative – diet, exercise, urban planning, walking paths, cycle paths, transport, work environments, sport and recreation facilities, health literacy – must be supported by comprehensive and effective social marketing and education campaigns,” Dr Gannon said.

The AMA recommends that the Federal Government’s national obesity strategy incorporates these key elements:

  • greater and more sustained investment in research, monitoring, and evidence collection to determine which and individual and population measures are working;
  • town planning that creates healthy communities, including safe access to walking and cycle paths, parks, and other recreational spaces;
  • a renewed focus on obesity prevention measures;
  • ban the targeted marketing of junk food to children;
  •  a ‘sugar tax’ – higher taxes and higher prices for products that are known to significantly contribute to obesity, especially in children;
  • subsidies for healthy foods, such as fruit and vegetables, to keep prices low, especially in remotes areas;
  • action from the food industry and retail food outlets to reduce the production, sale, and consumption of energy-dense and nutrient-poor products;
  • easy to understand nutrition labelling for packaged foods;
  • expansion of the Health Star Rating scheme;
  • greater support for doctors and other health professionals to help patients lose weight; and
  • local community-based education and information programs and services.

The AMA Position Statement on Obesity 2016 is at



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