NACCHO Aboriginal Health NEWS ALERT : Discriminatory work scheme set to worsen ” debt, hunger and pain ” for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities

” This attempt to force a harsh new penalty system on remote communities shows again that the Australian Government does not want to listen. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people want to take up the reins and drive job creation and community development.

Our proposal for a new model for fair conditions of work and strong remote communities is sitting on the Government’s desk but being ignored”

John Paterson CEO AMSANT, spokesperson for Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT, said that while subsidies for new jobs was a step in the right direction, the Government’s proposal falls far short of the alternative model – Fair Work and Strong Communities – that was handed to the Government by Aboriginal organisations in 2017.

Picture above: Cenral Land Council policy manager Josie Douglas and AMSANT CEO John Patterson are fighting the Coalition government’s discriminatory and punitive work for the dole scheme in Canberra 

The two APO NT spokespeople just finished giving evidence before a Senate committee.

Dr Douglas said if the Coalition government’s CDP bill passes the Senate, remote communities will be hit with a tough new penalty regime in the New Year.

She said the so-called targeted compliance framework would create even greater financial hardship in the bush.

“ Aboriginal Peak Organisations of the Northern Territory (APONT ), and our members have received widespread concerns about the debilitating impacts that CDP is having on its participants, their families and communities.

Financial penalties were being imposed at an astonishing scale – causing families, including children, to go hungry.

Such consistent and strong concerns expressed by those at the coalface must be taken seriously and acted upon,

Onerous and discriminatory obligations applied to remote CDP work for the dole participants mean they have to do significantly more work than those in non-remote, mainly non-Indigenous majority areas, up to 670 hours more per year.”

The chief executive of Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance Northern Territory, John Paterson, said the program was causing significant harm to communities. He said financial penalties were being imposed at an astonishing scale – causing families, including children, to go hungry (see Guardian article in full below Part 2 )


Bawinanga Aboriginal Corporation’s Community Development Programme (CDP) and West Arnhem Regional Council works crew 

Press Release

Remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities struggling under the Australian Government’s racially discriminatory remote work for the dole program would be worse off under a proposed new penalty system, a Senate Committee inquiry has been told.

The Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT, the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency and the Human Rights Law Centre were among a number of organisations urging a Senate Committee to reject the Government’s attempt to expand the ‘Targeted Compliance Framework’ from urban areas into remote communities subject to the Government’s remote Community Development Program (CDP).

Jamie Ahfat, a community leader in the Northern Territory, told the Committee that CDP is making life a lot harder for people in remote communities.

“I’ve been doing CDP since 2016. I always wanted to get a proper job and not be on Centrelink but there are no jobs up here.”

“I’ve always tried to do the right thing in the CPD, but despite this there have been times when I’ve been penalised.

There was one time when I had to rush to Darwin to help my mum who had cancer. Because I didn’t tell them, I was penalised and dollars were taken from my pay.”

“The system is discriminatory, it’s unfair that we have to do twice as many hours of activities as people in the cities. The CDP is also confusing, things aren’t properly explained to us, it’s hard to see the point.

The activities don’t help us get jobs,” said Mr Ahfat.

One of the most alarming parts of the Targeted Compliance Framework would see vulnerablepeople cycling through 1, 2 and 4 week no-payment penalties, no matter how much debt, hunger or pain they cause – waivers would not be available.

The Government has included an offer to provide 6,000 job subsidies to the introduction of the harsh penalty system into remote areas. Those who get a subsidised job would be excludedfrom the penalty system.

CDP workers currently have to work up to 500 hours more per year than those covered by thenon-remote ‘Jobactive’ program. The scheme also imposes onerous daily requirements. As aresult people under CDP are struggling to keep up and are having payments docked at 25 timesthe rate of Jobactive participants.

David Woodroffe, Principal Legal Officer of the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency, said that for years Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations have been dealing with thedamage wrought by the Government’s program.

“Rather than adding more penalties there is a real need to address the factors that are drivinghigh penalty rates already, such as barriers to accessing supports for vulnerable people and more onerous work obligations,” said Mr Woodroffe.

Adrianne Walters, senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said that it was unjust and unnecessary for the Government to effectively make its offer to subsidise jobs conditional on the introduction of a penalty system that will see many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer.

“CDP already subjects remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to the indignity of having to work more for less. If the Government gets its way, parents will be left without money for food, fuel, rent and other basic necessities for four weeks no matter how dire their situation,” said Ms Walters.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health Report @AIHW Tracking progress against the Implementation Plan goals for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023

In October 2015, the Australian Government released the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023.

The Implementation Plan outlines the actions to be taken by the Australian Government, the Aboriginal community controlled health sector, and other key stakeholders to give effect to the vision, principles, priorities, and strategies of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013–2023.

The Implementation Plan has set goals to be achieved by 2023 for 20 indicators. These goals were developed to complement the existing COAG Closing the Gap targets, and focus on prevention and early intervention across the life course.

This September 2018 update provides new data for 8 of the 20 goals, that is, those relating to childhood immunisation and health checks. For these 8 goals, 3 remain on track, and 5 are not on track.

SEE AIHW for full interactive details

New data for the remaining 12 goals is not yet available, with ‘on track’ status for 5 of these still not able to be assessed.

Maternal health and parenting domain (3 goals)
Childhood health and development domain (5 goals)
Adolescent and youth health domain (4 goals)
Healthy adults domain (2 goals)
Healthy ageing domain (3 goals)
Cross-domain (3 goals)

Progress against all goals

 On track
 Not on track
 Not currently possible to assess



 NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Food security #IndigenousNCDs : Welfare reform is targeting many remote-living Aboriginal people impoverishing them and resulting in the consumption of unhealthy foods that are killing them prematurely from non-communicable diseases

What national and average Closing the Gap figures do not tell us is just how badly the estimated 170,000 Indigenous people in remote and very remote Australia are faring. This region where I focus my work covers 86 per cent of the Australian continent.

In the last decade new race-based instruments have been devised to regulate Indigenous people including their forms of expenditure (via income management), forms of working via the Community Development Programme (CDP) and their places of habitation, where they might access basic citizenship services.

All these measures have implications for consumption of market commodities, including food from shops, and of customary non-market goods, including food from the bush.

Owing to deep poverty, many people can only purchase relatively cheap and unhealthy takeaway foods that are killing them prematurely from non-communicable diseases, like acute heart and kidney disorders, followed by lung cancer from smoking.

With income management Aboriginal people are being coerced to shop at stores according to the government’s rhetoric for their ‘food security’. Before the introduction of this regime many more people were exercising their ‘food sovereignty’ right to harvest far healthier foods from the bush.

Extracts from Jon Altman a research professor in anthropology at the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation at Deakin University, Melbourne.

From New Matilda Read and subscribe HERE

A version of this article was first published in the Land Rights News

READ over 5 Articles NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Nutrition 

READ Articles NACCHO Aboriginal Health and Welfare Card 

” NACCHO is strongly opposed to the current cashless debit card trials as well as any proposal to expand. We also note that Aboriginal people are disproportionately affected by the trials and that they are in and proposed for locations where the majority participants are Aboriginal. Whilst it is not the stated intent of the trials, its impact is discriminatory.

NACCHO knows that some Aboriginal people and communities need additional support to better manage their lives and ensure that income support funds are used more effectively.

However, NACCHO is firmly of the view that there are significantly better, more cost efficient, alternative approaches that support improvements in Aboriginal wellbeing and positive decision making.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services would be well placed to develop and implement alternative programs. We firmly believe that addressing the ill health of Aboriginal people, including the impacts of alcohol, drug and gambling related harm, can only be achieved by local Aboriginal people controlling health care delivery.

We know that when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a genuine say over our lives, the issues that impact on us and can develop our own responses, there is a corresponding improvement in wellbeing. This point is particularly relevant given that the majority of trial participants are Aboriginal. “

Selected extracts from Submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018 

Download HERE 

NACCHO submission on cashless debit card final

As is the case in many countries, Indigenous people in Australia, New Zealand, United States of America and Canada are disproportionately affected by NCDs.

Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer,  smoking related lung disease and mental health conditions are the five main NCDs identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and these are almost uniformly experienced by Indigenous peoples at higher rates than other people.

Indigenous people globally are disproportionately affected by diabetes. In Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are 6 times more likely than the non-Indigenous population to die from diabetes. In Canada, Indigenous peoples are 3-5 times more likely to have diabetes than other citizens.

Indigenous people are also more likely to have Cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease accounts for almost a quarter of the mortality gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians. Maori people are 3-4.2 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than other people in New Zealand.

These numbers are not improving, despite national rates of smoking decreasing, and increased social marketing aimed at reducing sugar consumption and increasing physical activity.

Mainstream solutions do little to reduce the burden of NCDs for Indigenous populations. The broader social determinants of health have a huge role to play, and until these are addressed in a meaningful way, Indigenous peoples will continue to experience an inequitable burden.

With colonisation having had a devastating impact on Indigenous peoples, and mainstream solutions unable to significantly reduce the rates of NCDs experienced by Indigenous peoples, a new paradigm is urgently required.

What is required is not more state based solutions but Indigenous led solutions.

Summer May Finlay Croakey 

Welfare reform is targeting many remote-living Aboriginal people impoverishing them and resulting in the consumption of unhealthy foods that are killing them prematurely from non-communicable diseases

Rome (Canberra) continues to fiddle while Black Australia burns. Professor Jon Altman weighs in on the ongoing disasters of government policy that have a tight grip on remote living Indigenous people.

In the last month I participated in two workshops. I used what I observed on my latest visit to Arnhem Land and what people were telling me to inform what I presented at the workshops.

The first workshop explored issues around excessive consumption by industrialised societies globally and how this is harming human health and destroying the planet. Workshop participants asked how such ‘consumptogenic’ systems might be regulated for the global good? My job was to provide a case study from my research on consumption by Indigenous people in remote Australia.

The second workshop looked at welfare reform in the last decade in remote Indigenous Australia. In this workshop I looked at how welfare reform by the Australian state after the NT Intervention was creatively destroying the economy and lifeways of groups in Arnhem Land who are looking to live on their lands and off its natural resources.

Here I want to share some of what I said.

BROADLY speaking Indigenous policy in remote Australia is looking to do two things.

The first is to Close the Gaps so that Indigenous Australians can one future day have the same socio-economic status as other Australians. In remote Australia this goal is linked to the project to ‘Develop the North’ via a combination of opening Aboriginal communities and lands to more market capitalism and extraction, purportedly for the improvement of disadvantaged Indigenous peoples and land owners.

While remote-living Indigenous people have economic and social justice rights to vastly improved wellbeing, in such scenarios of future economic equality based on market capitalism, the downsides of what I think of as ‘consumptomania’ are never mentioned.

The second aim of policy is the extreme regulation of Indigenous people and their behaviour, when deemed unacceptable. In a punitive manifestation of neoliberal governmentality, the Australian state, and its nominated agents, are looking to morally restructure Indigenous people to transform them into model citizens: hard-working, individualistic, highly educated, nationally mobile at least in pursuit of work (not alcohol), and materially acquisitive.

This paternalistic project of improvement makes no concessions whatsoever to cultural difference, colonial history of neglect, connection to country, discrimination, and so on.

In the last decade new race-based instruments have been devised to regulate Indigenous people including their forms of expenditure (via income management), forms of working via the Community Development Programme (CDP) and their places of habitation, where they might access basic citizenship services.

All these measures have implications for consumption of market commodities, including food from shops, and of customary non-market goods, including food from the bush.

We have all heard the bad news, year after year, report after report, that the government-imposed project of improvement, called ‘Closing the Gap’ and introduced by Kevin Rudd in 2008, is failing.

Using the government’s own statistics, after 10 years only one target, year 12 attainment, might be on track. I say ‘might’ because ‘attainment’ is open to multiple interpretations: is attainment just about attendance or about gaining useful life skills?

What national and average Closing the Gap figures do not tell us is just how badly the estimated 170,000 Indigenous people in remote and very remote Australia are faring. This region where I focus my work covers 86 per cent of the Australian continent.

What we are seeing in this massive part of Australia according to the latest census are the very lowest employment/population ratios of about 30 per cent for Indigenous adults (against 80% for non-Indigenous adults) and the deepest poverty, more than 50 per cent of people in Indigenous households currently live below the poverty line.

This is also paradoxically where Indigenous people have most land and native title rights, a recent estimate suggests that 43 per cent of the continent has some form of indigenous title; and is dotted with maybe 1000 small Indigenous communities with a total population of 100,000 at most.

Native title rights and interests give people an unusual and generally unregulated right to use natural resources for domestic consumption.

This form of consumption might include hunting kangaroos or feral animals like the estimated 100,000 wild buffalo in Arnhem Land.

Such hunting is good for health because the meat is lean and fresh; it is also good for the environment because buffalo eat about 30kg of vegetation a day and are environmentally destructive; and it is good for global cooling because each buffalo emits methane with a carbon equivalent value of about two tonnes per annum.

The legal challenge of gaining native title rights and interests is that claimants must demonstrate continuity of customs and traditions and connection to their claimed country. But in remote Australia, culture and tradition have been identified as a key element of the problem that is exacerbating social dysfunction. (That is unless tradition appears as fine art ‘high culture’ which is imagined to be unrelated to the everyday culture and is a favourite item for consumption by metropolitan elites.)

Hence the project of behavioural modification to eradicate Indigenous cultures that exhibit problematic characteristics, like sharing and a focus on kinship and reciprocity, to be replaced by western culture with its high consumption, individualistic and materially acquisitive characteristics.

Connection to country, at least if it involves living on it, is also deemed highly problematic by the Australian state if one wants to produce western educated, home-owning, properly disciplined neoliberal subjects — terra nulliusis now to be replaced by terra vacua, empty land.

Such empty land would be ripe for resource extraction and capitalist accumulation by dispossession Despite all the talk of mining on Aboriginal land, there are currently very few operating mines on the Indigenous estate. This is imagined as one means to Develop the North, but recent history suggests that the long-term benefits to Aboriginal land owners from such development will be limited.

MUCH of what I describe above in general terms resonates with what I have observed in Arnhem Land where I have visited regularly since the Intervention; and what I hear from Aboriginal people and colleagues working elsewhere in remote Indigenous Australia.

From 2007 to 2012 all communities in Arnhem Land were prescribed under NT Intervention laws. Since 2012, under Stronger Futures laws legislated in force until 2022, the Aboriginal population has continued to be subject to a new hyper-regulatory regime: income management, government-licenced stores, modern slavery-like compulsory work for welfare, enhanced policing, unimaginable levels of electronic and police surveillance, school attendance programs and so on.

The limited availability of mainstream work in this region as elsewhere means that most adults of working age receive their income from the new Community Development Program introduced in 2015. Weekly income is limited to Newstart ($260) for which one must meet a work requirement of five hours a day, five days a week if aged 18-49 years and able-bodied.

Of this paltry income, 50 per cent is quarantined for spending at stores where prices are invariably high, owing to remoteness.

The main aim of such paternalism is to reduce expenditure on tobacco and alcohol which cannot be purchased with the BasicsCard.

Shop managers that I have interviewed tell me that despite steep tax-related price rises (a pack of Winfield blue costs nearly $30) tobacco demand is inelastic and sales have not declined.

Since the year 2000, Noel Pearson has popularised his metaphor ‘welfare poison’. Pearson is referring figuratively to what he sees as the negative impacts of long-term welfare dependence. In Arnhem Land welfare is literally a form of poison because in the name of ‘food security’ people are forced to purchase foods they can afford with low nutritional value from ‘licenced’ stores.

However, paternalistic licencing to allow stores to operate the government-imposed BasicsCard is not undertaken equitably by officials from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

So one sees large, long-standing, community-owned and operated and mainly Indigenous staffed stores being rigorously regulated, managers argue over-regulated. Such stores are highly visible, as are their accounts.

But small private-sector operators (staffed mainly by temporary visa holders and backpackers) that have been established as the regional economy has been prised open to the free market appear under-regulated, even though they are also ‘licenced’ to operate the BasicsCard.

These private sector operators compete very effectively with community-owned enterprises because they only have a focus on commerce: all the profits they make and most of the wages they pay non-local staff leave the region.

Owing to deep poverty, many people can only purchase relatively cheap and unhealthy takeaway foods that are killing them prematurely from non-communicable diseases, like acute heart and kidney disorders, followed by lung cancer from smoking.

With income management Aboriginal people are being coerced to shop at stores according to the government’s rhetoric for their ‘food security’. Before the introduction of this regime many more people were exercising their ‘food sovereignty’ right to harvest far healthier foods from the bush.

This dramatic transformation has occurred as an unusual form of regional economy that involved a high level of customary activity has been effectively destroyed by the dominant government view that only prioritises engagement in market capitalism — that is largely absent in this region.

On one hand, we now see the most able-bodied hunters required to work for the dole every week day with their energies directed from what they do best.

On the other hand, the greatly enhanced police presence is resulting simultaneously in people being deprived of their basic equipment for hunting — guns and trucks — regularly impounded because they are unregistered or their users unlicenced.

People are being increasingly isolated from their ancestral lands and their hunting grounds.

Excessive policing, growing poverty, dependency and anomie are seeing criminality escalate with expensive fines for minor misdemeanours further impoverishing people and reducing their ability to purchase either more expensive healthy foods or the means to acquire bush foods.

A virtuous production cycle that until the Intervention saw much ‘bush food consumption’ has been disastrously reversed. Today, we see a vicious cycle where people regularly report hunger while living in rich Australia; people’s health status is declining.

Welfare reform and Indigeneity is indeed a toxic mix, poison, in remote regions like Arnhem Land.

I WANT to end with some more general conclusions.

On the regulation of Indigenous expenditure, we see a perverse policy intervention: the Australian government is committing what are sometimes referred to as Type 1 and Type 2 errors.

The former sees the government looking to regulate Indigenous consumption using the expensive instrument of income management that has cost over $1.2 billion to date, despite no evidence that it makes a difference.

The latter sees an absence of the proper regulation of supply in licences stores evident when stores with names like ‘The Good Food Kitchen’ sell cheap unhealthy take-aways.

In my view the racially-targeted and crude attempts to regulate Indigenous expenditure are unacceptable on social justice grounds.

Two principles as articulated by Guy Standing stand out.

‘The security difference principle’ suggests that a policy is only socially just if it improves the [food]security of the most insecure in society. Income management and work for the dole do not do this.

And ‘the paternalism test’ suggests that a policy like income management would only be socially just if it does not impose controls on some groups that are not imposed on the most-free groups in society.

Paternalistic governmentality in remote Australia is imposing tight regulatory frameworks on some people, even though the justifying ideology suggests that markets should be free and unregulated.

Sociologist Loic Wacquant in  Punishing the Poor shows how the carceral state in the USA punishes the poor with criminalisation and imprisonment; the poor there happen to be mainly black.

In Australia, punitive neoliberalism punishes those remote living Aboriginal people who happen to be poor and dependent on the state.

Once again there is a perversity in policy implementation.

Hence in Arnhem Land, people maintain strong vestiges of a hunter-gatherer subjectivity that when combined with deep poverty makes them avid consumers of western commodities that are bad for health (like tobacco that is expensive and fatty, sugary takeaway food that is relatively cheap).

At the same time commodities that might be useful to improve health, like access to guns and trucks essential for modern hunting, are rendered unavailable by a combination of poverty and excessive policing.

Australian democracy that is founded on notions of liberalism needs to be held to account for such travesties.

Long ago in 1859, John Stuart Mill, the doyen of liberals, wrote in  On Liberty: “…despotism is a legitimate form of government in dealing with barbarians, providing the end be their improvement and the means justified by actually effecting that end”.

In illiberal Australia today, authoritarian controls over remote living Indigenous people and their behaviour are again viewed as legitimate by the powerful now neoliberal state, even though there is growing evidence from remote Australia that things are getting worse.

I want to end with some suggested antidotes to the toxic mix that has resulted from welfare reform that is targeting many remote-living Aboriginal people and impoverishing them.

First, in my view despotism for some is never legitimate, so people should be treated equally irrespective of their ethnicity or structural circumstances.

Second, the Community Development Programme is a coercive disaster that is far more effective at breaching and penalising the jobless for not complying with excessive requirements than in creating jobs. CDP is further impoverishing people and should be replaced, especially in places where there are no jobs, with unconditional basic income support.

Third, people need to be empowered to find their own solutions to the complex challenges of appropriate development that accord with their aspirations, norms, values, and lifeways. Devolutionary principles of self-government and community control, not big government and centralised control, are needed.

Fourth, the native title of remote living people should be protected to ensure that they benefit from all their rights and interests. There is no point in legally allocating property rights in natural resources valuable for self-provisioning if people are effectively excluded from access to their ancestral lands and the enjoyment of these resources.

Finally, governments should support what has worked in the past to improve people’s diverse culturally-informed views about wellbeing and sense of worth.

While such an approach might not close some imposed ‘closing the gap’ targets, like employment as measured by standard western metrics, it will likely improve other important goals like reducing child mortality and enhancing life expectancy and overall quality of life.



NACCHO Aboriginal Health : Download @CSIROnews #FutureofHealth Report that provides a new path for national healthcare delivery, setting a way forward to shift the system from illness treatment, to #prevention.

Australians rank amongst the healthiest in the world with our health system one of the most efficient and equitable. However, the nation’s strong health outcomes hide a few alarming facts: 

  • There is a 10-year life expectancy gap between the health of non-Indigenous Australians and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • Australians spend on average 11 years in ill health – the highest among OECD countries
  • 63% (over 11 million) of adult Australians are considered overweight or obese
  • 60% of the adult population have low levels of literacy 
  • The majority of Australians do not consume the recommended number of serves from any of the five food groups.

From CSIRO Future of Health report

Download HERE full 60 Page Report NACCHO INFO FutureofHealthReport_WEB_180910

The CSIRO Future of Health report provides a list of recommendations for improving the health of Australians over the next 15 years, focussed around five central themes: empowering people, addressing health inequity, unlocking the value of digitised data, supporting integrated and precision health solutions, and integrating with the global sector.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said collaboration and coordination were key to securing the health of current and future generations in Australia, and across the globe.

“It’s hard to find an Australian who hasn’t personally benefitted from something we created, including some world’s first health innovations like atomic absorption spectroscopy for diagnostics; greyscale imaging for ultrasound, the flu vaccine (Relenza); the Hendra vaccine protecting both people and animals; even the world’s first extended-wear contact lenses,” Dr Marshall said.

“As the world is changing faster than ever before, we’re looking to get ahead of these changes by bringing together Team Australia’s world-class expertise, from all sectors, and the life experiences of all Australians to set a bold direction towards a brighter future.”

The report highlighted that despite ranking among the healthiest people in the world, Australians spent on average of 11 years in ill health – the highest among OECD countries.

Clinical care was reported to influence only 20 per cent of a person’s life expectancy and quality of life, with the remaining 80 per cent relying on external factors such as behaviour, social and economic support, and the physical environment.

“As pressure on our healthcare system increases, costs escalate, and healthy choices compete with busier lives, a new approach is needed to ensure the health and wellbeing of Australians,” CSIRO Director of Health & Biosecurity Dr Rob Grenfell said.

The report stated that the cost of managing mental health related illness to be $60 billion annually, with a further $5 billion being spent on managing costs associated with obesity.

Health inequities across a range of social, economic, and cultural measures were found to cost Australia almost $230 billion a year.

“Unless we shift our approach to healthcare, a rising population and increases in chronic illnesses such as obesity and mental illness, will add further strain to the system,” Dr Grenfell said.

“By shifting to a system focussed on proactive health management and prevention, we have an exciting opportunity to provide quality healthcare that leaves no-one behind.

“How Australia navigates this shift over the next 15 years will significantly impact the health of the population and the success of Australian healthcare organisations both domestically and abroad.”

CSIRO has been continuing to grow its expertise within the health domain and is focussed on research that will help Australians live healthier, longer lives.

The Future of Health report was developed by CSIRO Futures, the strategic advisory arm of CSIRO.

More than 30 organisations across the health sector were engaged in its development, including government, health insurers, educators, researchers, and professional bodies.

Australia’s health challenges:

  • Australians spend on average 11 years in ill health – the highest among OECD countries.
  • 63 per cent (over 11 million) of adult Australians are considered overweight or obese.
  • There is a 10-year life expectancy gap between the health of non-Indigenous Australians and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
  • 60 per cent of the adult population have low levels of health literacy.
  • The majority of Australians do not consume the recommended number of serves from any of the five food groups.

The benefits of shifting the system from treatment to prevention:

  • Improved health outcomes and equity for all Australians.
  • Greater system efficiencies that flatten the cost curve of health financing.
  • More impactful and profitable business models.
  • Creation of new industries based on precision and preventative health.
  • More sustainable and environmentally friendly healthcare practices.
  • More productive workers leading to increased job satisfaction and improved work-life balance.

More info :

NACCHO Aboriginal Children’s Health : Dr @SandroDemaio presents a five-point policy plan using a lifeSPANS approach to address child obesity in Australia: #NCDs #EnoughNCDs @FAREAustralia @AHPA_AU @SaxInstitute


” The answer to obesity will never be in telling people what to do, guilting them for making unhealthier choices in a confusing consumption landscape, or by simply banning things. We also know that education and knowledge will get us only so far.

The real answers lie not even in inspiring populations to make hundreds of healthier decisions each and every day in the face of a seductively obesogenic, social milieu.

If we are to drive long‐term, sustained and scalable change, we must tweak the system to ensure those healthier choices become the path of least resistance—and eventually preferred. And I believe we must focus, initially, on our kids.

It is time for a lifeSPANS approach to addressing obesity in Australia.”

Dr Alessandro Demaio ” A $100 Million question ” see Bio in full Part 2

Download this Paper HERE : Demaio-2018-Health_Promotion_Journal_of_Australia

Listen to Dr Sandro’s childhood obesity Podcast HERE 

  ” The 2012-13 Health Survey identified that Indigenous adults were 1.6 times as likely to be obese as non-Indigenous Australians, with the prevalence increasing more rapidly in Aboriginal school-aged children.

Overweight and obesity in childhood are important predictors of adult adiposity, increasing the risk of developing a range of medical conditions, each of which is a major cause of morbidity, mortality and health expenditure.

While it is surprisingly clear what needs to be done to improve the health of Indigenous children, recent cuts to Indigenous preventative workforce and nutrition programs throughout Australia have severely reduced the capacity to respond.

Comprehensive primary health care is a key strategy for improving the health of Indigenous Australians and is an important platform from which to address complex health and social issues associated with obesity.

Closing the Gap, including the gap attributable to obesity, requires ensuring the ACCHS sector is resourced to deliver the full range of core services required under a comprehensive and culturally safe model of primary health care.

The effectiveness of ACCHSs has long been recognised, with many able to document better health outcomes than mainstream services for the communities they serve. “

Extract from NACCHO Network Submission to the Select Committee’s Obesity Epidemic in Australia Inquiry. 

Download the full 15 Page submission HERE

Obesity Epidemic in Australia – Network Submission – 6.7.18

Compelling populations, individuals or even ourselves to act pre‐emptively on the urgent and massive challenges of tomorrow is notoriously difficult.

The concept is called temporal or future discounting, and it is well documented.1 It is the idea that we prioritise our current comfort and happiness over our future and seemingly distant safety or wellbeing.

This psychological shortcoming plays out in many ways. At the micro level, we may defer until next week what we should do today—that run, drinking more water or the dentist check‐up—as it may not reap benefits for months, or ever. Eventually, we may act on some of these but whether delayed, deferred or denied, it can reap serious health consequences.

At the macro level, it becomes even more problematic. When we combine this “delay what’s beyond tomorrow” phenomenon with short‐term political cycles in the context of systems‐based, slowly evolving and largely invisible future threats, important but not yet imminent issues are not just postponed, but ignored.

Few challenges are a greater threat to the health of Australians, nor better define future discounting, than obesity. At the individual level and in our modern, obesogenic societies, weight gain has become the norm—the biological and social path of least resistance.

Food systems have shifted from a focus on seasonal, fresh and relatively calorie‐poor staples with minimal processing or meat, to an environment where junk foods and processed foods are ubiquitous, heavily advertised, hugely profitable and, for many communities, the only feasible “choice”.

Poor nutrition is now the leading risk factor for disease in our country.2City living has come with benefits, but along with an increasingly automated and digitalised lifestyle, has seen physical activity become something we must seek out, rather than an unavoidable component of our daily lives. Factors such as these have made individual action difficult for most of us and combined with our biology, have contributed to obesity rates more than doubling in Australia since 1980 alone.3

At the policy level, a dangerous, pernicious and unhealthy status quo has evolved over decades. One which sees a population increasingly affected by preventable, chronic disease. One which can only be solved through difficult decisions from politicians and the public to make the short‐term, passive but unhealthy comfort harder; and the long‐term promise of wellbeing more attractive.

One which must see sustained public demand and political commitment for a distant goal and best scenario of nil‐effect, in the face of constant, coordinated and powerful pushback, threats and careful intimidation from largely unprecedented policy counter‐currents.

But opportunities do exist; levers throughout this gridlocked policy landscape that can be utilised to move the obesity agenda forward.

One of those is our kids.

We know that if we cannot prevent obesity in our children, those young Australians will likely never achieve wellbeing.

We know that one in four of our children is overweight or obese and that while 5% of healthy weight kids become obese adults, up to 79% obese children will never realise a healthy weight.45 We know that the school years are a time when major weight gain occurs in our lifecourse and almost no one loses weight as they age.6

Recent evidence suggests early, simple interventions not only reduce weight and improve the health for our youngest kids, but also reduce weight in their parents.78 An important network of effective implementation platforms and primed partners already exist in our schools and teachers around the nation.

Finally, a large (but likely overstated) proportion of Australians may call “nanny state” at even the whiff of effective policies against obesity, but less so if those policies are aimed at our children.

With this in mind, I was recently invited to Canberra to present on how I would spend an extra $100 million each year on preventive health for the nation.

This is the five‐point policy plan I proposed; a lifeSPANS approach to addressing child obesity—and with it, equipping a new generation of Australians to act on tomorrow’s risks, today. This is an evidence‐based package to reduce the major sources of premature deaths, starting early.


  • $3 million to support the revision and implementation of clear, mandatory guidelines on healthy food in school canteens
  • $3 million to coordinate and support the removal of sales of sugary drinks
  • $13 million to expand food and nutrition programs to remaining primary schools
  • $40 million as $5000‐10 000 means‐tested grants for infrastructure that supports healthy eating and drinking in primary schools
  • $130 million to cover 1.7 million daily school breakfasts for every child at the 6300 primary schools nationally910
  • $140 million left from sugary drink tax revenue for school staffing and programs for nutrition and physical activity

Schools alone cannot solve the child obesity epidemic; however, it is unlikely that child obesity rates can be reversed without strong school‐based policies to support healthy eating and physical activity. Children and adolescents consume 19%‐50% of daily calories at school and spend more time there than in any other environment away from home.11 Evidence suggests that “incentives” are unlikely to result in behaviour change but peer pressure might.12 Therefore, learning among friends offers a unique opportunity to positively influence healthy habits.

Trials have demonstrated both the educational and health benefits of providing free school meals, including increased fruit and vegetable consumption, knowledge of a healthy diet, healthier eating at home and improved school performance. Providing meals to all children supports low‐income families and works to address health inequalities and stigma.10

School vending machines or canteens selling sugary drinks and junk foods further fuel an obesogenic, modern food environment. Sugary drinks are the leading source of added sugar in our diet in Australia and are considered a major individual risk factor for non‐communicable diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.13 Removing unhealthy foods and drinks from schools would support children, teachers and parents and send a powerful message to communities about the health harms of these products.

Finally, it is not only about taking things away but also supporting locally driven programs and the school infrastructure to support healthier habits. Drinking fountains, play equipment and canteen hardware could all be supported through small grants aimed at further empowering schools as decisions makers and agents for healthier kids.


  • 20% increase in sugary drinks pricing with phased expansion to fast foods over three years, unlocking approximately $400 million in annual revenue to add to existing $100 million for prevention
  • More than $600 million in annual health savings expected from sugary drinks price increase of 20%
  • $10 million for social marketing campaigns to explain the new policy measures, and benefits to community
  • Compensation package for farmers and small retailers producing and selling sugary drinks (cost unknown but likely small)
  • Such legislation would also support industry to reformulate or reshape product portfolios for long‐term market planning

Today’s food environment sees increased availability of lower cost, processed foods high in salt, fats and added sugars.14 People have less time to prepare meals and are influenced by aggressive food marketing. This leads to food inequality with those from low socioeconomic backgrounds at greater risk from obesity. Obesity increases the risks of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, mental health issues and premature death.15 There are also wider societal and economic costs amounting to an estimated $8.6 billion spent in the health sector alone annually.16

Food prices should be adjusted in relation to nutritional content. Policy makers must shift their pricing focus to integrate the true societal cost of products associated with fiscally burdensome disease. In 2016, a WHO report highlighted that a 20% increase in retail price of sugary drinks lowers consumption as well as obesity, type 2 diabetes and tooth decay.17

The landmark peso per litre sugar tax from Mexico highlighted the behaviour change potential such policies possess. Sales of higher priced beverages decreased substantially in subsequent years. Importantly, the most significant decreases occurred among the poorest households.18 For Australia, a similar approach is estimated to lead to $609 million in annual health savings and raise $400 million in direct revenue.16

These legislative approaches should be framed as an expansion of our existing GST and would encourage industry to reformulate products, positively influencing the food environment.131517

This is not a sin tax or ban, it is an effective policy and pricing that is fair to families. It is also backed by evidence and supported by the public.19


  • End all junk food marketing to children, and between 6 am and 10 pm on television
  • End the use of cartoons on any food or drink packaging
  • $30 million to replace junk food sponsorship of sport and arts events with healthy messaging and explanation of lifeSPANS policy approach
  • Phased expansion of advertising ban over three years to all non‐essential foods (GST language)

The food industry knows that marketing works, otherwise they would not spend almost $400 million annually on advertisements in Australia alone.20

Three of four commercial food advertisements are for unhealthy products and evidence suggests that food advertising triggers cognitive processes that influence our food choices, similar to those seen in addiction. Studies also demonstrate that food commercials including the use of cartoons influence the amount of calories that children consume and the findings are particularly pronounced in overweight children.21

Fast food advertising at sporting and arts events further reinforces a dangerous and confusing notion that sees the direct association between societal heroes or elite athleticism and the unhealthiest of foods.

Ending junk food advertising to children, including any use of cartoons in the advertisement of food and drinks, is an important step to support our kids.


  • Further strengthen existing labelling approaches, including mandatory systems

Nutritional information can be confusing for parents, let alone children. Food packaging often lists nutritional information in relation to portion size meaning a product with a higher figure may simply be larger rather than less healthy. While the Health Star Rating system, implemented in 2014, has made substantive progress, it remains voluntary.22

Efforts should be made to strengthen the usability of existing efforts and make consistent, evidence‐based and effective labelling mandatory. Such developments would also provide stronger incentives for manufacturers to reformulate products, reducing sugar, fat and salt content.

Clearer and consistent information would help create a more enabling food environment for families to make informed choices about their food.


  • Utilise procurement and supply chains of schools and public institutions to drive demand for healthier foods
  • Leverage the purchasing power of large organisations to reduce the costs of healthy foods for partner organisations and communities

Coordinated strategies are needed to support the availability of lower cost, healthy foods for all communities. Cities and large organisations such as schools and hospitals could collaborate to purchase food as collectives, thus driving demand, building market size and improving economies of scale.23

By leveraging collective purchasing power, institutions can catalyse the availability of sustainable and healthy foods to also support wider, positive food environment change.

Part 2

Dr Alessandro Demaio, or Sandro, trained and worked as a medical doctor at The Alfred Hospital in Australia.

While practicing as a doctor he completed a Master in Public Health including fieldwork to prevent diabetes through Buddhist Wats in Cambodia. In 2010, he relocated to Denmark where he completed a PhD with the University of Copenhagen, focusing on non-communicable diseases. His doctoral research was based in Mongolia, working with the Ministry of Health.

He designed, led and reported a national epidemiological survey, sampling more than 3500 households. Sandro held a Postdoctoral Fellowship at Harvard Medical School from 2013 to 2015, and was assistant professor and course director in global health at the Copenhagen School of Global Health, in Denmark.

He established and led the PLOS blog Global Health, and served on the founding Advisory Board of the EAT Foundation: the global, multi-stakeholder platform for food, health and environmental sustainability.

To date, he has authored over 23 scientific publications and more than 85 articles and blogs. In his pro bono work, Dr Demaio co-founded NCDFREE, a global social movement against noncommunicable diseases using social media, short film and leadership events – crowdfunded, it reached more than 2.5 million people in its first 18 months.

Then, in 2015, he founded festival21, assembling and leading a team of knowledge leaders in staging a massive and unprecedented, free celebration of community, food, culture and future in his hometown Melbourne. In November 2015, Sandro joined the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the World Health Organization’s global headquarters, as Medical Officer for noncommunicable conditions and nutrition.

From 2017, he is also co-host of the ABC television show Ask the Doctor – an innovative and exploratory factual medical series broadcasting weekly across Australia. Sandro is currently fascinated by systems-innovation and leadership; impact in a post-democracy; and the commercial determinants of disease. He also loves to cook.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and @PSA_National ‏#Pharmacy News : New @jcu research shows the potentially life-saving #Closingthegap benefits of integrating pharmacists within Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services

” There’s good evidence that pharmacists in our ACCHO health services improve patient health,”

NACCHO Director, Medicines Policy and Programs, Mike Stephens (Pictured above ) says the pharmacists would also educate staff and liaise with external stakeholders, including hospitals, to develop strategic plans for more effective medicine use.

Read all articles and or SUBSCRIBE to NACCHO Aboriginal and Pharmacy ALERTS

James Cook University, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) have joined forces to explore this potential by way of a project which will aim to embed pharmacists in 22 Aboriginal community-controlled health services in Queensland, Victoria and the Northern Territory.

Funded by the Australian Government under the 6th Community Pharmacy Agreement, the pioneering project will see culturally trained pharmacists working with clinical staff and patients to improve medication use. The first project pharmacists commenced in July this year.

Research by JCU Associate Professor, General Practice and Rural Medicine, Sophia Couzos, says the project is vital because the inability of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with chronic diseases to access pharmacist support may be placing lives at risk.

Dr Couzos said these patients often struggle with medication regimes – including treatment for life-threatening conditions like diabetes and cardio-vascular disease.

“There is a higher burden of chronic disease in the Aboriginal community, and these patients are likely to be prescribed multiple medicines, which also place them at greater risk of drug-related complications,” she says.

“Yet they have limited access to appropriate pharmacist advice across Australia, particularly in remote areas. We know that ‘drugs don’t work if patients don’t taken them’, so finding ways to optimise this is a vital health system improvement.”

The project pharmacists, located within the primary healthcare teams of Aboriginal health services, will assist individual patients to overcome obstacles, and prescribers to optimise medication choices.

“These pharmacists will be providing advice in a culturally safe environment for the patient, where they can feel at ease,” Dr Couzos says.

But the practice only occurs on an ad hoc basis in Australia. Despite this, there is no shortage of pharmacists keen to play frontline roles within Aboriginal health services, he maintained.

PSA manager, Health Sector Engagement, Shelley Crowther, says the peak body has been advocating for a number of years that pharmacists play an active role in improving medication management for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

“There is a lot of evidence to support that medication misadventure results in cost to the health system,” she says.

“The Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare estimates medication-related admissions to hospitals Australia-wide cost $1.2 billion annually.

“The discrepancies in health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people give even greater weight to the importance of embedding pharmacists to reduce medication misadventure and improve medication management to try to achieve better health outcomes.”

Hannah Mann, a community pharmacist speaking on behalf of the Pharmacy Guild of Australia says that “There are many community pharmacists who already have experience working with Aboriginal community controlled health services, who have excellent relationships with them, and who are looking to further strengthen these ties between community pharmacy and health services to better the health outcomes of patients.”

The project is scheduled to run until early 2020 and JCU will measure the healthcare improvements in chronic disease sufferers supported by project pharmacists.

“If the quality of care improves, that will lead to health dollar savings down the track because we know that access to quality primary health care can prevent unnecessary hospitalisations,” Dr Couzos says.

“This project will give impetus to the Australian Government to explore how healthcare workforce innovation may enhance access to quality healthcare for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Associate Professor Couzos is presenting a paper about the project at the Community Pharmacy Stakeholder Forum in Sydney on the 7th September 2018.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Closingthegap : Reconciling a policy mess : But research shows ACCHO’s significantly more effective at improving Indigenous health outcomes than the mainstream system.

 ” The present National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO )network provides a different working model for governments devolving decision-making power to the people directly affected. Research shows the network is significantly more effective at improving indigenous health outcomes than the mainstream system.

In its submission to a parliamentary committee considering options for indigenous constitutional recognition, the peak health body says: “We know that governments, of all persuasions and at all levels, struggle to … ensure full participation from ­Aboriginal and Torres Strait ­Islander peoples to have a genuine say over matters that impact on us. This can be seen now in the poorly conceived and led consultations on the Closing the Gap Refresh.”

From The Australian 5 September Stephen Fitzpatrick Indigenous affairs editor 

To get to the bottom of why the decade-old Closing the Gap program designed to reduce Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage has been such an underwhelming enterprise, it helps to trawl through the confused muddle of a half-century of indigenous affairs policy in Australia.

The Council of Australian Governments scheme, with its range of targets tracking outcomes across health, education and employment based on rigorous data sets, emerged in Kevin Rudd’s hands from the formal reconciliation era to become an annual showpiece addressing the state of the First Nations within the broader nation.

That this concept was even possible dates to 1967, when a referendum gave the commonwealth powers to join with state and territory governments to create a national system of indigenous affairs. For the first time, indigenous Australians could be treated — in theory — the same as everyone.

But theory and practice often don’t align. The fact Closing the Gap now is undergoing a root-and-branch review, labelled a “refresh”, shows this. So does the Turnbull government’s malign rejection last year of the Uluru Statement from the Heart’s proposal for indigenous constitutional recognition, which would have put indigenous Australians at the heart of policy made about them.

Now the latest top-down spasm in indigenous affairs policy, the appointment of Tony Abbott to an ill-defined role as “special envoy” in the field, is being seen in many quarters as yet another abrogation of repeated government promises to do things “with, not to” Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

Academic Marcia Langton has called the appointment a “punch in the guts to indigenous Australia”, and it has been described by others as being more about solving Scott Morrison’s political problems than black Australia’s lived ones. The Prime Minister’s indigenous advisory council was not even consulted, co-chairman Roy Ah See revealed to The Australian.

There are just three Closing the Gap targets still formally being considered, only two of them on track: halving the gap on Year 12 attainment and getting 95 per cent of four-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education. The third, closing the gap on life expectancy by 2031, remains derailed.

Four more targets expired recently. Just one — halving the child mortality rate — is trending to be met, although data experts query whether the underlying figures used to demonstrate this are accurate. The other three still off course when their timelines ran out were on reading, writing and numeracy; school attendance; and employment.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare charts a life expectancy gap of 10 years and says that between one-third and one-half of the health gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians are associated with differences in socio-economic position such as education, employment and income.

Linked to this, it recently released a report documenting the ongoing impact of trauma suffered by the Stolen Generations, of whom it calculates there are 17,150 survivors.

Many of the detailed written submissions to the official government “refresh” point out that structural reform is the only thing capable of overcoming the inequity born of more than two centuries of dispossession and trauma. Not a blind adherence to meeting targets — or, as expressed in ­Abbott’s acceptance of his new role, the rather hollow platitude that improved school attendance rates “is the absolute key to a better future for indigenous kids and this is the key to reconciliation”.

The overwhelming conclusion is that long-term failure has been the result of a lack of consistent indigenous voices in policymaking — and although peak groups and individuals are being consulted on the “refresh”, there is not much expectation of ongoing co-design.

After a series of workshops involving peak groups and individuals, there are 23 revised targets on the table. Several continue on the original themes, ­although the reliance on a mix of state and territory data and policies, as well as those at the commonwealth level, is a reminder that the 1967 referendum’s unanticipated result was an overall indigenous affairs policy incoherence.

Measures on health, education and employment take up the first nine proposed targets, with existing data on each of these assessed to be largely adequate for integrating into a revised scheme.

A new category of entrepreneurship acknowledges that getting out of poverty is crucial to escaping disadvantage, but analyst Charles Jacobs, from the Centre for Independent Studies, warns that its reliance wholly on government procurement spending increases could mask the need for also boosting indigenous business participation in the private sector.

“Small enterprises, for instance tourism businesses, are part of this, so the measure should perhaps be achieving a certain percentage of self-employment in the whole sector,” Jacobs says. “You’ve got to include businesses in the free market because the government procurement approach is limited.”

Areas such as housing, child protection, justice and family violence also are categorised as having sufficient data streams to create realistic targets, but the worry is that measuring inequitable rates of out-of-home care and imprisonment could be meaningless at the commonwealth level if the state and territory jurisdictions that determine them do not also introduce actual policy change.

Among the Uluru Statement’s most powerful lines is a direct reference to this dilemma: “Proportionally, we are the most incar­cerated people on the planet. We are not an innately criminal people. Our children are alienated from their families at unprecedented rates. This cannot be because we have no love for them. And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers. They should be our hope for the future.”

The remaining areas being considered in the current blueprint cover targets that may address some of the root causes of this, but for which the review’s briefing notes admit there is no useful data being collected.

This raises the question of whether measurability on these should even be the key goal or whether the voice to parliament proposed at Uluru might be a better lever because it could have a direct influence on policymaking. They include disability and social inclusion, culture and language, racism and systemic discrimination, healing and trauma: issues that inquiry after inquiry has acknowledged are influencers of overall poor indigenous outcomes.

The First Peoples Disability Network submission to the review describes the flaws as being built in to the system.

“Once a year the Prime Minister delivers his report on outcomes to parliament, but after the report is delivered there is no systematic process that involves Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander expertise on how to respond to the outcomes and issues,” it says. “The process needs to be transformed from a retrospective, static and non-participatory process into a dynamic and responsive process.”

There is even speculation that the 11th report, due in February, simply will be an announcement of a new measurement regime for the revised series of targets, thereby avoiding the dismal recitation in recent years of failure.

There is a further fly in the ointment, though: an Australian National Audit Office inquiry also is under way, investigating whether appropriate data governance arrange­ments are in place for estab­lishing progress in the official program and whether there is effec­tive evaluation of what impact indigenous programs are having. That audit is due in February, right when the annual Prime Minister’s report lobs. The outcome could be a jarring crossover, as the Auditor-General, a statutory official, is under no pressure to make the government look good.

Richard Weston, chief executive of the Healing Foundation, which came into being after the 1997 Bringing Them Home report identified unresolved trauma as a key driver of continuing indigenous family and community dysfunction, says the “huge economic cost to the Australian taxpayer of only addressing symptoms of trauma” is just one of the issues at stake in whether Closing the Gap works.

“There’s no simple fix; it’s complex,” Weston tells The Australian. “We don’t have a vision for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy or people. We’re trying to fix a complex problem with simple solutions, which become like a flavour-of-the-month approach, just throwing a bit of money first at one thing and then another.”

His foundation’s submission to the government review is damning. “Empirical evaluation designs that seek to prove a statistically significant impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander wellbeing are failing to shed light on what elements of the program failed, why they failed or how they could have succeeded, and have not given recognition to those considered effective in the eyes of the people who deliver or engage with the services,” it reads.

“While there is a place for quantitative evaluation of programs, evaluation needs to go beyond the finding of ‘nothing works’ to consider whether the program has actually failed, whether the evaluation methodology has failed, or if both the program and evaluation have disregarded key underlying factors associated with poor outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

Which is where going back to the 1967 referendum outcome is helpful. A Productivity Commission report last year said 44 per cent of the $33.4 billion allocated to indigenous spending annually came via the commonwealth, a direct result of that vote.

Of this total, $27.4bn (or 88 per cent) was channelled through mainstream services available to all Australians, such as health, ­policing and education.

The remaining $6bn came through indigenous-specific programs and, of this, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet administered almost $2bn, but the whole often is delivered via a spaghetti bowl of overlapping service and program providers, with ­inade­quate evaluation of effici­ency or results and frequent shifts in policy.

One example of this was the implementation in 2014 of an overarching Indigenous Advancement Strategy federal funding model, an approach broadly canned by a later Senate inquiry for its poor design and implementation and that stripped $500 million from the field.

This all raises the question of whether the commonwealth should be providing programs at all or, as University of Queensland professor Mark Moran puts it, deciding to “fix a failing public ­administration system”.

“This could include innovations in new funding methods, with collaboration and accountability measures that wrap and build around the discrete place or dispersed urban population, instead of targeting individual recipients with more grants,” Moran says. “Mainstream services — such as education, school, health, police and child protection — are essential and must remain.

“But if the funds for all of the ‘additional’ programs were pooled and channelled into a small number of ­locally based organisations, or into all-encompassing community development program(s), it could create a more effective and enabling environment for innovation and locally led reform to occur.”

It’s what the Uluru Statement’s framers say the voice to parliament is designed to address, with very likely a regional, traditional owner-based network feeding up to a national body but directing it towards locally determined needs.

So, too, is the Empowered Communities model, being trialled in nine discrete indigenous communities nationwide including in Sydney’s Redfern and La Perouse, or Cape York’s Pama Futures approach, a collaboration between local people and governments that its advocates describe as “the best chance we have to close the gap on indigenous disparity in our region”.

There has not been a national approach to inviting representative indigenous input to policy since the Howard government dissolved the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission in 2004, and even Amanda Vanstone, the minister at the time, said recently that “in hindsight (it) might have been a mistake” to abolish that body in its entirety.

Law professor Megan Davis, pro vice-chancellor indigenous at the University of NSW (and one of the authors, with Cape York lawyer Noel Pearson, of the Uluru Statement), says a key feature of ATSIC was its impact on regional policymaking, in particular the provision of remote infrastructure and the importance of this to closing the gap on indigenous disadvantage.

Before ATSIC, bodies such as the National Aboriginal Conference, established by the Fraser government in 1977, exploited what then minister Fred Chaney has recently described as a “loud and often critical voice” that was nonetheless “useful and effective” in determining the needs of indigenous Australia.

Post-ATSIC, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples was an attempt at providing a representative voice but it lost all funding with the introduction of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy.

But perhaps Gumatj clan leader Djawa Yunupingu put it best when he asked in a fiery and, as it turns out, prescient speech recently at the annual Garma festival in Arnhem Land, the same forum Abbott used in 2013 to declare he would be a “prime minister for indigenous affairs” should he win office.

“How long do we have to wait to get this right?” Yunupingu said. “Another committee? Another meeting? Another prime minister?

NACCHO Aboriginal Children’s Health #Nutrition #Obesity : @IndigenousPHAA The #AFL ladder of sponsorships such as soft drinks @CocaColaAU and junk food @McDonalds_AU endangers the health of our children

 “Aboriginal and Non- Aboriginal kids are being inundated with the advertising of alcohol, junk food and gambling through AFL sponsorship deals according to a new study.

With obesity and excessive drinking remaining a significant problem in our communities, it’s time for the AFL ladder of unhealthy sponsorship (see below) to end,

Children under the age of eight are particularly vulnerable to advertising because they lack the maturity and mental skills to evaluate the messages. Therefore, in the case of the AFL, they begin to associate unhealthy products with their favourite sport and players

We need to ask ourselves why Australia’s most popular winter sport is serving as a major advertising platform for soft drink, beer, wine, burgers and meat pies. It’s sending the wrong message to Australians that somehow these unhealthy foods and drinks are linked to the healthy activity of sport,”

Says the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA).

Read all NACCHO Aboriginal Health Nutrition / Obestity articles over 6 years HERE 

In the study published this week in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Australian researchers looked at the prevalence of sponsorship by alcohol, junk food and gambling companies on AFL club websites and on AFL player uniforms.

The findings were used to make an ‘AFL Sponsorship Ladder’, a ranking of AFL clubs in terms of their level of unhealthy sponsorships, with those at the top of the ladder having the highest level of unhealthy sponsors.

The study clearly demonstrated that Australia’s most popular spectator sport is saturated with unhealthy advertising.

Download PDF Copy of report NACCHO Unhealthy sponsors of sport

Ainslie Sartori, one of the authors involved in the research confirmed, “After reviewing the sponsorship deals of AFL clubs, we found that 88% of clubs are sponsored by unhealthy food and beverage companies. A third of AFL clubs are also involved in business partnerships with gambling companies.”


Sponsorship offers companies an avenue to expose children and young people to their brand, encouraging a connection with that brand.

The AFL could reinforce healthy lifestyle choices by shifting the focus away from the visual presence of unhealthy sponsorship, while taking steps to ensure that clubs remain commercially viable.

Policy makers are encouraged to consider innovative health promotion strategies and work
with sporting clubs and codes to ensure healthy messages are prominent


The study noted that children are often the targets of AFL advertising. This is despite World Health Organization recommendations that children’s settings should be free of unhealthy food promotions and branding (including through sport) due to the known risk it poses to their diet and chances of developing obesity.

PHAA CEO Terry Slevin commented, “When Australian kids see their sports heroes wearing a uniform plastered with certain brands, they inevitably start to associate these brands with the player they look up to and with the positive and healthy experience of the sport.”

He added, “The AFL is in a unique position to positively influence the health of Australian kids through banning sponsorship by alcohol, junk food and gambling companies. It could instead reinforce the importance of a healthy lifestyle for them.”

“Australian health policy makers need to consider innovative health promotion strategies and work together with sport clubs and codes to ensure that unhealthy advertising is not a feature. We successfully removed tobacco advertising from sport and we can do it with junk food and gambling too,” Mr Slevin said.

The recently released Sport 2030 plan rightly identifies sport as a positive vehicle to promote good health. But elite “corporate sport” plays a role of bypassing restrictions aimed at reducing exposure of children to unhealthy product marketing.

“The evidence is clear – it’s time for Australia to phase out all unhealthy sponsorship of sport,” Mr Slevin conclude

NACCHO Aboriginal Male Health : History of #OchreDay2018 How one @Apunipima man’s drive to make a change can make a difference

“ I was fortunate enough to attend the first White Ochre Day in Mossman Gorge, after seeing the potential affect this type of event could make, I took the opportunity to share the concept with Mark Saunders from NACCHO and who then adopted the concept and developed it into the national event it is today.

Without the development through Mark and now NACCHO chair, John singer, this event wouldn’t have been possible.”

The name has changed from White Ochre to simply Ochre Day, because of the different meaning that Ochre plays in communities and culture across Australia. Dan should be incredibly proud that he started something as significant as this for Aboriginal Men’s Health “

Dr Mark Wenitong, the Public Health Medical Advisor at Apunipima ACCHO Cape York

Read over 360 Aboriginal Male Health articles published by NACCHO over 6 years

View NACCHO TV Interview with Dr Mark

Ochre Day is celebrated each year on 27th August; Ochre Day recognises the importance of Aboriginal Men’s Health and Social and Emotional Wellbeing and forms an integral of NACCHO’s Aboriginal Men’s Health initiative.

Download the Plan Here a-blueprint-for-aboriginal-male-healthy-futures 

In 2012, Dan Fischer, an Indigenous Male Health Worker at Apunipima Cape York Health Council in Mossman Gorge wanted to share with the men of his community, the support and guidance that his much loved grandfather had shown him. Dan saw that many of the programs and support services that were offered to the men in his community were developed to solve a problem, not to prevent them.

Dan wanted to help the men and boys of his community in a positive way that celebrates and upholds the traditional values of respect for Aboriginal laws, respect for elders, cultures and traditions. He also saw that there was a need to encourage the men of his community to become leaders and role models.

“My Grandfather, Peter Fischer, was a great role model for me. I was lucky.” Said Dan.

From the humble beginnings, of a group of men sharing and supporting each other, in a remote community in Far North Queensland, Ochre Day was celebrated.

Ochre Day was adopted the following year, by NACCHO (National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation) at an event held in Canberra, where Dan’s passion and commitment to Close the Gap and help the men in his community was recognised.

VIEW Minister Ken Wyatt Video HERE 

Ochre Day is now celebrated right across Australia. It is an opportunity for Aboriginal males of all ages to share knowledge and explore ways to engage with their local communities, as an essential and positive part of family and community life.

“My grandfather told me that I would do good things for the health of my people and all these years later, here I am,” Dan said.

Dan believes that the success of Ochre Day from these humble beginnings is because of the great role models he has had in his life, both personally and professionally. White Ochre Day in Mossman Gorge is Dan’s way of paying forward his good fortune.

Ochre Day is evidence that one person can make a difference.

NACCHO Aboriginal Health NEWS : @AIHW report : The consumption of #alcohol, #tobacco and other #drugs is a major cause of preventable disease and illness in our communities

The consumption of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs is a major cause of preventable disease and illness in our comminities

There are a wide range of data sources available that contribute to our understanding of alcohol, tobacco and other drug use.

This web report from AIHW is intended to be a general reference for contemporary data on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in Australia.

SEE Full Report 

This report consolidates the most recently available information regarding the use of tobacco, alcohol, cannabis, meth/amphetamines and other stimulants, the non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs, illicit opioids (heroin) and new (and emerging) psychoactive substances (NPS).

Key trends in the availability, consumption, harms and treatment are identified and detailed data are presented for vulnerable populations.

These population groups include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, homeless people, older people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, people identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer (LGBTIQ), people in contact with the criminal justice system, people with mental health conditions, young people and people who inject drugs

Key findings Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people 

  • There has been significant declines in the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people smoking and consume alcohol that exceeds lifetime risk guidelines (consuming more than two standard drinks per day on average).
  • The prevalence of smoking by Indigenous people has declined from 55% in 1994 to 45% in 2014–15.
  • The proportion of Indigenous people that consume alcohol as levels that exceed lifetime risk guidelines has reduced from 19% in 2008 to 15% in 2014–15.
  • In 2011, tobacco use accounted for 12% of the burden of disease for Indigenous Australians. This accounts for 23.3% of the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
  • In 2016, more than 1 in 4 (27%) Indigenous Australians used an illicit drug in the last 12 months. This was 1.8 times higher than for non-Indigenous Australians (15.3%).
  • The most commonly used illicit drug by Indigenous Australians is cannabis (16.7%), followed by the non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs (11.0%).
  • Of clients of alcohol and other drug, treatment services, 15% were Indigenous Australians aged 10 and over, which is an overrepresentation relative to their population size.

Currently there are almost 800,000 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people (see Box ATSI1) living in Australia, accounting for 2.8% of the Australian population [1]. There are substantial differences in measures of health and welfare between Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people and non-Indigenous Australians.

Box ATSI1: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

The terms ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’ is preferred in Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) publications when referring to the separate Indigenous peoples of Australia. However, the term ‘Indigenous’ Australians is used interchangeably with ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’ in order to assist readability.

The Australian Burden of Disease Study identified that Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people experience a burden of disease that is 2.3 times the rate of non-Indigenous Australians [2]. The gap in the disease burden is due to a range of factors including disconnection to culture, traditions and country, social exclusion, discrimination and isolation, trauma, poverty, and lack of adequate access to services [3]. Tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs are key risk factors contributing to the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians [2].

Box ATSI2. Data sources examining tobacco, alcohol and other drug use by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

There are a number of data sources that provide information about tobacco, alcohol and other drug use by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) [4] and the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey (AATSIHS) [5] collected by the ABS are designed to obtain a representative sample of Indigenous Australians. In relation specifically to tobacco smoking, the ABS has consolidated data from six large, national, multistage random household surveys to identify trends between 1994 and 2014–15 [6].

The AIHW’s National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) uses a self-completion questionnaire to capture information about drug and alcohol use among the general Australian population; however it is not specifically designed to obtain reliable national estimates for Indigenous people. In 2016, 2.4% of the NDSHS (unweighted) sample aged 12 and over (or 568 respondents) identified as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin. The estimates produced by the NDSHS should be interpreted with caution due to the low sample size [7].

There are also other data sources that provide information relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

  • Australia’s Burden of Disease study analyses the impact of nearly 200 diseases and injuries in terms of living with illness (non-fatal burden) and premature death (fatal burden). In 2015, a report was released that provides estimates of burden of disease between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians [8].
  • The National Perinatal Data Collection covers each birth in Australia and includes information on Indigenous mothers and their babies [6].
  • The Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Dataset (AODTS-NMDS) contains information on treatment provided to clients by publicly funded alcohol and other drug services including Indigenous clients [9].
  • The Online Services Report (OSR) contains information on the majority of Australian Government-funded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander substance use services [6].

Tobacco smoking

While tobacco smoking is declining in Australia, it remains disproportionately high among Indigenous Australians. Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has shown:

  • In 1994, the Indigenous Australian survey data showed that 55% of Indigenous Australians aged 18 and over were smokers; 20 years later, in 2014–15, this had declined to 45% (Table S3.4).
  • Over a similar 20-year period, the National Health Survey (NHS) the proportion of non-Indigenous smokers aged 18 and over declined, from 24% in 1995 to 16% in 2014–15 (Table S3.5).
  • There appears to have been no change to the gap in smoking prevalence between the Indigenous Australian adult population and the non-Indigenous Australian adult population from 1994 to 2014–15. Even though the Indigenous Australian smoking rates are declining, the non-Indigenous rate is declining at a similar rate, therefore the gap remained constant [6] (Figure ATSI1).

Most of the decline in smoking occurred in non-remote areas. Over the 20-year period, the proportion of Indigenous Australians aged 18 and over in non-remote areas who were smokers declined from 55% to 42%, while the proportion in remote areas remained relatively stable at between 54% and 56% (Table S3.4).

In 2014–15, Indigenous males were more likely than Indigenous females to be smokers (47% compared with 42%) [1].

Geographic trends

The 2014–15 NATSISS provides estimates of tobacco smoking for Indigenous Australians by jurisdiction. According to the 2014–15 NATSISS, 39% of Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over smoked daily. Those from the Northern Territory (45%) and Western Australia (42%) surpassed this national average, while Indigenous Australians from South Australia (35%) were the least likely to be a current daily smoker [4] (Table S3.3).

Tobacco smoking in pregnancy

Indigenous Australians are at an elevated risk of smoking during pregnancy compared with non-Indigenous Australians. The National Perinatal Data Collection showed that:

  • Indigenous mothers accounted for 19% of mothers who smoked tobacco at any time during pregnancy in 2015, despite accounting for only around 4% of mothers.
  • The age-standardised rate of Indigenous mothers smoking during pregnancy has decreased from 50% in 2009 to 45% in 2015.
  • Almost 1 in 2 (45%) Indigenous mothers reported smoking during pregnancy—compared with 12% of non-Indigenous mothers (age-standardised).
  • The age-standardised rate of Indigenous mothers quitting smoking during pregnancy (14%) is about half that of non-Indigenous mothers (25%) (based on mothers who reported smoking in the first 20 weeks of pregnancy and not smoking after 20 weeks of pregnancy) [10].

Alcohol consumption

Abstinence (non-drinkers)

  • The 2016 NDSHS found that Indigenous Australians aged 14 and over were more likely to abstain from drinking alcohol than non-Indigenous Australians (31% compared with 23%, respectively) and abstinence among Indigenous Australians has been increasing since 2010 when it was 25% [7] (Table S3.1).
  • This pattern is consistent with data from the 2012–13 AATSIHS, where 28% of Indigenous Australians reported abstaining from drinking compared with 18% of non-Indigenous Australians [5].

Lifetime risk

  • The 2014–15 NATSISS found that the proportion of Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over who exceeded the NHMRC lifetime risk guidelines for alcohol consumption (consuming more than 2 standard drinks per day on average) decreased between 2008 and 2014–15 (19% compared with 15%; non age-standardised proportions). The overall change is largely due to a decline in non-remote areas (19% in 2008 to 14% in 2014–15) [4] (Table S3.6).
  • Comparisons between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are only available using age-standardised data from the 2012–13 AATSIHS and is not comparable to the 2014–15 NATSISS. The findings showed that lifetime risky drinking of Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over was similar to that of non-Indigenous Australians (9.8% compared with 9.7%; age-standardised) [5] (Table S3.7).

Single occasion risk

  • According to the 2014–15 NATSISS, 30% of Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over exceeded the single occasion risk guidelines for alcohol consumption (non age-standardised proportions), which is a decline since 2002 (35%).
  • Comparisons between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians are only available using age-standardised data from the 2012–13 AATSIHS and is not comparable to the 2014–15 NATSISS. The 2012–13 AATSIHS reported that 1 in 2 (50%) Indigenous Australians exceed the single occasion risky drinking guidelines (more than 4 standard drinks on a single occasion in past year). This was 1.1 times the rate that non-Indigenous Australians (44%) that exceeded these guidelines [5] (Table S3.7).

Risky alcohol consumption

  • According to the 2016 NDSHS, almost 1 in 5 Indigenous Australians (18.8%) consumed 11 or more standard drinks at least once a month. This was 2.8 times the rate that non-Indigenous Australians (6.8%) consumed this amount of alcohol [7] (Table S3.1).

Geographic trends

Between 2002 and 2014–15 there was a decline in the proportion of Indigenous Australians that resided in New South Wales Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory that exceeded the lifetime and single occasion risk guidelines (Figure ATSI2). Indigenous Australians residing in Tasmania (36%), the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) (35%), Queensland (33%) and Western Australia (33%) had higher rates of exceeding the single occasion drinking guidelines than the national average [4] (Table S3.8).

Indigenous Australians residing in Western Australia (16%), New South Wales (16%) and Queensland (15%) surpassed the national average for exceeding lifetime risk guidelines [4] (Table S3.9).

Illicit drug use

In the 2014–15 NATSISS, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 and over were asked whether they had used illicit substances in the last 12 months, and the types of illicit substances they had used during that period [4]. The data showed that:

  • Almost one-third (30%) of Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over reported having used illicit substances in the last 12 months, up from 22% in 2008.
  • Males were significantly more likely than females to have used illicit substances (34% compared with 27%), as were people in non-remote areas compared with those in remote areas (33% compared with 21%).
  • Cannabis was the most commonly reported illicit drug used by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the last 12 months at 19% (25% of males compared with 14% of females).
  • The non-medical use of analgesics and sedatives (such as painkillers, sleeping pills and tranquilisers) was also relatively common (13%), with females (15%) being more likely than males (11%) to have used analgesics and sedatives.
  • One in twenty (5%) Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over reported having used amphetamines or speed in the last 12 months (6% of males compared with 3% of females) [4] (Figure ATSI3).

The 2016 NDSHS data showed that (other than ecstasy and cocaine), Indigenous Australians aged 14 and over recent used of illicit drugs was at a higher rate than non-Indigenous Australians (Table S3.1). Rates of illicit drug use in 2016 for Indigenous Australians aged 14 and older were:

  • Over one in four (27%) used any illicit drug in the last 12 months—1.8 times higher than non-Indigenous Australians (15.3%)
  • One in five (19.4%) used cannabis in the last 12 months—1.9 times higher than non-Indigenous Australians (10.2%)
  • Around one in 10 (10.6%) used a pharmaceutical for non-medical use—2.3 times higher than non-Indigenous Australians (4.6%) [7] (Table S3.1)
  • 3.1% used meth/amphetamines in the last 12 months—2.2 times higher than non-Indigenous Australians (1.4%).

The differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians were still apparent even after adjusting for differences in age structure (Figure ATSI4). There were no significant changes in illicit use of drugs among Indigenous Australians between 2013 and 2016, however due to the small sample sizes for Indigenous Australians, the estimates of the NDSHS should be interpreted with caution.

Geographic trends

Indigenous Australians aged 15 and over residing in the Northern Territory (22%) were the least likely to report substance use, while those from the Australian Capital Territory (41%) and Victoria (40%) were the most likely to report using substances.

Indigenous Australians from the Northern Territory (22%) and Queensland (29%) were the only jurisdictions below the national average (30%) [4] (Table S3.3).

Health and harms

The health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are considerably lower than for non-Indigenous Australians. For instance:

  • 35.1% of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people compared with 58.3% of non-Indigenous Australia self-assessed their health as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’ (age-standardised per cent).
  • 32.5% of Indigenous Australians compared with 12.3% of non-Indigenous Australians reported high/very high psychological distress (age-standardised per cent).
  • 71.0% of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people reported having a long-term health condition compared with 55.3% of non-Indigenous Australians (age-standardised per cent) [4] (Table S3.6).

Almost 1 in 2 Indigenous Australians with a mental health condition were a daily smoker (46%) and about 2 in 5 (39%) to have used substances in the last 12 months. This was higher than for Indigenous  Australians with other long-term health conditions (33% and 24%, respectively) or those with no long term health condition (39% and 29% respectively) [4] (Table S3.11).

The Australian Burden of Disease Study provides an indication of the risk factors that contribute to the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. In 2011, tobacco use accounted for 23.3% of the gap, and alcohol and drug use contributed to 8.1% and 4.1% of the gap, respectively [8] (Table S3.12).


Indigenous Australians are also overrepresented in drug and alcohol treatment services. In 2016–17, the Alcohol and Other Drug Treatment Services National Minimum Dataset (AODTS-NMDS) showed that 15% of clients were Indigenous Australians aged 10 and over (Table S3.13). Indigenous Australians (3,313 per 100,000 population) were 7 times more likely to receive AOD treatment services than non-Indigenous Australians (430 per 100,000 population) were. Specifically where:

  • Amphetamines was the principal drug of concern, Indigenous Australians (1,204 per 100,000 population) were 8 times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians (155 per 100,000 population).
  • Heroin was the principal drug of concern Indigenous Australians (911 per 100,000 population) were 7 times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians (123 per 100,000 population) were.
  • Cannabis was the principal drug of concern Indigenous Australians (867 per 100,000 population) were 7 times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians (126 per 100,000 population) were.
  • Alcohol was the principal drug of concern Indigenous Australians (136 per 100,000 population) were 7 times more likely than non-Indigenous Australians (26 per 100,000 population) [9] (Table S3.14).

Dependence on opioid drugs (including codeine, heroin and oxycodone) can be treated with pharmacotherapy therapy using substitute drugs such as methadone or buprenorphine. The National Opioid Pharmacotherapy Statistics Annual Data collection (NOPSAD) provides information on clients receiving opioid pharmacotherapy treatment on a snapshot day each year. For jurisdictions where data was provided, in 2017:

  • Around 1 in 10 clients (9%) were Indigenous, an overrepresentation relative to their population size.
  • Indigenous Australians were almost 3 times as likely (70 clients per 10,000 population) to receive pharmacotherapy treatment as non-Indigenous Australians (26 clients per 10,000 population) [11] (Table S3.15).

Data from the OSR shows that 2015–16, there were 80 organisations around Australia that provided alcohol and other drug treatment services to around 32,700 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander clients [6]. The OSR data also shows that:

  • All 80 organisations reported that alcohol was one of the top five common substance-use issue, followed by cannabis (94%) and amphetamines (70%)
  • Treatment episodes were more likely to be to occur in non-residential settings (87%)
  • One third of all treatment episodes were in Very remote areas (32%) and the highest proportion of clients were located in Major cities (35%).

Policy context

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2017

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework 2017 includes a suite of products that give the latest information on how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia are faring according to a range of 68 performance measures across 3 tiers: Tier 1—health status and outcomes, Tier 2—determinants of health, and Tier 3—health system performance. The measures are based on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework and cover data that has been collected on the entire health system, including Indigenous-specific services and programs, and mainstream services [12].

National Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Peoples Drug Strategy 2014–2019

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ Drug Strategy 2014–2019 was a sub-strategy of the National Drug Strategy 2010–2015 and remains a sub-strategy under the National Drug Strategy 2017–2025. The overarching goal of this sub-strategy is to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by preventing and reducing the harmful effects of alcohol and other drugs (AOD) on individuals, families and their communities [13].