NACCHO political news: Aboriginal National Congress told funding will go next July

Nat Congress

THE peak Aboriginal body has been told it must prepare to lose its federal funding from next July and find another way to support itself.

From Patricia Karvelas From: The Australian

Labor had promised to keep the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples funded with $15 million for another three years in this year’s May budget.

Since the election, the congress has hoped the Coalition would honour Labor’s pledge.

But Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion said he had met the group’s co-chairs yesterday to warn them that was highly unlikely and they must look beyond the government for means of survival.

The edict came as Tony Abbott said last night that the referendum to acknowledge first Australians must surpass the apology and the 1967 referendum as a unifying moment for the nation.

In a speech to mark the 60th anniversary of law firm Arnold Block Leibler, the Prime Minister said “symbols” were important to reconciling with Aborigines.

He said too many had “felt like strangers” in the only land they had known. “The best thing we could do for Aboriginal Australia right now is push on as quickly as we can with constitutional recognition,” he said. “We have it in our hearts to do this.”

Senator Scullion told the congress’s co-chairs that while the final outcome would be determined by the Commission of Audit and be revealed at budget time, there was no appetite to keep them funded and they must use the next six months to plan for a future without federal funds.

“The circumstances are that the funding is unlikely, so I met with them and advised them that our priorities are frontline services and indicated that the principle reason that I don’t think they will keep getting funded was . . . we never committed to it during the election and our priorities are with our election commitments,” he said.

“I told them I wanted to tell them early to allow them to make financial plans. I told them I would lift restrictions on their current funds if I could.”

Senator Scullion said the co-chairs had asked whether the government would contract them for roles on a fee-for-service basis, and that he would consider it.

“I told them they had a role to represent the nation’s first people and they needed to grow their membership,” he said.

“I am very doubtful that a positive decision will be made on their funding and I think they need to start preparing for that.”

With its four-year federal funding deal to expire this year, the congress had written in a submission to the Abbott government that its Commission of Audit needed to recognise “the need for a sustainable independent national body” to ensure a voice for indigenous people.

NACCHO welcomes your comments


NACCHO News: THE Abbott government will strip funding from peak Aboriginal body


NATSILS chairman Shane Duffy said last night the cuts would deny essential legal services to even more Aboriginal people.

Source: News Limited

THE Abbott government will strip funding from the peak Aboriginal legal aid organisation and policy positions in its state affiliates, but has moderated the extent of cuts to at-the-coalface services following an outcry from the indigenous community.

The Coalition today will announce the defunding of the peak National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services and all law reform and policy officer positions within each state and territory affiliate, saving $9 million over three years.

However, this represents a backdown after the Coalition went to the election promising cuts of $42m over three years to take effect from the 2014-15 financial year.



NATSILS chairman Shane Duffy said last night the cuts would deny essential legal services to even more indigenous people and further entrench them as “second-class citizens” in their own country.

Mr Duffy said that at a time when Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander incarceration rates were at alarming highs and continuing to rise, the funding cuts were short-sighted.

“Without a national peak body and state-based law reform and policy officers, governments around Australia will have no access to informed, evidence-based frontline advice in regards to the effectiveness of the justice system,” Mr Duffy said.

“Justice-related costs are spiralling out of control around Australia, and removing the ability of frontline services to provide government agencies with accurate policy advice will only serve to make our system more ineffective, inefficient and increasingly costly.

“Cutting funding at the policy level in order to save money is simply a false economy.”

Mr Duffy said that the small saving of $3m a year was nothing compared to the impact such cuts would have on the ground.

“Without the advocacy work of a national peak body and state and territory-based law reform and policy officers, more people are going to end up in prison. It’s as simple as that,” he said.

“The funding cuts directly target our ability to work with governments to address the underlying causes of why Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are so disproportionately represented in our justice system. There is no one else to fulfil this role if we are prohibited from doing so.”

Mr Duffy said that the funding cuts would also affect the level of prevention and early intervention services provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

He said with the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, headed by Warren Mundine, reviewing all government expenditure, it was unclear why the legal aid cuts had already been decided on.

“The fact that the government has pre-empted this review calls into question the commitment Tony Abbott has for the council that he has specifically created to advise him on such issues. This isn’t what you would expect from a Prime Minister who has positioned himself as the Prime Minister for indigenous Australians,” he said.

Last night there was huge pressure on Mr Mundine, who has said he does not support the cuts, to intervene.

NACCHO Aboriginal health funding alert :Health Minister Peter Dutton to review troubled e-health

Peter Dutton

According to reports in The Australian  HEALTH Minister Peter Dutton has moved swiftly to initiate a review of the troubled $1 billion personally controlled e-health record system at the behest of Tony Abbott.

Mr Dutton has received initial briefings on the PCEHR from key stakeholders such as the Department of Health.

NACCHO has supported the introduction of a national eHealth record system. Through AMSANT our sector has directly experienced the benefits that have been gleaned from a shared electronic health record system (SEHR).

Our sector has been early adopters of eHealth initiatives for many years. More recent examples include: AMSANT and AHCSA integration with the NT Department of Health and Families eHealth site (wave 2) project, QAIHC adoption of the eCollaboratives project and the KAMSC regional linkage of Aboriginal Medical Services to hospitals in the Kimberley to name just a few examples.

As a result our sector has been in a  unique position to participate in the monitoring and evaluation of the PCEHR system as we have extensive knowledge and practice to draw from.

NACCHO and its affiliates are committed to the National eHealth agenda through the National ACCHS
eHealth Project (A new website will be released over the coming weeks)

The Coalition will undertake a comprehensive assessment of the true status of the PCEHR implementation as outlined in its health policy released in the lead up to the election. “In government, the Coalition implemented successful incentives to computerise general practice and will continue to provide strong in-principle support for a shared electronic health record for patients,” the policy says.

“The Coalition will again work with health professions and industry to prioritise implementation following a full assessment of the current situation.” A spokeswoman for Mr Dutton declined to say who was expected to lead the review or how long it would take.

“We all support an electronic health record,” she said. “However, we have grave concerns about the amount of money the previous government spent on e-health for very little outcome to date.

“At a cost of around $1bn, we should have a lot more to show for it.” In opposition, Mr Dutton and others criticised the PCEHR’s performance, saying that while more than 650,000 people had registered for an e-health record, only 4000-plus shared health summaries were created.

The summaries are generated by a patient’s GP and contain diagnoses, allergies and medications. The spokeswoman declined to say if Deloitte’s refresh of the 2008 national e-health strategy had begun. Medical Software Industry Association president Jenny O’Neill said her organisation was “very willing to assist the new Health Minister in a review and planning for a sustainable (e-health) future”.

“In a recent Q&A program on the ABC, former health minister Tanya Plibersek equated a $1.5bn investment by government as a ’rounding error’,”

Ms O’Neill said. “Had her department invested this ’rounding error’ in the e-health sector by strengthening the electronic bridges between all the parties, Australia would have achieved major and sustainable transformational change in this timeframe.

If all the important infrastructure supporting current data transfer had been strengthened and upgraded with the latest technologies, national security and safety standards would now exist.” She said the PCEHR was “a much advertised national system which is next to empty”. ”

Each transaction in this national system has to be routed through a national repository,” Ms O’Neill said. “It is like building a fast train system between the cities and towns of Australia and requiring every trip to go via Canberra.” She said taxpayers could not afford rounding errors in e-health.

The Consumers e-Health Alliance wants the government to establish a “truly independent” national e-health governing council that comprises medical experts, consumers, the local health IT industry and government agencies. Alliance convenor Peter Brown said the council would have oversight of a new entity tasked with implementation and operational responsibilities.

Last week the Pharmacy Guild told The Australian it would make a detailed submission to the e-health review centred on three areas: patient issues, pharmacy issues and system issues.

Pharmacy Guild national president Kos Sclavos said there had been “some significant mistakes and missed opportunities” with the PCEHR. Meanwhile, in an industry workshop prior to the election, Health chief information and knowledge officer Paul Madden said one area of improvement was communication.

“The advent of this forum probably lines up with a new era in consultation and communication with the IT industry across the whole health and ageing space,” Mr Madden told participants.

He said there wasn’t a single channel or co-ordinated approach to disseminate information on e-health but the department was determined to improve matters. “There is so much going on … so much overlapping … so much possibility for confusion, mis-messaging and I think we need to get better at communicating what’s happening next,” he said.

Mr Madden expects such industry workshops, where participants range from departmental officials to software providers, to occur three to four times a year. –


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NACCHO political alert: NACCHO welcomes Coalition Indigenous policy finally released

The NACCHO chair Justin Mohamed welcomes the release of the Coalition Indigenous policy  document and if successful on Saturday hopes that the Coalition will work closely with peak bodies like NACCHO to develop policy and invest in healthy futures for generational change. We look forward to more detail
You can read the full policy in the download


Watch NACCHO chair Justin Mohamed and Kirstie Parker On Skynews discussing Coalition policy

Key Points

The Coalition believes indigenous Australians deserve a better future, with more job opportunities, empowered individuals and communities, and higher standards of living.

The Coalition aims to ensure that right around Australia, children go to school, adults go to work and the ordinary law of the land is observed – in indigenous communities no less than in the general community.

The Coalition will establish a Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, to be chaired by Mr Warren Mundine. The Council will help ensure that the Indigenous programmes achieve real, positive change to the lives of Aboriginal people.

We will transfer responsibility for Indigenous programmes to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Under a Coalition government Australia will, in effect, have a Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs and a dedicated Indigenous Affairs Minister.

All Australian children, but particularly disadvantaged Indigenous children, need access to a proper education. Much more needs to be done in this area. The Coalition will work with the States and Territories to improve educational outcomes for Aboriginal children.

Within 12 months of taking office, the Coalition will put forward a draft amendment for constitutional recognition and establish a bipartisan process to assess its chances of success. The key objective of a referendum will be to achieve a unifying moment for the nation, similar to that achieved by the 1967 constitutional referendum.

The Coalition will provide support for Jawun’s Empowered Communities initiative, which is a new regionalised model to be applied in eight opt-in communities. Empowered Communities will give more authority to local indigenous leaders with a view to achieving Closing the Gap targets more quickly.

The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet will review indigenous training and employment programmes to ensure that such programmes are more effectively linked to employment outcomes. This review will be headed by Mr Andrew Forrest.

We will provide up to $45 million for GenerationOne’s demand-driven training model. This commitment, through GenerationOne’s Australian Employment Covenant, will train up to 5,000 Indigenous people for guaranteed jobs


The Coalition will work collaboratively with State and Territory Governments, as well as the community health sector through existing national frameworks, to ensure that our efforts to close the Indigenous health gap achieve the real and lasting outcomes that all Australians expect.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health continues to be an urgent priority for the Coalition. We have a long and proud record of improving Indigenous health outcomes and we remain fully committed to achieving health equality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians within a generation.
Despite good intent and considerable investment by successive governments, there remains a significant disparity in health outcomes for Indigenous Australians as evident by key indicators such as life expectancy, age-standardised death rates and rates of chronic disease.
Continued investment in clinical health services for all Indigenous Australians will remain a priority for the Coalition. However, the Coalition is also determined to address the social determinants of health that will be key to improving Indigenous health outcomes.
The Coalition has provided in-principle support for Closing the Gap initiatives and will maintain the funding in the Budget allocated to Closing the Gap in Health. We have also committed to a range of initiatives to improve school attendance, employment opportunities and appropriate housing options in remote and Indigenous communities.

The Choice

The ANAO reports that in 2011 there were 210 Indigenous specific Australian Government programmes and sub-programmes included in its Closing the Gap activities, administered by more than 40 agencies across 17 separate portfolios, with the best estimate of expenditure totalling $4.2 billion in 2011-12.

Unfortunately, you do not have to look very closely at the Prime Minister’s recent report on Closing the Gap to conclude that Labor’s approach to Indigenous Affairs has not worked.

While a target for access to preschool programmes appears to have been met, there is no indication that Aboriginal children are availing themselves of these places. The life expectancy gap is stuck stubbornly where it was five years ago. There has been an improvement in the infant mortality rate, but the trend was established under the Howard Government as far back as 1998 and the decline in infant mortality has not accelerated under Labor. Despite all the expenditure on job programmes, unemployment remains unacceptably high. Tragically, a number of the education or NAPLAN indicators are going backwards.

Too many young Indigenous people in remote areas are not attending school and are not able to read or write at anywhere near an acceptable standard. Labor has clearly not done enough to address this.

Economic development on Aboriginal land and land tenure reform has stalled because the Labor Government has no appetite for changing the status quo. They abandoned the Indigenous Home Ownership on Indigenous Land programme because of their complete lack of progress on land tenure reform. Indigenous people in remote areas remain dependent on welfare, have no jobs, no property rights and are over run by bureaucrats; while Labor’s priority is the protection of vested interests.

They dropped the ball on the Northern Territory intervention and have replaced it with the self-serving bureaucratic Stronger Futures programme, leaving future generations condemned to a life on welfare.

The Coalition’s Policy

The failure to properly manage the expenditure of hundreds of millions of dollars for remote Indigenous housing under their Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure programme (SIHIP) is an absolute disgrace.

In the end, despite all the money Labor has spent, it will not have achieved its objective of reducing overcrowding in remote communities.

Labor’s failure to properly monitor and evaluate Indigenous programmes has led to chronic waste and lost opportunities, a prime example of this is the mismanagement of the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure programme.

Resources meant to improve the lives of Indigenous Australians are being squandered on overlapping and inconsistent services and bloated bureaucracies that disempower local people and their communities.

The Labor Indigenous affairs landscape is littered with bureaucratic failure and incompetence. The ANAO found that the key Australian Government agency responsible for coordination arrangements for Indigenous programmes “is failing to adequately perform its lead agency role and needs to be more proactive at monitoring and reporting on expenditure.”

Labor has shown that it has not been prepared to apply the same standards and expectations for Indigenous Australians that it would apply to other Australians. Like Labor’s approach to housing, when they set targets and as usual fail to meet them they simply reduce the standard to be achieved.

The result of all this is that after more than six years and lots of money, Labor has not made sufficient inroads into Aboriginal welfare dependency, incarceration rates, overcrowding, poverty or school attendance and achievement.

The Coalition will continue the current level of funding expended on Closing the Gap activities, but will examine these costly programmes to make sure that they are directly working to meet the Closing the Gap targets.

We will take steps to ensure that the people who the programmes and services are intended to assist take advantage of those programmes and services. We would also make sure that programmes are targeted on the basis of need, not race alone, and are delivered in the most effective way possible.

Attending school is an absolute must. Opportunities for employment must be grasped. The Coalition will operate on the principle of offering a hand up rather than a hand out.

The Coalition will make sure that the same standards and the same expectations apply to Indigenous Australians as are applied to other Australians. Importantly, we would not attempt to deny local people the opportunity to solve their own problems.

The Coalition’s Policy for Indigenous Affairs will invest $94 million over the forward estimates in a better future for indigenous Australians

NACCHO AMA political alert: Big “bang”gap in health policies to Close the Gap

photo (5)

“No party has yet produced a comprehensive Indigenous health policy that would provide significant new funding and direction to build on the modest but welcome successes to date of the Closing the Gap strategy.

“The ideal health policy for this election would combine elements of each of the policies on offer from Labor, the Coalition and The Greens – topped with a ‘big bang’ Indigenous health policy and a well-articulated approach to dealing with the growing impact of chronic disease.

AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, (picture above left with NACCHO CEO Lisa Briggs, Chair Justin Mohamed and DoHA Department Secretary Jane Halton)


AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, today urged the major parties to plug the gaps in their election health platforms before Saturday’s election.

Dr Hambleton said that there are lots of votes in positive, forward-looking health policies and there is still time for Mr Rudd and Mr Abbott to pitch more comprehensive health policies to the electorate.

“I set a health policy challenge at the National Press Club in July,” Dr Hambleton said.

“We currently have a new set of problems and challenges in meeting the health needs of the Australian community, and they require a new set of solutions – and that is the great task for the major parties.

“Any change must be tested against the reasons we need proper health reform – mainly our increasing burden of chronic disease and our ageing population.

“Proposals should be moving us toward a joined-up, strengthened primary health care system built on team-based solutions.

“The Labor emphasis to date in this campaign has been on hospital infrastructure, while the Coalition is concentrating on primary care, especially general practice.

“The Greens have focused on access to healthcare, public health and environmental health.  They have a policy that supports the AMA proposal for an independent panel to assess the health of asylum seekers.

“No party has yet produced a comprehensive Indigenous health policy that would provide significant new funding and direction to build on the modest but welcome successes to date of the Closing the Gap strategy.

“The ideal health policy for this election would combine elements of each of the policies on offer from Labor, the Coalition and The Greens – topped with a ‘big bang’ Indigenous health policy and a well-articulated approach to dealing with the growing impact of chronic disease.

“We encourage the major parties to commit to practical and affordable policies that would improve public health, help the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in the community, and ensure a strong, highly skilled medical workforce to meet the future health needs of the community.

“The AMA released a Key Health Issues plan in July, which set out achievable policies that would deliver health service improvements at the front line, directly to patients.

“Some elements have been addressed, but many haven’t.

“We remind our political leaders of what they can do to bolster their health credentials in the final days of the campaign.”

Indigenous Health No significant new funding or direction to build on the modest but welcome successes to date of the Closing the Gap strategy.

Scrap the Cap The Government deferred its ill-considered cap on the tax deductibility of self-education expenses, but no party has yet been prepared to dump this policy, which is bad for education, productivity, and the economy, as well as the safety and quality of our health services.

Medical Training The AMA remains committed to working with the next Government to come up with a long-term policy that supports medical education and training.

Despite the major parties announcing additional intern places in the private sector, which were welcomed, no party has tackled the need to better coordinate the medical training pipeline or address the looming shortage of prevocational and specialist training positions as predicted by Health Workforce Australia.

There needs to be a concerted effort through COAG processes to commit to additional prevocational and specialist training places, including in general practice, with funding to match, in order to ensure that Australia can properly address future community health needs

Chronic Disease The major parties need to do more to tackle the impact of chronic disease so that we can keep people well and out of hospital.  Current Medicare arrangements impose too much paperwork on GPs and limit access to services for patients with higher health care needs.

The major parties need to do more to support GPs in caring for these patients by streamlining current Medicare arrangements and by looking to adopt innovative approaches such as the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Coordinated Veterans Care program more broadly.

We note and welcome the proposed Australian Prevention Partnership Centre, launched today by Federal Minister for Health and Minister for Medical Research Tanya Plibersek, to research what works and what doesn’t in helping people make lifestyle changes to prevent chronic disease.

Rural Health Rural health has still missed out on the big funding boost it needs to address rural medical workforce shortages.

The AMA/RDAA Rural Rescue Package outlines the funding required to get more doctors into rural and remote Australia, with the right mix of skills to deliver services to these communities

Healthier Australian Families There has been no specific policy announcement from Labor or the Coalition on significant public health concerns around Better Environmental Health (effects of climate change, better standards for clean air, greater health monitoring of non-conventional gas mining projects), Preventing Harms of Alcohol (curbs on alcohol marketing to young people, minimum pricing for alcohol products), or Asylum Seeker Health (independent panel).

Dementia, Aged Care and Palliative Care We acknowledge and welcome recent policy announcements around palliative care and dementia, but they do not go to the key issue of access to medical care.

The major parties need to ensure that people with dementia, those who require palliative care, and older Australians with complex and multiple conditions can receive appropriate medical care.  The major parties need to do more to ensure the Medicare arrangements are geared to deal with the increasing numbers of these patients and the need to better manage these patients in the community.

Better recognition of and support for the time that doctors spend assessing patients, organising services and providing support to the patient’s family and carers would ensure that quality dementia, palliative and medical care for the elderly is provided inappropriate settings.  This would relieve the counterproductive use of acute services.

Affordable Medical Services Immediately restore indexation of MBS patient rebates.  Reverse the decision to raise the Extended Medicare Safety Net threshold from 2015.  Restore tax deductibility of out-of-pocket medical and health care gaps.

Authority Prescriptions While the major parties mention tackling red tape, no party has committed to reducing the time wasted by doctors having to telephone the Department of Human Services (DHS) to obtain an authority to write prescriptions for certain PBS medicines.  Based on DHS information, up to 25,000 patient consultations are lost while doctors wait for their calls to DHS to be answered.

AMA Key Health Issues for the 2013 Federal Election is available on the AMA website at

The AMA publication, Alcohol Marketing and Young People, is at

NACCHO political alert: Opposition Health spokesperson claims Labor can’t be trusted on health funding

Question Time in the House of Representatives

“Funding certainty is critical in the health sector, and only the Coalition has a plan to return certainty to Health.”

Press release Peter Dutton Opposition spokesperson Health

The recent funding announcements from Minister Plibersek was  too little, too late.

NOTE: This press release provided for the information of NACCHO members and stakeholders but not endorsed in anyway by NACCHO

More than that, they come from a Minister with a track-record of generating huge funding uncertainty in Health by making gung-ho decisions and breaking promises.

This is the Minister that slashed $1.6 billion from public hospital services without notice and without consultation. This is the Minister that cut funding retrospectively for services that had been provided, causing hospitals to cancel surgeries and close beds.

This year alone, Victoria has lost another $100 million and New South Wales $144 million compared to what was proposed in the 2012 Budget.

“Tanya Plibersek has consistently betrayed the trust of the medical profession and the Australian people when it comes to health funding,” Mr Dutton said.

“Funding certainty is critical in the health sector, and only the Coalition has a plan to return certainty to Health.”

Not content with creating chaos around hospital funding, Labor has also ripped $4 billion out of private health insurance rebates despite promising never to do so. This decision is forcing up premiums for Australians struggling to pay their cover and putting more pressure on Australia’s public hospitals.

“There is no reason for Australians to trust Labor to honour its health promises. History has shown that you cannot trust this government with Health and Australian patients have paid the price,” Mr Dutton said.

Media Contact: Christian Hayes (07) 3205 9977