NACCHO Aboriginal health and our political future : So which side of politics will end Aboriginal disadvantage

Kev and Tony

Article by Amanda Cavill

While Indigenous Australians make up a small percentage of Australia’s population, they are vastly over-represented in a number of alarming ways.

WATCH NACCHO chair  Justin Mohamed and National Congress Kirstie Parker on SKYNEWS

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a lower average life expectancy, higher child mortality rates and a higher likelihood of living in poverty, according to FaHCSIA.

In the lead up to this year’s election, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has said he wanted to see Parliament revisit a referendum on recognition of Indigenous people in Australia’s constitution within two years.

Labor has also pledged funding through national partnerships agreements for health, education and housing, committed to a Cape York welfare reform trial and funded a series of land and sea ranger programs to boost jobs.

Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin has also announced new targets to help close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

“One: to make sure that we get more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people into higher education. Two: that we will set ourselves a new closing the gap justice target, because incarceration rates are too high, and thirdly: we’ve announced disability targets making sure that Indigenous people get the access they need to Disability Care Australia”, Ms Macklin said.

The Coalition supports many of the government’s policy initiatives.

VIEW the Coalition policy released yesterday

It too has pledged to changing the constitution to acknowledge Aboriginal people, with a draft amendment to be put forward within 12 months.

However, if elected, the Coalition says it would elevate Indigenous affairs by moving the portfolio into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Coalition leader Tony Abbott has also promised to set up an Indigenous Advisory Council, headed by former ALP president Warren Mundine.

The council would be made up of Indigenous and non-Indigenous representatives and would meet with the government three times a year, while Mr Mundine would meet the prime minister and Indigenous affairs minister every month.

Mr Abbott said the disadvantage faced by Indigenous people is the result of a flawed system.

“What we’ve got to do is develop new governance arrangements where things happen a lot more quickly than they seem to at the moment.  Now I don’t want to underestimate the difficulties of this, but I think that we start getting places more quickly if it’s not just the government dictating to Aboriginal people, but the government, allied with people like Warren Mundine, making it happen”, Mr Abbott said.

And, if elected, Tony Abbott said he would spend a week each year in Aboriginal communities – as he has been doing for years already – but as prime minister would take senior decision-makers with him.

Income quarantining would remain but, unlike Labor’s policy, would not be linked to school attendance.

He has promised on-the-spot fines for truancy, job training trials based on mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest’s model, and greater help for Indigenous people to develop businesses and own homes.

Katter’s Australia Party, which is expected to retain leader Bob Katter’s lower house seat and win at least one senate seat, is highly critical of the major parties’ plans.

Bob Katter said they are policies that won’t work.

“They believe that whitefellas should go in there and build all these houses for them, and fix everything up for them.  You know, I have the exact opposite position.  Mahatma Gandhi had it right; ‘Even though we may not be able to run India as well as the British Raj, it is infinitely more important that Indians run India, even though we may not be able to run it as well'”, he said.

Meanwhile The Greens said they will use their expected balance-of-power position in the Senate to pursue compensation for the Stolen Generation and recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the constitution.

The party opposes income management, welfare quarantining, and Labor’s scheme to link welfare payments to school attendance.

The party wants a justice target in the Closing the Gap program and action to reduce alcohol supply, for example through a minimum price or fewer liquor licences and stronger measures to boost Indigenous health.

Greens Senator and former GP Richard Di Natale says the first step to improving health in remote Indigenous communities is training more Aboriginal health workers.

“We’ve got a huge investment in infrastructure that would ensure that we get more people from an Indigenous background trained and becoming health professionals.  I worked for two years at an Aboriginal health service in the Northern Territory and one of the best things about that service was that Aboriginal people were coming into a place where they were getting care from their Indigenous brothers and sisters. That’s so critical”, Di Natale says.

NACCHO Health News:Minimum standards for Alcohol Management Plans in the NT

 

 alcoholbottles

The Australian Government has released the minimum standards for Alcohol Management Plans, designed to help improve the safety of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory.

Alcohol Management Plan minimum standards -Frequently asked Questions

Refer recent article by NACCHO NT AFFILIATE AMSANT

These stringent minimum standards are part of the Government’s Stronger Futures in the Northern Territory package – a 10-year $3.4 billion investment to tackle Indigenous disadvantage and drive positive change.

The Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin and the Minister for Indigenous Health, Warren Snowdon, today met with peak Aboriginal groups in Darwin who had provided valuable feedback to help the Government finalise the minimum standards.

“Alcohol continues to devastate the lives of too many Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory,” Ms Macklin said.

“It can lead to violence, make it hard to hold down a job and get the kids to school, and can destroy the health of families and communities.

“The Australian Government will continue to work with Aboriginal people across the Northern Territory to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed, help problem drinkers change their behaviour, and help to develop local solutions to keep communities safe.

“The minimum standards will provide additional protection to communities by ensuring Alcohol Management Plans are focused on reducing alcohol-related harm and keeping women, children and families safe.”

As part of the Stronger Futures package, alcohol restrictions have been continued in the Northern Territory.

Alcohol Management Plans are not about reducing or lifting alcohol restrictions in Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory, but about assisting Aboriginal communities to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.

The five minimum standards released today will ensure that everyone in a community has their say on the development of an Alcohol Management Plan, and that the plan is aimed at reducing alcohol supply, demand and harm and is tailored to each community’s needs.

Communities can choose to develop an Alcohol Management Plan with the assistance of local organisations and government staff.

Alcohol Management Plans must meet the new minimum standards in order to be approved by the Federal Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

For the Federal Minister to consider making any changes to alcohol restrictions in a community, an alcohol management plan that meets the minimum standards would need to be in place.

The Minister would also consider whether there has been a demonstrated reduction in alcohol-related harm and whether this would be at risk through the lifting of restrictions.

As part of Stronger Futures, the Government is committing $76 million to help tackle alcohol abuse over the next 10 years.

This includes funding to employ extra drug and alcohol workers where they are needed most.

During November and December 2012, the Government held targeted consultations on the draft minimum standards in almost 100 communities and town camps across the Northern Territory, and received feedback from community leaders, women’s groups, police, health workers and alcohol reference groups.

Key stakeholder meetings were also held in Alice Springs, Tennant Creek, Nhulunbuy, Darwin and Katherine.

Mr Snowdon said the Gillard Government was serious about tackling the harm caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

“Managing the supply of alcohol means it is easier for women to make healthier lifestyle choices during pregnancy when we know the safest option for the unborn child is not to drink,” Mr Snowdon said.

“We also know that alcohol consumption has an association with a range of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

“By implementing minimum standards in Alcohol Management Plans we can ensure the focus in communities is on protecting women, children and families, and reducing alcohol-related harm.”