INDIGENOUS Health Minister Warren Snowdon pictured above with NACCHO CEO Lisa Briggs and NACCHO Deputy chair Matthew Cooke launching HEALTHY FUTURES at Parliament House Canberra 19 June 2013
INDIGENOUS Health Minister Warren Snowdon has warned that the nation’s commitment to close the health gap between black and white Australia is being put at risk by state and territory governments failing to sign on six days before it starts.
by: Patricia Karvelas
Only the Victorian government has put its investment on the table and The Australian can reveal it will offer $61.7 million over four years as part of its ongoing commitment to the life of the next three-year National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap.
Western Australia has announced $31m to extend funding for 12 months only – an interim measure because of pressure from local Aboriginal health organisations concerned about uncertainty over funding translating to job losses.
The Gillard government has revealed it will spend more than $700m over three years on a new partnership agreement but no states or territories have signed on.
Mr Snowdon wrote to them several weeks ago urging them to reaffirm their support for tackling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage by signing up.
The National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes, first signed in 2008 between the commonwealth and all states and territories, invested $1.57 billion over four years. But the NPA expires on June 30 and negotiations to re-sign have still not been resolved days before the new partnership is supposed to begin.
Mr Snowdon told The Australian the delay was deeply concerning. “We can’t afford to delay renewing this agreement with the states and territories,” he said.
“We have seen some steady improvements in a number of areas, like reducing child mortality rates and reducing the occurrence of the blindness causing eye disease trachoma.
“We will only continue seeing health outcomes improve if we work together with good programs on the ground that are backed up by solid investment across the board.
“I am especially concerned by the NT government, which has been silent on its future investment. The Northern Territory CLP government has already imposed cuts to the community controlled sector. The Territory’s most recent budget identifies that their investment in primary healthcare is insufficient to meet projected population growth.”
The federal government will continue programs funded through the NPA and expects the states and territories to do the same while negotiations continue.
WA Health Minister Kim Hames said the Closing the Gap funding had created 98 new programs and 317 jobs across government, non-government and the Aboriginal community to deliver vital services. “Closing the Gap aims to improve the life expectancy of Aboriginal West Australians and, while much has been achieved so far, there is still much more work to be done,” Dr Hames said. “The $31m the WA government has committed to today is for 2013-14 and will enable us to continue to deliver these critical services over the next year, which gives job security to those workers engaged in the delivery of these services.”
Dr Hames said the allocation of $31m demonstrates “our very strong commitment to the Closing the Gap program” and improving indigenous health.
“While it is very likely we will sign a new agreement, it is not possible to commit to this at this stage, given we have not yet seen a final proposed agreement.”
- NACCHO political alert:Call for government cooperation as NACCHO outlines ten point plan for enhancing Closing the Gap efforts (nacchocommunique.com)
- NACCHO press release:West Australia confirms funding to Close the Gap (nacchocommunique.com)
- NACCHO launches new 2013-2030 Healthy Futures 10 point and AIHW report card (nacchocommunique.com)
- NACCHO 2013 budget press release:Lack of detail leaves a question mark over Aboriginal health (nacchocommunique.com)
- NACCHO press release :Download the Closing the Gap progress report: small steps make ongoing commitment vital (nacchocommunique.com)