Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders call for scrapping of co-payments

PrintAboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Leaders from across Australia met in Canberra today for crisis talks regarding the implications of the Commonwealth Budget.

“The Aboriginal community sector will not agree to turn our backs on the most disadvantaged and disempowered,” said Julie Tongs, CEO of Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service.”

“A coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations calls on the Australian Government to recognise that a co-payment is against the principles of health equity outlined in the Statement of Intent to Close the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes.”

“The suggested co-payments run counter to the findings of the World Health Organisation’s Commission on the Social Determinants of Health. Australia’s health policies and funding should reflect those findings.”

“Introducing co-payments will not serve to close the gap in health outcomes; it will only widen the gap between our people and the rest of the community,’ said Ms Tongs.

We reject the introduction of co-payments because they will increase inequality.

· Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people already experience considerable health disadvantage

· for every dollar spent on non-Indigenous Australians now, only 60 cents is spent on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people

· international evidence confirms the most efficient way to contain health care costs is a robust universal primary health care system

· the sustainability of Australia’s robust not for profit health sector, which currently supports the most vulnerable in our community, is threatened by this move.

Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and Aboriginal Medical Services:

· are the regular source of care for persons without social capital

· are an embodiment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander self-determination

· represent a sound investment in not only health outcomes, but economic participation, employment and education for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; the health industry is the single largest employer of Indigenous Australians.

“We are calling for an immediate scrapping of the MBS and PBS co-payments scheme.

“The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health sector will not agree to turn our backs on the needy, disadvantaged and desperate.

“We welcome the opportunity to have further constructive conversations with government. We call on our partners, colleagues and all concerned Australians to stand with us at this critical time,” concluded Ms Tongs.

Contact: Julie Tongs, CEO Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service Inc – 0418 206 156



The following agencies were represented at today’s meeting: VACCHO, AMSANT, Lowitja Institute, NACCHO, Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service, NATSIHWA, AIDA, National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, QAIHC and AHCSA. Also in attendance Public Health Association of Australia.

NACCHO congratulates ACT Winnunga Nimmityjah achieving 25 Years of quality community controlled health service

Happy Birthday

The chair of NACCHO Justin Mohamed and CEO Lisa Briggs on behalf all staff,ACCH’s members and NACCHO affiliates Australia wide today congratulates the ACT ‘s Winnunga Nimmityjah achieving 25 Years of quality community health service

Mr Mohamed said that from grassroots beginnings within the Aboriginal community, Winnunga Nimmityjah (strong Health in the Wiradjuri language) is now one of the most successful Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services in the nation.

MORE Background info here

WINNUNGA Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service in Narrabundah is holding a big celebration toda July 10 to celebrate 25 years providing healthcare to people of indigenous heritage from Canberra and surrounding regions.

The huge 25th birthday party will include loads of food and heaps of fun activities for kids like rides, a petting zoo and a rock climbing wall, along with live music from the likes of Angry Anderson and hip hop trio Last Kinection, whose members Joel and Naomi Wenitong belong to the Kabbi Kabbi people of south-east Queensland.

Proudly displayed around the walls of its boardroom are the countless awards it has won alongside beautiful traditional art and other mementos such as a framed copy of the National Apology to the stolen generations.

Its long-serving chief executive Julie Tongs (Pictured below with a familiar faces)  has been at the helm for more than 15 years and also picked up her fair share of accolades. Just last year she received an Order of Australia Medal and an ACT recipient of the Governor General’s Centenary Medal and she is also a past ACT Indigenous Person of the Year.


But the story of Winnunga Nimmityjah is one of Aboriginal people working together to create something of their own.

By having an Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service, it gives the Aboriginal people ownership, and it’s that ownership that is important, Julie says.

People come because they feel safe, supported and they are in a culturally safe environment. But in saying that, 18 per cent of our clients are non Aboriginal people.

Anyone can come to the health centre on Boolimba Crescent next to the Narrabundah shops to access the GP service, but for Indigenous people there are a huge range of other services such as psychiatry, dentistry, physiotherapy, podiatry, dietetics and audiology to name a few.

Anybody with Aboriginal heritage is eligible, Julie says, explaining that lots of clients feel more comfortable talking about their health in a non-judgemental environment, run by people who understand the unique experiences that are shared by Australia’s Indigenous people. This is borne out by statistics showing that clients attend appointments far less often when referred to parts of the mainstream health system.

People’s experiences when they were younger were very different to what they are now, she says.

People carry those experiences with them… so it does not matter whether you are the richest Aboriginal person in Australia or you are the poorest, anybody can access Winnunga – and its about choice, it’s absolutely about choice not to come here, but that is their choice.

The Winninga Nimmityjah story also includes heroic individuals such as Olive Brown who founded the health service in Grevillea Park, on the north-east side of Kings Avenue bridge and gave it a name.

She was a trailblazer, she was a really good woman and we always acknowledge her contribution, says Julie. I am sure she’d be proud of where we are today and how Winnunga’s grown over the years.

Winnunga Nimmityjah’s birthday was actually on May 22; it was founded in 1988 in the midst of protests that centered around the opening of Parliament House which also has its 25 birthday this year. What was a jubilant occasion for white Australians to show the Queen their very different perspective of her Commonwealth. Julie explains that the 25 year of celebration will be a joyous positive occasion and is being held from July 7 to 14 to coincide with NAIDOC Week, another example of something created by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal people.

NAIDOC Week is about celebrating our achievements; its about recognising and acknowledging those that have gone before us, and making sure that the wider community understands that importance, she says.

NACCHO congratulates iconic Aboriginal health service for 25 years of appropriate care



Canberra’s iconic Winnunga Nimmityjah today celebrates 25 years of providing provide culturally safe and holistic health services to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of the ACT and surrounding areas.

WEBSITE for more info

The Aboriginal Health Service (AHS)  set up a makeshift clinic when the Queen visited Canberra to open Parliament House in 1988 and Aboriginal protesters made their way to Canberra to protest against Aboriginal deaths in custody, Land rights and other significant issues.  From that event twenty-five years ago a handful of staff and volunteers worked out of  a one room city office to run a clinic twice a week.

Winnunga now operates a clinic – Monday to Friday – from premises in Narrabundah focusing on the delivery of acute and chronic care to some 4000+clients a year.

As well as general treatments, services now offered include immunisations, preventative programs, vaccinations, social and emotional health services, substance misuse counselling, child and adolescent mental health support, carer support, a needle syringe program, transport service, a home maintenance program, youth diversion program, tobacco cessation services, healthy lifestyle advice and support, and exercise programs.

The award winning AHS also runs a dental health program, psychiatric and psychology services, a benchmark program for the delivery of culturally appropriate midwifery services to parents and new-borns and an outreach program for Aboriginal people in custody (Bimberi Youth Justice Centre and the Alexander Maconochie Centre).

The 60 strong team includes general practitioners, podiatrists, dieticians, practice nurses, Aboriginal health workers, reception and administration staff and the transport services.


Picture above Julie Tongs CEO with Warren Snowdon and Tom Calma celebrating World No Tobacco Day

In marking the milestone, Winnunga’s CEO Julie Tongs OAM, said that today’s silver anniversary was a cause for celebration – not only for Winnunga – but for the entire ACT community.

“Twenty five years of operation demonstrates not only the trust and faith that the local community continues to place in us but importantly it also highlights that we have remained as committed as ever to provide a high level of service to our clients and the community.”

“Winnunga has come a long way since those days at the Griffin Centre to providing in excess of 40,000 services across a range of programs to community members.”

Ms Tongs noted that priorities for the service included increasing the available space for client service provision in clinical and social health service and expanding prevention activities such as the smoking cessation program, healthy lifestyle and health promotion program and screening.

“We also keen to expand our early childhood program and expand and improve our substance abuse program in order that more people can access this valuable service.”

Winnunga’s Chairperson, Judy Harris OAM, noted that Winnunga also plays an important national role in providing input into policy development and lobbying for improvements in the way programs are designed, funded and implemented.

“We will continue to ensuring that every level of government and society understand that Aboriginal people are best positioned to determine how our health outcomes can be improved” she said.

“On behalf of the Board and staff of Winnunga – I would like to thank everyone involved and all those who have supported us over the last 25 years.”

“In particular, I would like to acknowledge the support of many Indigenous organisations both locally and nationally and also the wonderful support of the ACT Government and the Federal Department of Health and Ageing.”

“Importantly – I also must thank the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of the ACT and surrounding areas who have for the last 25 years invested in us a trust to deliver culturally appropriate health care.”

“I know every day our dedicated and passionate team strive to fulfil this trust,” Ms Harris concluded.

Winnunga Nimmityjah AHS will be celebrating our 25th Birthday on 10 July 2013 NAIDOC week.

NACCHO ehealth opportunity alert:an initiative to register people to the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR)


NACCHO Affiliates are being informed of this initiative, so they can choose to take up the opportunity to work with the Department and the dedicated workforce to offer Assisted Registration to their member health service patients.

The Department of Health and Aging is currently conducting an initiative to register people to the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) using a dedicated Assisted Registration workforce (Aspen Medical) supplied through McKinsey and Company (National Change and Adoption Partners).

They will concentrate on conducting Assisted Registration activities, until 30 June 2013, in a variety of healthcare settings across the country.

To ensure that this initiative meets the needs of our Sector, Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service in Canberra has piloted with Aspen Medical a very successful campaign which has to date registered over 260 Winnunga clients and staff for an eHealth record.

As such, NACCHO Affiliates are being informed of this initiative, so they can choose to take up the opportunity to work with the Department and the dedicated workforce to offer Assisted Registration to their member health service patients.

This will be of significance to health services with larger centralised populations with access to a waiting room area, aged care facility or groups of patients where Aspen staff are able to inform and register patients individually.
The Assisted Registration process offers patients a quick, personalised and well-informed way of applying to register for a national eHealth record.

Previous to this process, consumers seeking to apply to participate in the PCEHR, would either do so on the internet, by post, by phone call or at a Medicare office.

The Assisted Registration process allows patients of a health service to fill in a one page application form, and have their identity verified either using a 100 point documentary ID check, or by being a known customer of the health care service. Patients have the opportunity to ask the trained Aspen staff members about the PCEHR and what it would mean for them.

The experience at Winnunga is that patients are quick to see the benefits of having an eHealth record, and are keen to opt in to the system.

The dedicated Aspen workforce tailor their approach to each setting. All  staff deployed will have undergone cultural competency training, and will work with the Affiliates and the service to understand the local context and needs of their patients. The staff would be happy to sign a client confidentiality agreement. Male and female staff members can be deployed if requested. In fact, where there are vacancies, Aspen are open to employing people recommended by the health service to be Assisted Registration staff.

Using Aspen Medical authorised staff members to assist your patients to register does not alter your connectivity with your patients. PCEHR compliant practice software will flag who has an eHealth record (provided the patient has chosen to allow access to clinicians in your service).

Please note that Aspen Medical is not in a position legally to provide a list of patients who have registered through them to a service, however they are more than willing to provide you with data on registration numbers.

Greg Henschke (Acting NACCHO eHealth Project Manager) will be contacting NACCHO Affiliates, with the aim of identifying services that would be interested in participating in this PCEHR consumer registration program.

This resource is currently available until 30th June 2013 and deployment will be managed nationally through DoHA.

It is important to note that the dedicated workforce are not unlimited and we will need to move quickly to identify where we could best use them for our sector.

As more consumers and healthcare practitioners become registered and use the eHealth record system, benefits of the system will be realised through efficiency in healthcare services and increased access to health information.

To this end, I would strongly encourage you to consider working with the Department and the dedicated workforce to offer Assisted Registration to our sector.

For more information on the PCEHR and Assisted Registration,

contact Greg Henschke (Acting NACCHO eHealth Project Manager,


08 89446651 / 0400448159)

or go to the website http://www.ehealth.gov.au .