Closing the gap now in the hands of state and territory governments
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The National Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) today welcomed the Gillard Government’s commitment to the National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes and called on state and territory leaders to urgently do the same.
According to AAP reports this morning Prime Minister Julia Gillard will announce that the federal contribution for a renewed deal will be $777 million until June 2016.
Ms Gillard will ask the states and territory government to chip in the remainder, although the issue will not be on the agenda of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting on Friday.
“As a result of our investments in indigenous health, we are seeing improvements,” Ms Gillard said in a statement.
“We know there is more to be done.”
The original national partnership deal struck in 2008 was worth $1.58 billion over four years and the federal contribution was $805.5 million.
Ms Gillard said the renewed federal contribution would be an increase over previous per annum expenditure.
Following former prime minister Kevin Rudd’s apology to the stolen generations in 2008, federal, state and territory governments agreed on six ambitious Close the Gap targets to tackle indigenous disadvantage.
NACCHO Chair, Justin Mohamed said the National Partnership Agreement was due to expire at the end of June, putting critical Aboriginal health programs at risk.
“Improving the appalling state of Aboriginal health must be a priority for all levels of government and Aboriginal people will be relieved to finally have a commitment from the Gillard Government today.
“The pressure is now squarely on the states and territories as signatories of the 2008 Close the Gap Statement of Intent in which they committed to work together to close the disgraceful seventeen year gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Australians by 2030.
“The states and territories need to uphold their commitment to this important goal and sign up to continue the National Partnership Agreement which is due to expire in less than two months.”
Mr Mohamed said it was imperative the Agreement was given priority at the COAG meeting tomorrow.
“Improving Aboriginal health is not a quick fix – it requires a long-term commitment above party politics.
“This is not just a matter for the Federal Government. It has been proven that only by all levels of government working together will we see improvements in Aboriginal health.
“There have been five years of good work on Closing the Gap programs and must maintain the momentum.
“We must maintain our commitment and build on the inroads the 150 Aboriginal community controlled health organisations (ACCHOs) are making in their communities.
“Aboriginal comprehensive primary health care provided by Aboriginal communities is the key to making a difference to Aboriginal health outcomes.”
Mr Mohamed said the Federal Government’s ongoing commitment to Aboriginal health in a challenging fiscal environment was a testament to many in the sector who had worked tirelessly to keep Aboriginal health on the national agenda.
Press release from the CTG campaign group
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health must be placed on the agenda for this Friday’s COAG meeting if there is to be any hope of closing the life expectancy gap by 2030, the Close the Gap Campaign said today.
“Five years ago all sides of politics agreed to do something about the national disgrace that sees Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people die more than 10 years younger than the broader Australian community,” Campaign Co- Chair Mick Gooda said.
“While the 2008 COAG meeting saw federal, state and territory governments commit to long term funding for services and programs though the National Partnership Agreement, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is absent from this Friday’s COAG meeting agenda.
“We know that the policies and programs resulting from these 2008 COAG commitments are starting to bear fruit and make a real difference on the ground, for example, mortality rates for under five year old Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are falling,” he said.
“But the life expectancy gap remains just as unacceptable today as it was back then and I know that most of those attending COAG this Friday agree with me,” Mr Gooda said.
The National Partnership Agreement which has driven efforts to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes is set to expire at the end of June 2013. Despite Federal Government indications that it will continue funding its share of the Agreement, State and Territory governments have not yet signed up to the Agreement leaving some services and programs in real doubt as to whether they can continue to provide badly needed services beyond 30 June.
Campaign Co Chair Jody Broun said governments of all persuasions owed it to the rest of the country to maintain their efforts to close the life expectancy gap by 2030.
“There’s no doubt that nothing short of ongoing funding and commitment to working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from all levels of government is what’s needed to keep on track,” Ms Broun said.
“State, territory and federal governments need to continue working together to fund more services and programs that make a real difference to health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
“We have to maintain our efforts to improve access to critical chronic disease services and to deliver anti-smoking measures, more affordable medicines and healthy lifestyle programs. We need to support and build capacity in our Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and we need to build on the inroads already made by our child and maternal health services,” she said.
“We need more Aboriginal health workers, allied health professionals, doctors, nurses and health promotion workers.
“A recommitment from state, territory and federal governments at this Friday’s COAG meeting is needed to quite literally save lives.”
Who is the CLOSE the Gap campaign mob
Australia’s peak Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous health bodies, health professional bodies and human rights organisations operate the Close the Gap Campaign.
The Campaign’s goal is to raise the health and life expectancy of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to that of the non-Indigenous population within a generation : to close the gap by 2030.
It aims to do this through the implementation of a human rights based approach set out in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner’s Social Justice Report 2005.
The Campaign’s Steering Committee first met in March 2006. Our patrons, Catherine Freeman OAM and Ian Thorpe OAM launched the campaign in April 2007. To date 176,000 Australians have formally pledged their support. In August 2010 and 2011, the National Rugby League dedicated an annual round of matches as a Close the Gap round, reaching around 3 million Australians per round. 840 community events involving 130,000 Australians were held on National Close the Gap Day in 2011.
How can you ask your state Premier or territory Chief Minister to support Close the Gap?
All Australian governments have committed to Close the Gap through the COAG process and the National Indigenous Reform Agreement.
The development of the Closing the Gap policy platform to back up this commitment set the foundations to meet this generational target.Ask your State Premier or Chief Minister to publicly commit to renewing investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health equality.
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AMA COAG Must make ‘Closing the Gap’ a National Priority
AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton, said today that it would be a disgrace if the long-term health needs of Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders were not discussed at this Friday’s Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in Canberra.
Dr Hambleton said it would be irresponsible if Australia’s political leaders came away from the meeting without an agreement to continue long-term funding for the COAG National Partnership Agreement on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes.
“Closing the gap and achieving health equality between Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians must be a priority for all our governments,” Dr Hambleton said.
“It is a worthy goal that requires long-term funding and genuine political commitment.
“It requires action, not just words.
“Five years ago, our governments signed up in good faith to the National Partnership Agreement, and it has delivered some positive health outcomes.
“Now is not the time to be complacent – we must build on these good results.
“The current Agreement expires in a matter of months.
“We are calling on COAG leaders to this Friday agree to the long-term continuation of the National Partnership Agreement with at least the same level of funding for another five years initially.
“This would send a very strong message to the community that our governments are serious about closing the gap,” Dr Hambleton said.
Since 2008, the Agreement has achieved a number of successes in improving Indigenous health and wellbeing, including:
- being on track to halve the mortality rates for children under five;
- significantly increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ access to health services for chronic disease – which underlies much of the gap in health outcomes;
- having work underway in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to develop a long term health plan; and
- meeting the target for early childhood education access in remote communities.