NACCHO at the National Press Club


Yesterday NACCHO’s Chair Justin Mohamed gave an address to a packed room and national television audience at the National Press Club about the economic value of Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.

His speech focused on, among other things, what needs to be done to close the gap, how ACCHOs can help close that gap, and called on the Federal Government to renew funding with appropriate indexation in the May Budget. He also called on the Government to carefully consider the implications of any changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.


Lots of media covered the event including the following:

Indigenous-run clinics in plea for mercy on federal cuts

The Australian
By Patricia Karvelas

832502-73c1b800-ba27-11e3-a72e-6df7cab5700aDoctor Nadeem Siddiqui with Sharney Fernando and her daughters Kyarna, 2, and Jayla, 1, at the Winnunga clinic in Canberra. Picture: Gary Ramage   Source: News Corp Australia

INDIGENOUS-run health services provide jobs for more than 3200 Aboriginal people and are the main source of Aboriginal employment in many communities, a new report has found.

The report says the 150 Aboriginal community controlled health organisations provide pay rates above the average for Aboriginal Australians, offer genuine career paths and boost education levels thanks to on-site training.

The chairman of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, Justin Mohamed, said the centres were “major contributors to closing the appalling health gap ­between Aboriginal and non-­Aboriginal Australians’’.

“The ripple effect of healthy Aboriginal communities cannot be underestimated,’’ he said. “Healthy communities keep our kids in school, keep our adults in the workforce and provide a greater opportunity for particip­ation in broader society.

“Ultimately, that means redu­cing welfare dependency, reducing criminal justice rates and diverting people from the need for more expensive healthcare such as hospital admissions.”

Mr Mohamed urged the federal government to quarantine such centres from any cuts in next month’s budget as about $300 million of funding ends this financial year.

“Today’s report provides the evidence that Aboriginal community controlled health organisations have important eco­-nomic benefits well beyond the, not insignificant, primary purpose of providing healthcare to Aboriginal people,” he said.

“Yet our funding is insecure, reporting requirements onerous and any new health funding for Aboriginal health is often diverted into mainstream services which ­simply don’t have the same runs on the board with Aboriginal health as our services do.’’

Mr Mohamed called on Tony Abbott to revive a now-expired national partnership agreement with the states and territories on indigenous health. There was an economic incentive for all governments to help indigenous people become healthier, he said.

There is a life expectancy gap — of 10.6 years for men and 9.5 years for women — between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

Lifting life expectancy rates over 20 years would result in a $11.9 billion net increase in government revenue, mainly from tax payments, including a $4.7bn saving in social security and health costs.

The Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council is looking at what fat can be trimmed from federal government spending on Aboriginal programs.

Earlier yesterday, the chairman of the advisory council, Warren Mundine, said money matters were on the agenda at the council’s meeting with Indigenous Affairs Minister Nigel Scullion in Sydney.

Mr Mundine urged the Abbott government to quarantine from possible cuts programs relating to indigenous mental health issues and smoking.

The report released yesterday highlights the Winnunga health service in Canberra, a large primary healthcare service provider catering for the region’s Aboriginal population.

Capacity constraints hamper service delivery and limit medical specialist services. The report says there is a strong case for a second clinic in north Canberra, based on rapid Aboriginal population growth and health needs.

Winnunga chief executive Julie Tong said the clinic was overwhelmed, with the client base rising from 80 to 129 a day because of population growth.

“An Aboriginal community health service gives ownership to the community,” she said. “We’ve built the service on ­client need.”

Aboriginal health group warns against changes to Racial Discrimination Act

By Anna Henderson

Indigenous health groups have levelled a warning at the Federal Government that planned changes to federal race discrimination laws could impact on the health of Aboriginal patients.

The Government wants to ban racial vilification but remove the provisions making it unlawful for someone to publicly offend, insult, or humiliate others based on their race.

In a speech at the National Press Club in Canberra, Justin Mohamed, the chairman of the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), called for the Government to re-think the changes.

“Racism does contribute to poor health outcomes for our people,” he said, arguing it particularly impacted on mental health.

He said Aboriginal staff and patients experience racism within the health system and they should be protected under the existing law.

“I would like to take this moment to remind the Prime Minister of the commitment he made to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” he said.

“Carefully consider the broader implications of any changes that weaken protections against racist behaviour in this country.”

Calls for Indigenous medical services to be quarantined from budget cuts

Indigenous health advocates maintain the May budget will reveal whether the government is truly committed to Indigenous affairs.

Future funding for 150 Aboriginal medical services across the country remains in limbo with the existing agreement due to expire in June.

Mr Mohamed said health services must be quarantined from budget cuts, and the funding uncertainty is affecting staff and patients.

“There is a ripple effect. When you’ve got that financial cloud over your head it’s hard to deliver,” he said.

Aboriginal medical services operate in urban, regional and remote communities and NACCHO says it received $300 million in federal funding this financial year.

Mr Mohamed said “funding is not keeping up with demand”.

He also urged the Federal Government to acknowledge the Aboriginal health workforce that is employed through the medical services.

The services employ over 5,000 people nationwide, including 3,500 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders.