NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Queensland’s $5 million funding for world-first project aimed at treating and preventing avoidable blindness

Paddy_Ryder getting his eyes tested1

The  $5 million project will provide education, equipment and specialist support to 27 Aboriginal Medical Services in Queensland.

The Queensland Government has paid tribute to Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee by providing $5 million in funding for a world-first project aimed at treating and preventing avoidable blindness in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Picture above Essendon footballer Paddy Ryder recently promoting World Sight Day

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg said the project would take specialist services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities through a fully-equipped, 60-foot van.

“This project will leave a lasting legacy in tribute to Her Majesty the Queen,” Mr Springborg said.

“Diabetes affects one in three adult Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Queensland and can have a debilitating impact on the sufferers’ vision.

“However, most blindness caused by diabetes can be prevented, which is why this project is so important.”

Mr Springborg said the project will provide education, equipment and specialist support to 27 Aboriginal Medical Services in Queensland.

“The Newman Government is committed to providing the best health services at the best time and in the best place,” he said.

“A van equipped with state of the art optical equipment will travel to nine regional hubs where local and visiting eye specialists will treat patients.

“The project will provide a comprehensive screening program to identify at risk clients and screen for diabetic eye disease.

“All 27 centres will be equipped with telehealth conferencing to allow consultations with specialists at Princess Alexandra Hospital and the van also features on board telehealth facilities

NACCHO Aboriginal Health News: Kowanyama’s Mums n Bubs Family Health Centre officially opened on Cape York


“The Centre was being opened in line with community protocol and Apunipima’s Family Health, Men’s Health and Healthy Lifestyles Teams would be working with community over the coming months to ensure Atharpuch programs meet local health needs.”

Apunipima Cape York Health Council CEO Cleveland Fagan

Kowanyama’s Mums n Bubs Family Health Centre was officially opened by Kowanyama Aboriginal Shire Council Mayor Robert Holness and Apunipima Cape York Health Council Chair Thomas Hudson

The Kowanyama Health Action Team, which liaises with Apunipima on the health needs of the community, has named the new facility Atharpuch (ART – AH – PUTCH) which means ‘children’.

The event featured speeches, a traditional smoking ceremony and a barbeque luncheon and was attended by a range of health, government and community stakeholders.

Atharpuch will operate solely as a health promotion and education centre until clinical arrangements are finalised. Until that time, clinical appointments will continue to take place in the Queensland Health facility.

CEO Cleveland Fagan said the official opening marked an important milestone for Apunipima.

‘We are pleased and proud to have officially opened Atharpuch. Investment in health infrastructure in Kowanyama and the Cape is critical to improving the health of residents and we acknowledge the contribution of the Australian Government’s Health and Hospital Fund which enabled the refurbishment of Mums n Bubs building.’

‘Atharpuch has a special room for the Kowanyama Health Action Team to meet and discuss the health needs of the community and share those needs with us. This is bricks and mortar support for the principle of community control which see the community owning their own health solutions.’

Mr Fagan said the Centre was being opened in line with community protocol and Apunipima’s Family Health, Men’s Health and Healthy Lifestyles Teams would be working with community over the coming months to ensure Atharpuch programs meet local health needs.

‘Apunipima runs a range of fantastic health promotion programs including Mum n Bubs Group, Antenatal Clinics and Classes, Men’s and Women’s Groups, Healthy Eating and Cooking Classes, Tackling Smoking and many more. We are in the process of planning our service schedule to best meet the needs of the Kowanyama community.’

Atharpuch is a former Queensland Health facility which was known locally as the Mums n Bubs Clinic. Apunipima acquired the lease in 2012 and spent a number of months refurbishing the building. The facility will host Apunipima, Queensland Health and community programs, meetings and initiatives.

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NACCHO ehealth news:Failed $1 billion electronic health records system faces the axe


LABOR’S bungled $1 billion electronic health records system will be reviewed after being used by so few people it ended up costing $200,000 per patient.

Health Minister Peter Dutton yesterday said just a few hundred doctors were using the system with just 5000 patients using the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Records program which has previously been described as “shambolic”.

NACCHO Aboriginal ehealth technology news: Telehealth,ehealth and the Aboriginal digital divide

Peter Dutton shifts into high gear for e-health overhaul

A lack of software had prevented many doctors even accessing patient records.

“The problem is that the former government spent about $1 billion in this area and the number of people actively using the records numbers in the thousands,” he told Sky News. “There are only a few hundred doctors actually uploading details into people’s files. It has been a scandal. On those numbers it runs at about $200,000 a patient.”

Executive director of the UnitingCare Health Group in Queensland, Richard Royle, who is also vice president of the Australian Private Hospitals Association, has been given the job of reviewing the program.

Are online medical records safe?

Australian Medical Association president Dr Steve Hambleton will help with the review.

Mr Dutton said: “The government fully supports the concept of electronic health records but it must be fit for purpose and cost effective.”

He compared the roll-out of the e-health records program to the cost blowouts associated with the National Broadband Network.

The review will be open to submissions from the public

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NACCHO team member news: Arika Errington’s 10-year journey to become a University graduate is a story of true perseverance.

Faculty of Arts & Design and Faculty of Business, Government & Law Graduation Sept 2013

NACCHO team member Arika Errington’s 10-year journey to become a University of Canberra graduate is a story of true perseverance.

An Aboriginal woman who grew up in Canberra, Ms Errington graduated with a Bachelor of Arts after having been diagnosed with depression and anxiety while studying and moving from Queensland to Tasmania and Melbourne before settling back in Canberra.

“It doesn’t quite feel real, I also feel relieved … it was a rough 10 years of starting, leaving, changing disciplines, illness, and self doubt,” Ms Errington said of graduating in a ceremony at Parliament House on 25 September.

“My aim is to one day be a voice for my people, to teach others about who we are as a community and the oldest living culture on earth … I want to change the assumptions/judgements people automatically make about Aboriginal people rather than judging them on their actions as human beings.”

Article Krystin Comino
Arika Errington pictured at her University of Canberra graduation ceremony at Parliament House. Photo: Michelle McAulay

The 29-year-old said she was “proud to even be offered the opportunity” to go to the University, majoring in journalism to follow in the footsteps of her father, William Errington, a former press photographer. Her mother Tjanara Goreng Goreng is an assistant professor at the University’s Ngunnawal Centre, which provides support and education programs for Indigenous students.  Ms Errington said she has been inspired by her parents.

“I’m only attending my graduation so my mum and dad can see. I did it all for them, they have given me nothing but love and respect my entire life, whilst dealing with their own personal traumas,” she said.

“My mob are called the Wakka Wakka and Wulli Wulli people from Queensland and I’ve always known my culture growing up, my parents both made sure I knew who I was and where I was from, my mum used to sing me songs in language and I hope one day I’m blessed enough to share those to my children so some of our language can continue.”

Ms Errington moved to Queensland for a while in her teen years before her mother encouraged her  to do the Ngunnawal Centre’s foundation program to prepare her to study at the University of Canberra, a program she later ended up teaching in, saying “all I wanted was to help students who were like me succeed”.

Despite calling Canberra home, Ms Errington has moved around a lot in her life, including living in a rainforest at a place called Main Arm Upper in NSW.

“We lived on the land without electricity, running water, and a makeshift toilet out the back, checking myself for leaches and ticks at the end of each day.”

Moving back to Canberra to start her studies, she took a break from university to work in Melbourne for a few years before returning to the University of Canberra, where she spent some time living on campus.

“I had no idea what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to finish something I started. I completed a literature class but I was really unhappy (I eventually was diagnosed with depression/anxiety which I didn’t know about at the time) and moved to Tasmania where my mum was working at a university to have a break and be with my family,” she said.

“I then moved to Melbourne in 2005 and started a job, got my own place, and began finding out who I was and who I wanted to be, then in 2006 I woke up one day and decided to leave behind my life in Melbourne, and finish uni.”

Since 2012 she has worked in the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation as a project coordinator on the ‘Talking About the Smokes’ research project – designed to help Indigenous people quit smoking – in partnership with Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin.

“I’m extremely grateful to have been given this opportunity because it has helped me grow as a person, and understand my true value, and also I get to show other Aboriginal people how to gather data for our project, the youngest I’ve trained to be a research assistant was 17, and the eldest 72, it’s really helping our communities and mob and showing them that anything is possible, no matter where you live or how old you are, it’s been great seeing different communities, community control at its finest.”

She also recently began a communications officer position with the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nurses and Midwives (CATSINaM), allowing her to draw on her journalism skills.

“I really respect what CATSINaM does for our people and for the Indigenous health sector and I enjoy being a part of two National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak bodies.”

She was also recently awarded a scholarship to attend the ‘She Leads’ program run by the YWCA of Canberra in a Diploma of Management with leadership as a main focus.

There are over 155 Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander students currently studying at the University


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NACCHO news alert:QLD:Campbell Newman axes Noel Pearson’s $100 million Aboriginal funding


NOEL Pearson’s Cape York welfare reform trial has been a dealt a blow with the Queensland government refusing federal demands to extend state funding beyond the end of the year.

Queensland Indigenous Affairs Minister Glen Elmes told The Australian the Newman government could no longer justify its expenditure on the program.

The trial in four Cape York communities has cost the state and federal governments more than $100 million.

Mr Pearson, director of the Cape York Institute, yesterday accused Queensland Indigenous Affairs Minister Glen Elmes of being a “cowboy” following the state’s declaration on Tuesday that it could no longer justify its expenditure on the program.

Photo and story from The Australian March 28

Patricia Karvelas

ABORIGINAL leader Noel Pearson has called for a federal takeover of indigenous affairs if the Queensland government fails to fund his radical Cape York Welfare Reform trial, amid evidence the program has cut crime rates, improved infrastructure and services and helped school attendance levels.

An independent evaluation report into the trial, obtained by The Australian, says individuals and families are beginning to gain respite from daily living problems and people feel that life is “on the way up”.

It finds that, since the trial began in July 2008, the Cape York communities of Aurukun, Coen, Hopevale and Mossman Gorge in far north Queensland have experienced improved school attendance, care and protection of children, and community safety.

It says people in the four communities are taking on greater personal responsibility and raising expectations, “particularly in areas such as sending kids to school, caring for children and families and their needs, and accessing supported self-help measures to deal with problems”.

After only three years of the trial, the report says there has been a “level of progress that has rarely been evident in previous reform programs in Queensland’s remote indigenous communities”.

The Cape York welfare trial, which has received about $100 million from the federal and Queensland governments, includes funding for economic development projects, but is centred on the Family Responsibility Commission. The FRC is able to withhold welfare payments from parents in circumstances such as failure to send their children to school.

“I see this as a real crossroads,” Mr Pearson said.

“Given the reversal (on alcohol bans in communities) that has taken place in the Northern Territory on the reform agenda and given the reversal that is now taking place in Queensland, it raises a real question about whether states and territories should at all be involved in indigenous policy.”

Mr Pearson said Queensland had now taken its regressive policy direction further by backing out of welfare reform that was transforming Aboriginal people’s lives.

“The crisis in indigenous communities that (federal Indigenous Affairs Minister) Jenny Macklin understands, but that the Queensland government doesn’t understand, has two nose-on-the-face features – alcohol and welfare dependency.

“And on those two issues we now have the Queensland government’s decision to reverse alcohol control and now to stop welfare reform. The position the Queensland government has adopted is one of really begging the question: If you’re not going to invest in indigenous affairs and indigenous reform, then why are you in indigenous affairs at all?

“There has been no focus by the Queensland government on indigenous reform. They have just allowed Glen Elmes to kind of make things up on the run. This cowboy has just basically come in to the scene and off-the-cuff decided that this program was going to stop. He does not himself have a credible alternative and he ignores the very explicit positive report that is contained in the evaluation.”

Mr Pearson accused Mr Elmes of making the decision without the advice of his department, which had been discussing future models of the trial.

Mr Elmes yesterday continued to defend the Newman government’s decision, saying it was “far too expensive an exercise for just four communities”.

“It has had mixed results and in places like Cherbourg and Mornington Island, they are getting kids to school in other ways that don’t cost as much.”

Between 2008 and 2011, the trial drew about $48m in commonwealth funding, with a further $40m coming from the Queensland government. The state’s contribution this year is $5.65m and Mr Elmes said on Tuesday it would not be renewed next year. The commonwealth is providing $11.8m this year and remains “committed to continuing funding for the trial”.

The evaluation report – commissioned by all parties to the trial, including the two governments – concludes that in Aurukun and Mossman Gorge, there were “statistically significant improvements” in school attendance, reflected in falls in students’ unexplained absences from school.

Coen and Hope Vale have historically had higher rates of school attendance. This did not change during the trial at Coen, while Hope Vale recorded a very small increase in unexplained absences in 2011. There has been a significant increase in school attendance in Aurukun, where it has risen from 46.1 per cent in the first term of 2008 to 70.9 per cent in the first term of 2012.

The trial communities’ attendance rate was 4 percentage points lower than the attendance rate in comparable indigenous communities in 2008, but by 2011, it was six percentage points higher.

By tracking individual students’ attendance across years, analysis reveals that Year 2 students in the trial communities went from three percentage points below the attendance rates of their peers in comparable indigenous communities in 2008 to nine percentage points higher in 2011. “The change in Aurukun is greater than in any other indigenous community in Queensland, and there are indications that it is related to the actions of the FRC,” the report says. “It is also clear that the improvements in Aurukun are not part of a general trend in indigenous communities in Queensland.”

The evaluation also found a large sustained fall in serious assaults resulting in injury in Aurukun in mid-2008, which reflects the impact of the closure of the Aurukun Tavern.

The report concludes the “improvements across the trial communities did reverse a trend of rising offence rates prior to the trial, which was not the case in comparison communities”.

Another positive indicator is that the hospitalisation rate for assault has been lower in the communities than it was before the trial, although “it is not possible to definitively link this to the trial as a similar trend is evident in other indigenous communities in Queensland”.

The FRC has been shown to have played a crucial role in increasing parental responsibility and restoring social norms in communities. But the evaluation also highlights challenges with assisting harder-to-reach groups in the communities, including young people who are no longer engaged in education.

The report shows that local indigenous authority is stronger as a result of the work of the FRC and this has been a key factor

in bringing about positive behavioural change.

As part of the evaluation, a Social Change Survey was undertaken among indigenous people in all trial communities. It found the FRC was respected and valued by the majority of community members and was seen as a driving force for change.

Importantly, two-thirds of respondents felt that people should go to the FRC if they did not take their children to school and that the community would be a better place to live if everyone followed up on their talks with the FRC.

When asked about changes in social and safety issues, 52 per cent of respondents felt that more people were trying to be better parents; 24 per cent felt more people were trying to give up grog, smoking or gambling; and 33 per cent felt there was less fighting between families.

Ms Macklin told The Australian the independent evaluation proved the trial was making a difference to Aboriginal lives.

“We know progress is being made and that there is still more to be done, particularly in the areas of increasing employment and home ownership opportunities,” she said.

NACCHO Aboriginal health debate:Was Gillard wrong? Can bans stop those ‘rivers of grog ?

“Aboriginal communities have the governance and the capacity to make their own decisions

The days of grand pronouncements from the ivory towers of Canberra must end.”


The article below is not NACCHO policy but provided to inform and generate debate

We encourage our members to respond in the COMMENTS section below

NACCHO thanks Chris Graham for permission to republish

He is the former and founding editor of the National Indigenous Times, and Tracker magazine. He’s a freelance writer based in Sydney

Gillard is wrong, bans won’t stop those ‘rivers of grog’

There’s no question grog kills a lot of Aboriginal people and destroys a lot of Aboriginal lives. But for all the damage grog can do to an Aboriginal community, it’s nothing compared to the damage wrought by politics.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered her “closing the gap speech on indigenous disadvantage.

After the declaring that the gap was closing (it isn’t), she lined up conservative governments in Queensland and the Northern Territory over their moves against alcohol bans: “I have a real fear that the rivers of grog that wreaked such havoc among indigenous communities are starting to flow once again.”

I’m not sure where Gillard has been spending her time recently, but I do recall her visiting Alice Springs last year. So what did she see?

The rivers of grog in the Territory have never dried up. At best, you could say they’ve changed course slightly. In the first six months of 2010, the Substance Abuse Intelligence Desk (an initiative of the Northern Territory intervention) reported seizing 404 litres of alcohol from Aboriginal communities.

By July 2011 that figure increased 1233 litres, climbing to 1445 by the end of the year. This is four years AFTER government intervention and grog bans. At the same time, alcohol infractions went through the roof.

The bi-annual intervention monitoring report concedes that in 2007, there were 1784 “alcohol related incidents”; by 2011 it was 4101. Alcohol-related domestic violence incidents also rose, from 387 in 2007 to 1109 in 2011.

The federal government likes to claim the increase in crime statistics is a result of more police. So, more coppers, more reporting. Yet while assault rates have more than doubled since 2007, the number of lodgements (charges that flow from an incident) is virtually the same in 2011 as in 2008 (548 in 2011 versus 537 in 2008).

The federal government also likes to claim the policies of the Northern Territory intervention need time to bite. After all, it’s only been five years.

Fortuitously, we have more than a decade of grog bans in Cape York on which to judge (the statistics I’ve used are assault rates, because proponents of grog bans routinely use them to justify banning alcohol). During 2000/01, the assault rate in Cape York communities was almost three times the state average (at a rate of 1419 assaults per 100,000 people). In 2001/02, the rate dropped to 1382. The following year, it dropped to 1216.

Enter the Beattie government, and a new policy of alcohol management plans, or AMPs. Over the next two years, the drop in assault rates slowed dramatically, then plateaued. Within two years, it jumped substantially, and then slowly climbed its way back down.

The net result was that after a decade of grog bans, assault rates in Cape York reduced by 15% — the same drop that occurred in the two years prior to grog bans. Why? Beyond the fact that grog bans don’t work, no one really knows. But know assault rates in Cape York — while certainly much higher than the state average — mirrored almost precisely the rise and falls of assault rates across Queensland. And you could hardly suggest that’s a dry community.

Government-imposed grog bans don’t work. Indeed, they’ve never worked. Not for Aboriginal people, not for non-Aboriginal people. All grog bans do is frame a behaviour that should be treated as a health problem as a law and order issue. Which of course helps fill our jails.

In Cape York in 2000/01, prior to the grog bans, “liquor offence rates” — which include illegal possession of alcohol — were at 142 per 100,000 people. By 2009/10 they’d increased more than seven fold to 1087, and “good order” offences also increased markedly over the same period.

“Aboriginal communities have the governance and the capacity to make their own decisions … The days of grand pronouncements from the ivory towers of Canberra must end.”

So grog bans had no real impact on assault rates on Cape York, but they were a raging success in the criminalisation of Aboriginal drinkers.

So there’s the facts, now back to the politics. The CLP’s motivation to drop the grog bans in the NT is one part “they don’t work” and nine parts “voters in Alice Springs — home to four CLP seats — are sick and tired of Aboriginal drinkers pouring into town to escape grog bans on their communities”.

Whatever their motivation, the CLP’s opposition to broad-brush grog bans across whole swathes of the Territory is the right policy. With one caveat. The CLP has abolished the banned drinkers register, drawing the ire of the Prime Minister. ”Since it was pulled down by the Country Liberal Party… we’re hearing worrying reports about the rise in admissions in the emergency department at Alice Springs Hospital due to alcohol-related accidents and abuse,” she said.

I don’t consider “we’re hearing worrying reports” to be an evidence-based discussion. If our Prime Minister is going to defend a policy, she should work in some hard stats. Even so, there is strong support for the banned drinkers register in Alice Springs.

Unlike blanket grog bans across communities, the BDR is a small, manageable policy. It targets individuals who are repeat offenders and have significant drinking problems, as opposed to targeting a whole race of people based on the colour of their skin.

Dr John Boffa, an Alice Springs doctor who has worked in Aboriginal health for 20 years, defends the BDR: “This is one strategy that’s working. And we’ve got the highest alcohol-related harm in Australia. It’s not acceptable to not implement all possible measures that we know are having an effect.”

Which brings me back to the politics. If all politics are local, then why is all policy created in Canberra? The solution to these problems lie in the communities where the drinking occurs. Many communities later targeted by the intervention were already dry, courtesy of local decision-making.

With support, Aboriginal communities have the governance and the capacity to make their own decisions. In Queensland, that’s where the Newman government is heading, to their enormous credit. And it’s what Gillard rails against. What Campbell Newman has apparently realised is that control of Aboriginal lives needs to be put into the hands of Aboriginal people. The days of grand pronouncements from the ivory towers of Canberra must end.

Gillard said: “The government will take action in response to any irresponsible policy changes that threaten to forfeit our hard-won gains.” Great news. And does the same government have the courage to take action in response to its own irresponsible policies which have been shown time and again to fail?

*Chris Graham is the former and founding editor of the National Indigenous Times, and Tracker magazine. He’s a freelance writer based in Sydney

Acting PM supports the 2013 NACCHO “deadly choices” NRL national challenge

Matty Cooke

Acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan and NACCHO Deputy Chair Matty Cooke took time out in a very busy schedules to attend Friday nights NACCHO NRL Deadly Choices Challenge Cup a lead up event to the Indigenous All stars event .


With Federal Member for Moreton Graham Perrett to present the Winners trophy to QAIHC Argun Warriors NACCHO #deadlychoices Challenge cup Friday Night 8 February

Game report below



NACCHO CEO Lisa Biggs and Deputy chair Matty Cooke catching up with Kevin Rudd at All stars game


2013 NACCHO Deadly Choices Murri V Koori Challenge between the Argun Warriors (QLD) and Newcastle Yowies (NSW).

Match report By MARK BOUSEN Torres News

Badu’s Argun Warriors are now officially the best All Blacks rugby league side in Australia after defeating the Newcastle Yowies 28-24 in golden-point, extra-time in Brisbane on Friday night.

A try by Maipele Morseu, which started from inside their own half in the final minute of the first, five-minute period of extra time, carried the courageous Warriors to victory in the inter-state challenge.

The Warriors trailed the Yowies for most of the game – down 8-4 at 1/4 time, 20-10 at 1/2 time, 20-16 at 3/4 time, with the scores locked at 24-all at full-time.

The Warriors hit the front for the first time late in the final quarter leading 24-20 before the Yowies scored a late try in the corner to force the title into extra-time.

They were also on the end of a lop-sided penalty count (8-1 in the first-half) and played for long periods, especially in the first-half, without the ball.

But the Badu-based side lived up to their Warriors’ name, and the courage and spirit that took them to the national championship.

NSW Team report

The NSW Indigenous Under 16’s are preparing for the game of their lives this weekend as the build up towards their match against QLD intensifies.

Currently in camp in Brisbane, the boys faced a tough day of training with an opposed session against the Indigenous Women’s team, before attending the launch of the 2013 NRL All Stars at Suncorp Stadium in the evening.

A highlight of the day was the presentation of jerseys by both the NRL and Indigenous All Star teams in the dressing rooms of the famous ‘Cauldron’.

Brydon Ramien, of Coonamble, was thrilled to receive his jersey from last years Dally M Medal Winner Ben Barba.

“It was amazing, Ben is one of the best players in the game,” Ramien said.

“To meet Ben, JT (Jonathan Thurston) and George Rose was something i’ll never forget, its already been one of the best weeks ever.”

As the players mingled and took the opportunity to take photo’s with their NRL heroes, Indigenous 16’s player Tyler Terare spoke about what the week means to him and his teammates.

“Its a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Terare.

“It feels so good to represent my people. Its my first NSW jumper and hopefully more to come.

“My family are coming to watch me and I’ve never played in front of a big crowd before, so hopefully it feels good.”

The team will train again today in the morning before attending the Indigenous Careers Expo and 2013 NACCHO Deadly Choices Murri V Koori Challange between the Argun Warriors (QLD) and Newcastle Yowies (NSW).

To receive updates on the 2013 NACCHO Deadly Choices match and follow the NSW Indigenous U16’s progress, click on the Twitter buttons below and support the team

Selwyn Button, CEO of QAIHC is opening up the NACCHO debate on the Closing the Gap, Prime Minister’s Report 2013.


Our first contributor Selwyn Button, CEO of Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC)

We welcome all members ,affiliates and subscribers enter the debate by leaving comments below

Closing the Gap report card needs action

Selwyn Button, CEO of Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC) has expressed some disappointment in

Closing the Gap, Prime Minister’s Report 2013.

Responding to yesterday’s Closing the Gap speech delivered by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Mr Button declared that governments nationally are perpetuating the cycle of poverty and dysfunction by continually focussing on the negative elements in communities.

“When the Prime Minister had an opportunity to pay tribute to the commitment and results happening across the country through community controlled services, she chose to take a different slant and raise an issue that she feels relevant for the upcoming Federal election,” Mr Button said.

“There have been some real improvements in health made through our community controlled services, and too much attention is taken by attempts to politicise alcohol abuse in Indigenous communities.

“Let not kid ourselves, alcohol abuse in communities is an issue and it must be addressed, but it is not the biggest contributor to the overall life expectancy gap for our people.

“We must focus on the priorities that have impacted on the health of our people to achieve the ultimate goals of closing the life expectancy gap, such as smoking, heart disease and diabetes,” Mr Button stated.

“Bipartisan support from both State and Commonwealth governments is needed for this to occur.

“These public forums should not be used as a means of mud-slinging, we need to ensure that all parties are working together in achieving positive and progressive outcomes.

“The commitment to Closing the Gap must be seen to be more than a Report,” Mr Button said.

“That is why we are in the process of developing a new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan and negotiating a new National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Health, and we are happy to sit down with politicians from all parties to address these issues.

“Importantly, we need to ensure that these discussions include how we are going to address social determinants as a collective and not see issues in isolation.”