NACCHO Aboriginal Health and #Drug #Ice :Applications close 8 February for local community drug action teams to tackle ice


“These Local Drug Action Teams will provide a structure to unite communities so they can work together more effectively, They will drive community action to reduce demand for drugs such as ice and reduce the harm associated with alcohol and other drugs more broadly.

“Stronger prevention action will help individuals and families to avoid the destruction that ice is causing, especially in rural and regional communities.”

Minister for Health, Sussan Ley

A program to help local communities tackle the impact of ice through 220 community-based local action teams across Australia over the next four years was announced just before Xmas by the Minister for Health, Sussan Ley, as part of the National Ice Action Strategy.

She said that local councils, schools, police, youth services, primary health and treatment services, community groups, non-government organisations (NGOs) and community members would be eligible to be members of a Local Drug Action Team.

More info :

Funding of $19.2 million has been provided to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (formerly the Australian Drug Foundation) to administer the community-based action teams. Applications for communities wishing to form a local team opened  (23 December 2016) and will close on 8 February 2017.

Ms Ley said development of community-based teams was a direct response to the Government’s National Ice Taskforce’s call for more locally-tailored strategies to address local issues to strengthen prevention activities and reduce demand for drugs such as ice.

There will be ongoing opportunities through 2017 and 2018 for communities who want to form teams but miss out in the first application process. The first group of 40 local community teams will be determined by early 2017.

Interested groups and individuals can find more information on the program on the Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s website.

The Local Drug Action Team initiative is part of the Australian Government’s investment of $298 million investment over four years to reduce the impact of drugs and alcohol.

Alcohol and Drug Foundation chief executive officer John Rogerson welcomed the partnership with the Australian Government.

“Building community partnerships to develop locally-based and locally-delivered solutions is the key to reducing alcohol and drug related harm,” he said.

“These community teams will be on the ground in your neighbourhood playing a key role in implementing unique prevention programs that are tailored to their community’s issues.

“They will also give much-needed support to those impacted by ice, other illegal drugs and alcohol.”

Ms Ley has also announced funding for expansion of a program run by the Alcohol and Drug Foundation to tackle illegal drugs by providing education and awareness programs through 1200 local sporting clubs.

The new program is an extension of the Foundation’s successful grass-roots Good Sports program, which encourages cultural change in behaviours and attitudes to drug and alcohol use in sporting clubs. The program has helped more than 7,000 clubs nationwide.

“People aged 20 to 29 years are among the highest users of illicit drugs and many people in this age group are also members of local sporting clubs,” Ms Ley said.

“This program will be an important part of encouraging these young people to talk about drugs, as well as providing information for people who might need help and support.”

For more information on Local Drug Action Teams see

For more information on Good Sports see

and from Team NACCHO


For NACCHO Media Contact

Colin Cowell Editor 0401 331 251


NACCHO Aboriginal #SexyHealth #ATSIHAW : Minister @KenWyattMP launches Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander #HIV Awareness Week


We have to acknowledge that those with HIV in Indigenous communities may experience additional barriers to health care which relate to stigma, shame and racism. To make real progress and combat the spread of HIV we need to work together,

“We need to eliminate discriminatory and stigmatising behaviour wherever, and whenever, we see it so people can seek the treatment they need without the fear of negative consequences.”

Assistant Minister Ken Wyatt announcing funding of $485,000  at ATSIHAW launch with Pat Turner, James Ward , Mark Saunders pictured below


Picture above NACCHO CEO Pat Turner launching the new website at Parliament House this Morning


NACCHO Aboriginal #SexyHealth #ATSIHAW : Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander #HIV Awareness Week

Article from Page 12 and 13  NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper out Wednesday 16 November , 24 Page lift out Koori Mail : or download

naccho-newspaper-nov-2016 PDF file size 9 MB


Funding to conduct a survey to better understand why young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at increased risk of blood borne viruses (BBV) and sexually transmissible infections (STI) was announced today.

The Minister for Health and Aged Care Sussan Ley, MP and the Assistant Minister for Health and Aged Care Ken Wyatt AM, MP announced the funding at the launch of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander HIV Awareness Week.


“While Australia has maintained one of the lowest HIV rates in the world it is still present and we need to do more,” Ms Ley said.

According to the Kirby Institute’s Annual Surveillance Report, the rate of HIV among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in 2015 is more than two times higher than the Australian-born, non-Indigenous population, with rates nearly three times higher for those aged over 35 years.

“While huge inroads have been made to prevent the spread of HIV, we need to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have timely access to scientific advances in treatment and diagnosis, as well as access to best practice management of HIV that is culturally safe,” Ms Ley said.

“This is why the Australian Government will provide funding of $485,000 to the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute to conduct a second GOANNA Survey to gain a better understanding of why our young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at increased risk of STI.”

The Australian Government remains committed to providing better public health programs that are responsive to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through targeted initiatives including Closing the Gap, the Implementation Plan for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan 2013-2023 and the BBV and STIs Strategy.

aids-video Watch video here

Or check out the new website



NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alert : Health Minister, Sussan Ley, is forecasting many changes to the health workforce


The Health Minister, Sussan Ley, is forecasting many changes to the health workforce, driven by technology and growing demand for services.

She has revealed her insights in an article for the latest edition of the Consumers Health Forum journal, Health Voices, published today and titled Health consumers and workforce – are we engaged?  focusing on the issues facing Australia’s health workforce in providing patient-centred care.

The Minister’s article is one of 20 articles by workforce leaders and experts signalling big changes in health workforce composition and practices, including the development of more consumer-focused care systems.


Ms Ley writes that with developing technology, growing community expectations and population ageing, the demand for health services will increase while the labour market will tighten.  “A future health workforce that is flexible and responsive to changing requirements for health service delivery is essential to ensure Australia maintains its high standards of health care, and to ensure that all communities have appropriate access to the care they need.”

Ms Ley says the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) prescribing working group is reviewing regulatory policies related to the prescribing of scheduled medicines.

She also says that current evidence on doctor numbers indicates a likely oversupply of 7,000 by 2030.  “With data projections continuing to indicate issues of maldistribution of doctors, especially in rural and remote communities, the Department of Health can ensure that policy initiatives are aimed to address these issues,” Ms Ley says.

The CEO of the Consumers Health Forum, Leanne Wells, says the Minister’s conclusion that getting workforce mix right would help ensure a sustainable, consumer-centred health system, showed the right direction given the challenges facing health care.

“The expert articles in this latest Health Voices edition show that even after two major national reviews into the health workforce there is still much scope to ensure we get the most effective care from the most appropriate health care professionals.

“There is a wide range of opinions express in the journal on how we can achieve best practice.  But the best starting point should be what is best for the patient and consumer.

“Several of the authors make the logical point that consumers have an important influence in health workforce decisions,” Ms Wells said.

Excerpts from Health Voices include:

  • “Integrated care must involve all health professions and go across health jurisdictions. And most importantly, it must involve and be focused on patients and their families and carers if we are to unlock its full potential,” Dr Catherine Yelland, President of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians.


  • “Well you may ask then, if nurses and midwives have always practiced person-centred care, and they are the largest cohort of the health workforce at 376,880 strong, why is this not evident in the health care system of today?” Lee Thomas, Federal Secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation.


  • ”Too many health professionals squander their valuable skills on work that other people could do,” Professor Stephen Duckett, health program director at the Grattan Institute.


  • “Demand and ‘need’ for health care seem limitless because of very high patient expectations and because ‘demand’ is partly determined by health professionals who can reduce treatment thresholds and create more demand if necessary – there are no unemployed doctors – and for many services there is a waiting list. Professor Anthony Scott, head, Health Economics Research Program at the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.


  • In reality, a ‘simple’ visit to the GP can make a big difference to a patient’s health. Comprehensive, longitudinal care is about much more than just seeing patients when they are sick,” Dr Michael Gannon, Federal President of the Australian Medical Association.


  • “Yet, many patients, advocates and family carers continue to report feeling excluded from decisions about care by health professionals who they perceive as not listening to or understanding their perspective,” Professor Sharon Lawn, director of Flinders University’s Human Behaviour and Health Research Unit.


Health Consumers and workforce – are we engaged?  Read the 20 expert articles of this edition of Health Voices  at

For NACCHO Newspaper


 NACCHO Aboriginal Health Newspaper out Wednesday 16 November , 24 Page lift out Koori Mail : or download

naccho-newspaper-nov-2016 PDF file size 9 MB



NACCHO Aboriginal Health #healthcarehomes Tender closes 15 December : $100m to support the rollout of stage one


 ” Health Care Homes is a major reform of primary health care and aims to reshape the management of chronic and complex conditions by placing patients at the centre of care with general practice and Aboriginal community controlled health services (ACCHS).

The Turnbull Government has allocated over $100m to support the rollout of stage one, which aims to enrol up to 65,000 patients in 200 medical practices in 10 regions across Australia.”

Press Release Sussan Ley

Medical practices can apply for stage one of Health Care Homes

More information on the application process is available on the Tenders and Grant page

Read 10 NACCHO Articles about Health Care Homes Here

The Minister for Health, Sussan Ley, today announced that medical practices in selected regions around Australia can apply for stage one of Health Care Homes.

In stage one, Health Care Homes will be rolled out in selected regions from July 2017.

Ms Ley said: “Health Care Homes aims to deliver more flexible care for people with chronic and complex conditions.

“This has never been more important with one in five Australians living with two or more chronic conditions.

“Health Care Homes allows for team-based, integrated and co-ordinated care for patients and gives greater flexibility to design individual care plans for patients and co-ordinate care services to support them.”

Ms Ley said Health Care Homes is an important reform of primary health care services, which are the first and most common point of contact for most Australians.

It demonstrated the Turnbull Government’s commitment to a healthier Medicare.

Ms Ley said: “We are implementing Health Care Homes to find a better way of delivering Medicare for Australians with chronic illnesses.”

Last year the Government invested more than $21 billion in Medicare to ensure all Australians had access to affordable universal healthcare and Medicare funding is expected to grow by another $4 billion over four years.

Under the Health Care Home model, practices will be given a monthly bundled payment for delivery of effective care to patients with chronic and complex health conditions.

Ms Ley acknowledged that doctors and health professionals had played a key role in introducing the concept of the Health Care Home model.

Health Care Home services will be delivered in implementation sites from 1 July 2017 until 30 June 2019 in the first stage. Evaluation of Health Care Homes in these regions will inform refinement of the new model of care and its suitability for broader rollout.

Ms Ley said: “I encourage all accredited general practices and ACCHS organisations in the selected regions to apply to participate in the trials, which are held on a voluntary basis.”

General practices and ACCHS in these regions can now apply for stage one of Health Care Homes: Perth North; Northern Territory; Adelaide; Country South Australia; Brisbane North; Western Sydney; Nepean Blue Mountains; Hunter, New England and Central Coast; South Eastern Melbourne; and Tasmania.

More information on the application process is available on the Tenders and Grant page

The department is seeking applications from eligible organisations within ten Primary Health Network regions for a restricted competitive grants program consisting of one off payments of $10,000 (GST exclusive) each. This funding round will identify eligible organisations to participate in Stage 1 of the implementation of Health Care Homes. This payment is intended to incentivise participation and facilitate readiness for a program start date of 1 July 2017.

Under this model, eligible patients with chronic and complex health conditions will voluntarily enrol with a participating medical practice known as their Health Care Home. This practice will provide patients with a ‘home base’ for the ongoing coordination, management, and support of their conditions. Patients will nominate a preferred clinician within the Health Care Home and a tailored care plan will be developed by the clinician in partnership with the patient.

Stage 1 of the model will be implemented across ten Primary Health Network (PHN) regions that were selected to provide a good cross section of metropolitan, regional, rural and remote locations, and to leverage chronic disease programs operating in these regions.


NACCHO Aboriginal Health : Growing at one every 38 seconds the My Health Record hits 4 million!


With a My Health Record, both a patient and their healthcare professional can gain immediate access to important health information on-line.

This can improve co-ordinated care outcomes, reduce duplication and provide vital information in emergency situations.

“It also enables us, as a consumer, to become more active in managing your health and provide links between the multiple services many of us may need through our lives.”

Minister for Health Sussan Ley today announced the number of people with a My Health Record has surpassed 4 million, or around 17 per cent of all Australians.

                          MY HEALTH RECORD WEBSITE

“With a My Health Record, both a patient and their healthcare professional can gain immediate access to important health information on-line,” Ms Ley said.

   HISTORY OF E-Health/My Health Record from NACCHO

Ms Ley said that following the recent re-launch of the My Health Record there has been a steady increase in registrations.

“In the past four weeks alone, there has been an average of 2,200 new registrations every day, or one new My Health Record created every 38 seconds,” she said.

“With changes to the General Practice incentive, healthcare providers are increasingly contributing and viewing on-line health information about their patients. We are now seeing one upload of clinical health information from a healthcare provider every 21 seconds.”

Ms Ley said every day one in five GPs will see a patient for whom they have little or no information at all. With the My Health Record, they will increasingly have access to at least some information about a patient.

My Health Record


“This may be a Medicare claim or pharmacy prescription, or clinical information uploaded by other healthcare providers such as a specialist, hospital and pharmacy.

A My Health Record puts the power in the hands of health consumers to decide with whom they share their health information,” Ms Ley said.



NACCHO Aboriginal #HealthElection16 : One Gateway proposed for over 30 phone and online mental health services in Australia,


“We are undertaking this crucial reform because the Mental Health Commission and Expert Reference Group found there were over 30 phone and online mental health services in Australia, but no co-ordinated way to access them.

This means people with specific mental health needs may not have been aware of specialist services or were falling through the cracks altogether.

It also means many of these mental health phone services were being overburdened – or underutilised – because people were not aware of alternative services that may better suit their mental health needs.”

The Hon. Sussan Ley MP Minister for Health Mental Health Gateway to save lives Press Release May 15 : Picture above example of a Gateway

A re-elected Turnbull Coalition Government will continue delivering on our promise to develop a digital mental health gateway that will ensure Australians get the right help at the right time in a bid to stop people falling through the cracks and save lives.

Reports that some phone counselling services have had their funding ‘axed’ are therefore incorrect and misleading.

Our digital gateway is a key recommendation of the Mental Health Commission’s (MHC) landmark Report and is being implemented in line with the guidance provided by our independent Mental Health Expert Review Committee, who were tasked with taking the MHC’s findings from paper to policy.

In addition to our digital gateway being a first point of entry to mental health services across the country, Australians will have the option to call one single phone number to access the mental health phone and online services they need.

This single phone number will act as a triage service that will put them in touch with a specialist phone or online service that is best suited to their personal circumstances.

For example, the triage service may determine a person would be best serviced by a specialist counselling service addressing LGBTIQ mental health or eating disorders, rather than a general service.

The triage service is not designed to replace existing phone counselling services, but enhance access to them.

Australians will still be able to call their preferred phone counselling service directly if they believe this is the best service to help them.

We are undertaking this crucial reform because the Mental Health Commission and Expert Reference Group found there were over 30 phone and online mental health services in Australia, but no co-ordinated way to access them.

This means people with specific mental health needs may not have been aware of specialist services or were falling through the cracks altogether.

It also means many of these mental health phone services were being overburdened – or underutilised – because people were not aware of alternative services that may better suit their mental health needs.

Another key recommendation of the Mental Health Commission was that some – but not all – phone and online mental health services may be unnecessarily duplicating each other’s work and funding may be better targeted to ensure a high-quality mix of services to cover the varying mental health needs of Australians by filling service gaps.

The Coalition will therefore work with all phone and online mental services to transition to this new model of improving access to over-the-phone/online mental health services from 2017-18, including greater funding security. Until then, all services will continue to be funded at current levels.

I understand the importance of mental health organisations running fundraising drives, however it is important their campaigning methods do not end up hurting those who they are ultimately meant to help.

Labor treated mental health as a “second-term priority”. Only the Coalition is committed to delivering these brave and bold reforms aimed at ensuring Australians with mental health issues no longer fall through the cracks.

Recommendations from the Mental Health Commission’s Landmark Report

“Currently telephone helplines are not integrated, they do not have common standards and there are limited referral pathways. There are various levels of duplication of target client groups and potential to be accessing the ‘wrong door’ by users.”

“For telephone and online support services, the strategic direction is in creating a ‘joined-up’ model of crisis support helplines, with each helpline playing its part according to its expertise. This would reduce duplication, increase efficiency and enable collaborative work.”

“Create a coordinated, better integrated model of telephone and online support services, including crisis support and seamless pathways to online and offline information, education, biometric monitoring and clinical intervention.”

Improve access to services and support through innovative technologies

“Improve emergency access to the right telephone and internet-based forms of crisis support and link crisis support services to ongoing online and offline forms of information/education, monitoring and clinical intervention.”

“Implement cost-effective second and third generation e-mental health solutions that build sustained self-help, link to biometric monitoring and provide direct clinical support strategies or enhance the effectiveness of local services.” Volume 1, page 11

Recommendations from the Mental Health Expert Reference Group Implementation Report

“The ERG acknowledged the evidence that demonstrates telephone and e-mental health services can play a significant role in a stepped care model of mental health service delivery if there were triaging, clinical guidelines and targeting of their use. The ERG endorsed appropriate promotion of existing self-help and clinician moderated e-mental health services to consumers and clinicians as an important component.”

“The ERG noted the significant number of providers in this space, some of whom provide similar or competing services. A simpler structure and a secure funding base for these services is required. A single telephone line linked as appropriate to other telephone based services was proposed. Similarly, the ERG supported the consideration of how a single gateway for web-based services could be utilised to provide initial triage and to facilitate consumer access to the most appropriate services.

This would encourage and enable optimal use of the web-based services that are available, particularly in the context of better promoting the availability of self-help services to individuals who could benefit from them. The ERG recommended the Commonwealth work with the states and territories to streamline entry to all e-mental health services through one national gateway.”

“The Commonwealth should immediately:

Establish a single gateway and platform for initial access to existing web based services.

Similarly with phone based mental health support, a single phone access point should be established with the capacity to provide soft transfer to other phone services. Ensure a simple triage system is developed and offered through these new arrangements.”


Send your Aboriginal Health issue message to Canberra for


Advertising and editorial is invited from

All political parties

NACCHO 150 Members and Affiliates

Stakeholders/ Aboriginal organisations

Peak Health bodies

Closing 17 June for publishing election week 29 June

Contact for Advertising rate cards/bookings/editorial


NACCHO Aboriginal Health News Alert : Hep C cures available today for as low as $6.20 a prescription



“Hepatitis is responsible for a significant burden of ill-health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and has numerous causes, including viral infection, alcohol or drug abuse, and the body’s immune system attacking itself. It can be a short-term, acute illness or a persistent, chronic disease.

Hepatitis A and B have traditionally been larger problems for the Indigenous community than for the non-Indigenous population of Australia [1]. Past studies have found infection rates to reach intermediate to high levels throughout Australia for both hepatitis A virus (HAV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV), according to World Health Organization (WHO) standards. Less is known about hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, though it is not likely to be associated with Indigenous status per se, and is more closely correlated with injecting drug use “

Healthinfonet Hepatitis in Aboriginal Communities

Well its day two of the new treatments for Hepatitis C. These are available for free and prescribed by VAHS through our Healthy Liver Clinic based in Preston.

These treatments are much much better than the old medications. Tablets once or twice a day. No Inteferon and no injections. And only for 12 weeks in most occassions.

Information is available on Hepatitis Australia and Hepatitis Victoria Websites. Call VAHS Preston if you would like to come and get assessed.”

Victorian Aboriginal Health Service March 2

Australia is one of the first countries in the world to publicly subsidise these cures for every one of our quarter-of-a-million Hep C suffers, no matter what their condition or how they contracted it,” Ms Ley said.

“This is a watershed moment in Australian history and we are hoping to eliminate one the great disease challenges facing Australia in the 21st century

Minister for Health Sussan Ley

See previous NACCHO article Addressing structural challenges for the sexual health and well-being of Indigenous women

Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced via this press release Australians with Hep C would now pay just $6.20 a prescription if they were a concession card holder or $38.30 a prescription as a general patient for four different cures listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Hepatitis C sufferers will today get access to publicly-subsidised breakthrough cures that could eradicate the deadly and debilitating disease within a generation, thanks to an investment of more than $1 billion by the Turnbull Government.

Minister for Health Sussan Ley announced Australians with Hep C would now pay just $6.20 a prescription if they were a concession card holder or $38.30 a prescription as a general patient for four different cures listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme today – saving patients as much as $100,000 for treatment.

Ms Ley said that when taken as prescribed, the four breakthrough medicines listed today had a cure rate of over 90 per cent and worked faster and with fewer side effects than anything else previously subsidised on the PBS.

“Australia is one of the first countries in the world to publicly subsidise these cures for every one of our quarter-of-a-million Hep C suffers, no matter what their condition or how they contracted it,” Ms Ley said.

“This is a watershed moment in Australian history and we are hoping to eliminate one the great disease challenges facing Australia in the 21st century.

Hepatitis C is an infectious blood borne virus that attacks the liver, causing its inflammation, and may lead to cirrhosis, end-stage liver disease, liver cancer and, in some cases, death. It has six different genotypes.

Ms Ley said there were about 700 deaths attributable to chronic Hep C infection each year, with thousands more suffering a variety of serious liver diseases and conditions.

As a result deaths from primary liver cancer, for which untreated Hep C is a major driver, are rising faster than for any other cancer, with Ms Ley describing today’s PBS listings as a “game changer”.

“Essentially one in every 100 Australians has Hep C, with another 10,000 people diagnosed every year, and they come from all walks of life,” Ms Ley said.

“With this announcement there is great hope we can not only halt the spread of this deadly infectious virus, but eliminate it altogether in time.

“It’s therefore important we tackle this disease head on, and that includes providing these medicines to all Australians, particularly vulnerable populations where rates of infection are high.”

Ms Ley said today’s announcement would see the listing of multiple drug combinations to ensure cures for all types of Hep C were made available to the entire patient population through the PBS from March 1 2016. The medicines are: Sofosbuvir with ledipasvir (Harvoni); Sofosbuvir (Sovaldi); Daclatasvir (Daklinza); and Ribavirin (Ibavyr).

Ms Ley said in the majority of cases the medicines would be taken orally, with treatment duration as short as 8 to 12 weeks.

Ms Ley said the cures would be administered in line with the Australian Government’s broader 4th National Hepatitis C Strategy.

Ms Ley advised people with Hep C to consult their doctor about the best course of treatment for them.

These Hep C cures were part of $1.6 billion the Turnbull Government invested in its recent MYEFO update.

“The Turnbull Government is committed to listing medicines recommended by the PBAC without fear or favour, unlike Labor, who tried to halt listing new drug recommendations until it returned budget to surplus,” Ms Ley said.

“As such, the Coalition has now approved over 900 new and amended listings to the PBS since coming to office – nearly triple the 331 new listings in Labor’s final term.

“Every dollar spent on inefficiency in the health system is a dollar we cannot invest in new breakthrough cures like this one.”

Ms Ley said like access to all PBS medicines, funding was demand driven and the Government would account for any potential variations in spending accordingly.


NACCHO Health News: Free flu vaccines for Aboriginal children thru Aboriginal Medical Services



Indigenous children will benefit from the Federal Government’s free flu vaccine program for the first time this year as authorities brace for a virulent strain of flu heading for Australia.

The Government announced at the NACCHO parliamentary breakfast in Canberra yesterday that  it would extend its free flu program to the children to help reduce flu deaths among the vulnerable group.

2015-03-17 07.34.41-1

Health Minister Sussan Ley speaking at the NACCHO event said five Indigenous children died from the flu each year.

PHOTO ABOVE 1.Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley with Indigenous children receiving free flu vaccinations in Broken Hill, NSW last weekend 2.Making announcement with NACCHO Chair Matthew Cooke and CEO Lisa Briggs

Under the National Immunisation Program (NIP), essential vaccines – including seasonal influenza vaccinations – are provided free of charge to at-risk groups within the community.

When the 2015 influenza vaccine is available in April, parents of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children aged between six months and five years will be able to get their children vaccinated for free through general practitioners, community controlled Aboriginal Medical Services and immunisation clinics.

Free influenza vaccines are also available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 years and over, people aged 65 years and over, pregnant women and people over six months who have specific medical conditions that increase their susceptibility to influenza.

The NIP is a joint initiative between the Australian Government and state and territory governments.

For more information,

Contact the Immunise Australia information line on 1800 671 811

Extra information below by ABC NEWS medical reporter Sophie Scott and Alison Branley

“The key objective I believe of every Federal Health Minister when it comes to Indigenous health must be closing the gap in life expectancy and that starts in childhood,” Ms Ley said.

“It’s vital we include children under five in as many health initiatives as possible and flu vaccination is one of them.”

Indigenous children will be able to get a flu vaccine through their GP, Aboriginal Medical Services and immunisation clinics.

Health experts said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were twice as likely to be hospitalised from the flu as non-Indigenous children.

Free flu vaccines are already provided for vulnerable groups such as people aged over 65, pregnant women and people with a range of chronic conditions who are at increased risk from flu complications.

The announcement comes as Australian doctors predict a killer flu season.      

In the northern hemisphere, flu rates were high and a deadly strain called H3N2 saw thousands of elderly people hospitalised.

More than 100 children have died in the United States.

“The objective is to be prepared,” Ms Ley said.

“You must take the flu seriously. As a nation, we’ll wait and see what happens with this year’s flu and hope it isn’t as bad as it was in the northern hemisphere.”

Flu vaccination program delayed to improve formula

This year’s Australian public flu immunisation program has been delayed so the flu vaccine can be reformulated from 2014 to replace two strains.

Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation chairman Dr Ross Andrews said the flu vaccine would include the same strain that caused the pandemic in 2009 and two new strains from the northern hemisphere.

“It’s been delayed because of new strains that have been added to the vaccine,” he said.

“There’s been a delay to make sure we’ve got sufficient supplies, so two suppliers providing the vaccine to make sure we’re covered.

“It was a bad year in the northern hemisphere, it was a reasonably bad year last year for us as a flu season.

“It was the worst year … since 2009 and it’s possible we might be heading again to another severe flu season.”

The vaccine will be available from GPs from April 20, he said.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported flu hospitalisation rates for people aged over 65 were the highest in 2014 since flu tracking began in 2005.

Doctors have urged vulnerable patients to be vaccinated as soon as the new vaccine is available.

Data from the Influenza Specialist Group shows almost 2,500 Australians have already had the flu this year, with the majority of cases in Queensland.