ABORIGINAL HEALTH DISADVANTAGE
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2014 report on Australia’s Health shows that a large gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and non-Aboriginal Australians still exists. Life expectancy is about 10 years lower and Aboriginal children aged 0-4 years die at twice the rate of their non-Aboriginal counterparts.
True commitment to closing the gap requires a concerted and sustained commitment by all levels of government. It requires a commitment not only to provide quality health care, but to address the social determinants of health.
Yet there is uncertainty and threats to federal funding for indigenous health. The National Partnership Agreements on Closing the Gap in Indigenous Health Outcomes have expired, and the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Reform Council has been disbanded. The 2014 Federal Budget contained millions of dollars in cuts to Indigenous programs, including cuts to evidence based lifestyle prevention programs such as tobacco cessation.
There are 24 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations in Victoria that provide essential health and welfare services to the Aboriginal community. The investment in closing the gap has seen a boost in the workforce in these organisations, but the infrastructure required to get the most from these workers has been lacking.
WE'LL TAKE ACTION
The Greens believe Aboriginal Community Controlled organisations are the best placed to deliver services and support that will deliver meaningful and lasting benefits to the Aboriginal community.
The Greens investment of $50 million over four years in these organisations, will help address the shortfall in infrastructure and capacity. It will deliver better primary care through trusted organisations, a proven means to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Greens also believe more can be done to improve the engagement and active participation of the Aboriginal community in governance decisions about Aboriginal health. The Department of Human Services has successfully operated an Aboriginal Roundtable and Community Conversations model to ensure proper engagement in the work of that department. The Greens will advocate for this model to be adapted and adopted by the Department of Health.
The bilateral Indigenous plan between the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments to close the gap in Indigenous disadvantage expires in 2015. The Greens will advocate for a new bilateral agreement and for action and leadership by the Council of Australian Government and the Australian Health Ministers Conference.
In the face of the uncertainty generated by the federal Coalition’s funding cuts, the Napthine Government has failed to step up and commit to the funding and programs necessary to help Victoria close the health gap.