REPORT WARNING ON INDIGENOUS HEALTH

Labor has today called on Tony Abbott to secure the future of health services available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people following the release of an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report.

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The sixth national report on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations reveals that:

  • Most Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary health organisations (68 per cent) were Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations.
  • Many organisations reported service delivery gaps, especially in the areas of mental health, and social and emotional health and wellbeing, followed by alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and youth services.
  • Key challenges to achieving health outcomes were recruitment, training and support of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander staff and staffing levels.

This follows a damning report from the Productivity Commission which warned that low birth weights, preventable hospitalisations and chronic disease rates were much significantly worse for Indigenous people.

Stephen Jones said that the report highlighted why the Abbott Government needed to end the uncertainty over Indigenous health service funding.

“Aboriginal health providers are still no closer to securing new funding, even though Tony Abbott announced new investments in Indigenous health close to two months ago.

“Current funding expires on 30 June this year yet Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations remain in the dark about what will happen.

“These organisations can’t plan for the future, maintain a quality workforce and retain their doctors, nurses and other health workers in this current environment. Tony Abbott needs to heed the warnings in this report and ensure that Indigenous health services have the funds available to rectify delivery gaps.”

Warren Snowdon said that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health outcomes would not improve if funding continued to be cut.

“The 2014-15 budget saw half a billion dollars’ worth of cuts to Closing the Gap programs, including $165 million cut from Indigenous health programs.

“It just gets worse and worse. The report warns that tobacco use is a key source of concern yet the Government has frozen the Tackling Indigenous Smoking Program.

“It also reinforces what we already knew from the National Mental Health Review – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health services need improvement.

“The damage done by Abbott’s cuts was exacerbated by the chaos of the recent Indigenous Advancement (so-called) Strategy that imposed severe cuts to highly successful, community controlled mental health services.

“If Tony Abbott continues to cut away at funding for services and programs that support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people we will never improve their overall health and wellbeing.”

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