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What the Federal Budget means for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health


Morgan Liotta 1/06/2018 3:18:51 PM

Looking at some key areas of the 2018–19 Federal Budget that impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healthcare.

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Federal Minister for Indigenous Health Ken Wyatt believes government support is critical to improving the health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. (Image: Mick Tsikas/AAP)

While the 2018–19 Federal Budget featured positive overall news for Aboriginal community controlled health organisations, RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health believes further strategic investment is needed to address underlying social and cultural factors of health and wellbeing.  
 
However, some updates have been well received.
 
RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and the Aboriginal community controlled health organisation sector have welcomed the Government’s $8 million in funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research allocated to the Lowitja Institute over the next two financial years.
 
Federal Minister for Indigenous Health Ken Wyatt said the work of Lowitja Institute has influenced and created opportunities for change in how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health research is undertaken.
 
‘This [research] has resulted in improved community health and better care systems, based on the knowledge, expertise and experience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,’ Minister Wyatt said.
 
Lowitja Institute’s main priorities include targeted research, addressing the social and cultural determinants of health and translating knowledge into better health for individuals and families.
 
The Federal Government has also pledged new funds for preventing and treating complex chronic health conditions such as eye disease ($34.3 million), hearing loss ($30 million) and crusted scabies ($4.8 million), as well as the new investment in remote renal services and infrastructure with a Medicare item for dialysis.
 
Remote areas will receive further benefits in the form of $6 million to the Remote Area Health Corps (RAHC) to support the health workforce in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across the Northern Territory.
 
RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, along with National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO), also backs the announcement of a needs-based funding model for the Department of Health (DoH) Indigenous Australians’ Health Program, including commitment to five-year funding contracts to commence from 1 July 2019.
 
NACCHO Chair John Singer told newsGP he is confident in the announcement of new funding for the program, but believes further refinement and feedback is required.
 
‘Funding certainty is critical to Aboriginal community controlled health organisations achieving good health outcomes,’ he said. ‘It is important to strengthen and expand their role as primary care providers in our communities.’
 
Mr Singer also called on the Federal Government to ensure the new funding model does not compromise current models of care.
 
‘NACCHO and the RACGP will continue to work in consultation with the DoH and relevant committees on the development of the model,’ he said.
 
Despite RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health welcoming these updates, the faculty believes further investment is needed, and the budget lacks long-term vision to close the gap in health inequalities.
 
‘The lack of a clear statement on the Closing the Gap agenda suggests limited commitment from the Federal Government to deliver on the targets,’ Associate Professor Peter O’Mara, Chair RACGP Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, told newsGP.
 
Associate Professor O’Mara said he is opposed to the Government’s decision not to increase unemployment payments and instead provide funds to extend its debt recovery activities.
 
‘The proposed changes to the remote Community Development Employment Program are not expected to bring much relief, with its penalty system still largely intact,’ he said.  
 
The Federal Government’s 2018–19 Budget provides $3.9 billion over four years – $10 billion projected over the next decade – to better support better Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ health through targeted programs and services.
 
‘This support is critical to improving the health of thousands of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,’ Minister Wyatt said.
 
‘But is also fundamental to Australia’s commitment to equality, prosperity and opportunity for all.’


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