ALP Funding Commitment to help Close the Gap in Aboriginal Life Expectancy Welcome

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 27 May 2007

Close The Gap, the biggest campaign in Australia’s history to narrow the gap in life expectancy between the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population and other Australians, welcomes today’s announcement by Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd of additional funding for Aboriginal health services.
Maternal and child health will be a priority, which promises to deliver health gains. But there’s a still a long way to go before Aboriginal health services in Australia are funded to a level required to meet community health needs. An additional $460 million a year is needed, said Close The Gap.
‘This is an important first step to ensure the next generation of Aboriginal children grow up healthier for long and disability-free lives,’ said CEO of the National Aboriginal Controlled Health Organisation, Dea Thiele.
Today’s announcement of $261.4 million over four years to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders is considered by Close The Gap as significant to help raise the life expectancy of Indigenous Australians who live 17-years less than other Australians. A recent report by NACCHO and Oxfam ranked Australia bottom of a league table of first world wealthy nations working to improve the health of their Indigenous peoples.
‘In parts of Australia like the Kimberley region of WA, life expectancy for an Aboriginal baby boy born today will be 47 years,’ said Ms Thiele.
‘The health of Aboriginal Australians must transcend party politics. For too long now, investment in Aboriginal primary health care services has been insufficient to meet the demand. Getting results is not a challenge, it depends on providing services, yet Australia spends less per capita on Aboriginal people’s health,’ added Ms Thiele.
‘It’s not rocket science to show that if health services meet the needs of those with the worst health, then health improves. There is evidence Australia is not meeting those needs because resources are drip-fed. It’s a lack of political will,’ said Ms Thiele in reference to the recent Medical Journal of Australia article she co-authored, which showed inadequate resourcing of primary health care for Indigenous Australians is in breach of international human rights.
Oxfam Australia’s Director of Public Policy James Ensor said, ‘The Federal Government gave a $30 million increase to community health services in this month’s budget, but Labor has more than doubled that with a promise of $67.8 million per year and that’s a breakthrough for the campaign, Close the Gap.’
Close The Gap looks to both parties investing in heath services to make a difference in raising the life expectancy of Indigenous Australians. ‘Make no mistake there’s more work to be done by both major parties,’ said Mr Ensor.
Ms Thiele said, ‘Australians are motivated when they hear about the successes that appropriately resourced services can deliver.’
Across Australia, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are making a difference to their own health. Since 2000, the Townsville Aboriginal and Islander Health Service – Mum’s and Babies Project has had 37,560 patient visits by families to the service said Ms Thiele.
‘This has resulted in a marked improvement in the birth weight of babies, an increased mean weight in birth weight and an increased attendance to antenatal care with 60 per cent of Townsville based Indigenous women attending by 2003.’
‘In the Northern Territory, the Strong Women, Strong Babies program helps Aboriginal women prepare for pregnancy, increasing access to preventive care which has resulted in increased mean birth weights of infants of Aboriginal women,’ added Ms Thiele.
Close the Gap is a coalition of Australia’s leading health, human rights and Aboriginal organisations committed to working with Federal, State and Territory Governments to narrow the life expectancy gap between the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander population and other Australians within a generation.
Close The Gap now calls for a bipartisan commitment to appropriately fund health services to prevent Aboriginal children born today from dying 17-years earlier than other Australians.
To arrange an interview with Dea Thiele and James Ensor call Ian Woolverton on 0409 181 454.