Federal budget a disaster for Indigenous health

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 09 May 2007

The health crisis affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders will continue to be ignored as a result of yesterday’s budget, warns Oxfam Australia.
Health experts agree that there is an annual shortfall in Indigenous health of $460 million. But yesterday’s Federal Budget coughed up a paltry $30 million of additional funding annually to be spent on indigenous health over the next four years.
‘Yesterday’s budget delivered less one tenth of what’s needed to make the slightest impact on the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders,’said Executive Director of Oxfam Australia, Andrew Hewett.
A report published in April by the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation and Oxfam ranked Australia bottom of a list of first world wealthy nations working to improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal peoples. Yet the Government did nothing substantive of the scale required in yesterday’s budget to improve the health of some of Australia’s most vulnerable people.
‘The Government’s budget was a disaster for Aboriginal Australians who continue to endure the worst health and living conditions in the first world. And today a child born in Bangladesh can still expect to live longer than an Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander and the Government needs to reverse that fact,’ Mr Hewett added.
Research undertaken by the Australian Medical Association estimates that in order to improve the health of Aborigines an additional $1.6 billion in Indigenous health funding is needed over the next four years. If health equality is to be achieved for all Australians within 25-years it is recommended that federal, state and territory governments:
• improve access for Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islanders to culturally appropriate primary health care, and to a level commensurate with need
• increase the number of health practitioners working within Aboriginal health settings, and further develop and train the Indigenous health workforce
• improve the responsiveness of mainstream health services and programs to Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander health needs
• increase targeting of maternal and child health and greater support for Indigenous-specific population programs for chronic and communicable disease
• increase funding and support for the building blocks of good health such as awareness and availability of nutrition, physical activity, fresh food, healthy lifestyles, and adequate housing
• set national targets and benchmarks towards achieving healthy equality, by which progress can be closely monitored.
Oxfam is part of a campaign called Close The Gap, the largest campaign in Australia’s history to narrow the 17-year life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and other Australians.
To arrange an interview with Andrew Hewett call Ian Woolverton on 0409 181 454