CLOSE THE GAP: Budget initiatives welcomed but real engagement crucial

Campaigns and Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 13 May 2009

The $200 million injection into Indigenous health in the Federal Budget builds on the Government’s unprecedented commitments over the past year, but significant investment is still needed to ensure the government stays on target to Close the Gap, Chair of the Campaign Steering Committee, Social Justice Commissioner Tom Calma said today.

Mr Calma, who as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner spearheaded the Close the Gap Campaign, said the majority of the new funding had been allocated to the Northern Territory.
“The continuation of efforts in the Northern Territory is welcomed, but the sheer amount of resources needed by the NT alone highlights the fact that significant investment in Indigenous health across the country is still needed if health equality is to be achieved by 2030.”
Mr Calma said Budget commitments to remote primary health, dental care, improved pathology services, increasing indigenous young peoples’ participation in sport, and to an Indigenous Health Centre of Excellence, were welcomed and essential to ‘closing the gap’, but he would be looking for further significant investments to be made at the July 2 Council of Australian Governments special ‘Indigenous-focused’ meeting.
“We also hope that this COAG meeting delivers clear directions as to how a national plan for Indigenous health equality by 2030 will be developed, and commits to partnership and true engagement with Indigenous people in developing and implementing this plan,” he said.
“There must also be a substantial investment in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services to ensure these major funding injections are spent as efficiently as possible, and in conjunction with the communities they are designed to help.”
Vice President of the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA), Associate Professor Peter O’Mara, said: “Workforce continues to be a limiting factor to accessing health services. Ensuring that Indigenous people gain from the $1.1 billion earmarked for the health workforce is fundamental.”
Oxfam Australia’s Acting Executive Director James Ensor said the Government’s statement to ‘re-set the partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians’ was welcome.
“However, while there has been some engagement from the Federal Government with the major Indigenous peak bodies in the Close the Gap Campaign, the Government still needs to ensure that Indigenous health agencies are at the heart of the decision-making process,” Mr Ensor said.
Media contacts: Louise McDermott (for Tom Calma) 0419 258 597
Laurelle Keough 0409 960 100 (for James Ensor)