COAG must recommit to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health

Campaigns and Advocacy, Indigenous Affairs, Media Releases, News article written on the 17 Apr 2013

Federal, state and territory governments must recommit to crucial Indigenous health funding at this Friday’s COAG meeting, to ensure improvements in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health can continue, Oxfam Australia said today.

Oxfam Australia’s Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said continuing to fund the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Health should be on the agenda of this Friday’s Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting, as it was critical to closing the life expectancy gap by 2030, which all Australian Governments had committed to do.

“Federal, state and territory governments have not yet signed up to the agreement, leaving some services and programs in real doubt as to whether they can continue to provide badly needed services beyond 30 June,” Dr Szoke said.

She said COAG health funding had a strong focus on chronic disease and had led to more Aboriginal health workers, doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, health promotion workers and healthy lifestyle programs.

It had also led to more affordable medicines and better access to anti-smoking programs by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“It would be a tragedy if we lost momentum just at the time we’ve started to see the possibility of a better future for so many people,” Dr Szoke said.

“The commitment five years ago to close the life expectancy gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people by 2030 was a turning point for the nation.

“All Australian governments committed to this important national priority through the COAG process, and it was backed by an unprecedented $1.6 billion in funding for Indigenous health – funding due to expire at the end of June.

“Back then, all Australian Governments got together and did the right thing by putting in their fair share to fund the agreement. We now need them to commit to funding this next stage of the national agreement.”

Dr Szoke said under-five mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were starting to fall, and smoking and chronic disease initiatives were beginning to have an impact.

“Continued investment is essential if we are to build on this excellent work and be the generation to end the national disgrace that sees Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples die more than 10 years younger than the broader Australian community,” Dr Szoke said.

“As an international aid agency, Oxfam can attest to the importance of long-term funding of programs to provide certainty and stability.”

She said the Australian public expected politicians to keep their promise to close the gap on health inequality, citing the record number of 140,000 people taking part in National Close the Gap Day events last month.

For interviews, please contact Laurelle Keough at Oxfam Australia on 0425 701 801 or