Critical funds to close Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health gap welcome; states must now follow

Campaigns and Advocacy, Indigenous Affairs, Media Releases, News article written on the 15 May 2013

Oxfam Australia has welcomed the Federal Budget allocation of $777 million over three years to renew the national partnership agreement for closing the gap in Indigenous health outcomes, but calls on state and territory governments to follow suit.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Dr Helen Szoke said the national partnership agreement had led to more Aboriginal health workers, doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, health promotion workers and healthy lifestyle programs, as well as more affordable medicines and better access to smoking programs by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“This money is the fuel that drives efforts to close the gap so it’s heartening to see the government renew its share of the national partnership agreement with the states and territories,” Dr Szoke said.

“We’re just starting to see improvements with under-five mortality rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples starting to fall, and smoking and chronic disease initiatives beginning to have an impact.

“It was a watershed moment when all parties committed to close the gap in 2008 – the funding provided through a coordinated approach with the states and territories put this commitment into action.

“We now need the state and territory governments to commit their fair share to ensure a national, coordinated and jointly funded agreement to close the gap in health outcomes.”

Dr Szoke also welcomed continued funding of $15 million over three years for the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, investment of $22 million to support Indigenous students to complete secondary school, and a further $12 million over two years for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Services.

“These are positive moves for ensuring a national voice for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, improving the life chances of Indigenous children through school retention, and providing a much needed boost to vital legal services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are grossly overrepresented in the criminal justice system,” Dr Szoke said.

“Closing  the Gap in Indigenous disadvantage requires continuity of funding and certainty for programs and services.  As an international development organisation, we’ve seen the impact that long-term funding of programs can have in communities.”

Supporters can take action by writing to state premiers to ask them to continue funding for closing the gap:

Oxfam has worked with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities for nearly 40 years and is a foundational member of the Close the Gap Campaign. Close the Gap is Australia’s largest campaign to improve Indigenous health and has more than 180,000 supporters who are aware of the human tragedy that lies behind the statistics on Aboriginal health – that babies born to Aboriginal mothers die at twice the rate of non-Indigenous babies and go on to experience higher rates of preventable illness such as heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes.

For more information or interviews please contact Laurelle Keough on 0425 701 801 or