The Close the Gap Campaign has released it's position paper on the Federal Budget 2015-16, calling on Government to restore cuts of up to $534.4 million over five years from the rationalisation of Indigenous Affairs programs, grants and activities administered by the Prime Minister and Cabinet and Health portfolios.
Co-Chairs Mick Gooda and Kirstie Parker said Indigenous health programs must be quarantined from Budget cuts.
“The nation expects greater action from governments to close the unacceptable health and life expectancy gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians,” Mr Gooda said.
“As we look towards the 2015–16 Budget, we are seeking reassurance from the Australian Government that its commitment to Closing the Gap will be honoured and appropriately funded.”
Ms Parker, who is also Co-Chair of the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, said there was a strong economic case for targeted investment in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
“We have a real opportunity to make relatively large health and life expectancy gains in relatively short periods of time, but only if there is targeted, long-term investment in primary and chronic health care,” Ms Parker said.
“Evidence shows that health is critical to achieving better education and employment outcomes. An investment commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health is an investment in the social and economic wellbeing of our communities.”
Ms Parker and Mr Gooda noted that the implementation of the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan was capable of driving progress towards the best possible outcomes from investment in health and related services, and warned against reforms to the Medicare system that could have a disproportionate impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.
They also called on Government to build the capacity of the Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS).
“Health services controlled by Aboriginal communities provider greater access to services, proven advantages in the detection and management of chronic disease, and employment opportunities,” Ms Parker said.
Mr Gooda, who is also Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, said it was essential that ACCHS representative bodies at the national and state level and national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workforce, research and healing and wellbeing organisations were funded. These organisations are important change drivers for achieving health outcomes.
“There has also been great uncertainty and distress in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities over the Indigenous Advancement Strategy tendering process,” Mr Gooda said.
“It is vitally important that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisations working at the frontline of our communities receive appropriate funding.”
The Close the Gap Campaign position paper is available at https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/aboriginal-and-torres-strait-islander-social-justice/projects/close-gap-indigenous-health