Indigenous health gains in Budget welcome, but Government must ensure Indigenous people benefit from new mental health money
Close the Gap Campaign Co-chairs, Mick Gooda and Dr Tom Calma, have welcomed the new funding for Indigenous health, part of the $526 million in new Indigenous-specific spending in the Budget.
“The Budget delivers in some major health areas for Indigenous Australians, such as the $113.4 million for 15 new or expanded Indigenous health clinics and 40 new renal dialysis chairs over the next five years. Of course, we welcome these and other initiatives,” Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner Mick Gooda said.
But both Dr Calma and Mr Gooda cautioned that these allocations should be spent wisely.
“As is well documented, Aboriginal community controlled health services, when properly funded, deliver a culturally secure service with better health outcomes to Indigenous Australians than government-operated health services. In relation to the $112 million going to clinics, it is not clear at this stage where these funds are going and we have asked for further information from the Government,” Dr Calma said.
The Co-chairs also welcomed the $1.5 billion in new money for mental health, including $34.9 million allocated specifically to Indigenous mental health, but called for the Government to ensure Indigenous Australians were able to benefit fully from these measures.
“Indigenous Australians suffer higher rates of mental illness across the age spectrum, and as such we would expect to see significant allocations from the various mental health programs being funded to be aimed at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and preferably delivered in a culturally secure way through Aboriginal community controlled health services,” Mr Gooda said.
Both Mr Gooda and Dr Calma said significant investment in Indigenous health needed to be maintained if the Government’s target of achieving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander life expectancy equality by 2030 was to be achieved.
“This will require sustained financial support over the next two decades,” Dr Calma said.
“With over $5 billion dollars in new government spending since 2008 addressing Indigenous disadvantage and health inequality we are off to a good start, but we must not grow complacent and take our eyes off the road.
“Further, spending alone is not enough: we need a comprehensive national plan to achieve Indigenous health equality that links Indigenous and general population health programs in a coordinated and efficient manner, and we need Australian governments to work in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples and their representatives to develop and implement the plan.”
Media contacts: Mick Gooda – contact Louise McDermott 0419 258 597
Tom Calma – 0429 121 942