‘Critical to reconciliation’: Labor’s plan to close the gap on Indigenous health
April 17, 2019
Bill Shorten is set to unveil a $115 million plan to tackle the Indigenous health crisis, as he seeks to position Labor as the only party capable of closing the ten-year gap in life expectancy between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians and their non-Indigenous peers.
The package includes $29.6 million to improve mental health and prevent youth suicide, which has rocked communities in remote areas including the Kimberley where a spate of deaths has been linked to intergenerational trauma, violence and poverty.
The Opposition Leader, who is also Labor’s spokesman for Indigenous affairs, will unveil the commitment while on the campaign trail with his assistant spokesman Senator Pat Dodson in the Northern Territory on Thursday.
“Labor believes innovative and culturally appropriate health care models are central to improving the health outcomes of First Australians and closing the gap,” Mr Shorten said, noting that improving Indigenous health was “critical to our journey towards reconciliation”.Advertisement
Labor’s package is $10 million more than the $19.6 million Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced for Indigenous suicide prevention on Saturday, after the suicide of an 18-year-old girl from the Kimberley last week.
Indigenous health advocates have previously raised concerns that the Coalition’s wider mental health package could be consumed by “mainstream” services like Headspace.
Mr Shorten highlighted Labor would be funding programs “co-designed with and led by First Nations peoples – driven by the Aboriginal health workforce”.
The Labor plan is to administer the mental health funds through Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services, which employ teams of paediatricians, child psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses and Aboriginal health practitioners in vulnerable communities.
Official statistics show a ten-year gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, with the rate of preventable hospital admissions and deaths three times higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Labor’s Indigenous health plan, which would be delivered over four years, also includes $33 million to address rheumatic heart disease, a preventable cause of heart failure, death and disability which is common in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Sexual health promotion would get a $20 million boost, while $13 million would be invested to tackle preventable eye diseases and blindness.
The Deadly Choices campaign would get $16.5 million for advertising to raise awareness of health and lifestyle choices and $3 million in seed funding provided to Aboriginal Medical Services to develop health and justice programs addressing the link between incarceration and poor health.
Mr Shorten said Labor would reinstate the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Equality Council, abolished by the Abbott Government in 2014.
Crisis support can be found at Lifeline: (13 11 14 and lifeline.org.au), the Suicide Call Back Service (1300 659 467 and suicidecallbackservice.org.au) and beyondblue (1300 224 636 and beyondblue.org.au)